Auston Matthews is blazing a path that could change everything. On Friday the top prospect made a business decision and it’s one that will set up his bank account as well as test his skill against men. In most cases NHL prospects play NCAA and OHL or Junior level hockey, but by signing with the ZSC Lions Auston Matthews is setting out to prove that there may be better learning leagues out there. It’s way too early to say if this will become the normal path for top prospects, but if this works out all fingers will point to Matthews.
This is a pure hockey move by Matthews and one that he should be commended for. He could have chosen the easy road and made sure he goes number one in the 2016 NHL Draft, but doing that would nothave gotten his mind and body ready for NHL hockey. Players need to be challenged and heading to Zurich will be a great test of Auston Matthew’s ability.
Matthews had a banner campaign for the U.S. National Team Development Program last year, setting single-season records with 55 goals and 117 points. He broke the previous scoring mark led by Chicago’s Patrick Kane, who also happens to be the last American-born player to go No. 1 overall.
In Zurich, Matthews will play professionally and against men, which should be a good test — at 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, he’s expected to handle himself physically. [Pro Hockey Talk]
Playing with ZSC will afford Matthews the opportunity to play with several former NHL players (Robert Nilsson, Ryan Shannon, Dan Fritsche and Marc-Andre Bergeron) something that could prove to be invaluable to his career. His new head coach will be Marc Crawford, who has over 500 wins as a NHL head coach. Crawford will be able to mold and nurture Matthew’s talents and help him become a professional hockey player not just a young talented kid.
It seems the future of NHL prospects is changing and if this experiment works prospects all over the world may choose to find alternative training ground for their NHL career. Its signals two important facts. Hockey’s popularity and leagues are growing, and maybe there are better options in the world then NCAA or Canadian junior’s. Players like Auston Matthews are not easy to find and after putting up 55 goals and 117 points last season with the U.S. National Team Development Program all bets are off as to how good this kid can be.
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