After months of delays, the ZSC Lions made it official on Friday: Auston Matthews, the projected first-overall pick in next June’s NHL Draft, has signed a one-year deal to play for the Swiss side.
Auston Matthews residence permit got on the condition that it must be used only after his 18th birthday. The first use would therefore be scheduled for September 18, 2015. The authorization was granted under a bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the United States for young professionals.
Matthews scored 55 goals and 116 points in 60 games with the U.S. U-18 team last season and another 48 points in 24 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program in the USHL in 2014-15.
The WHL’s Everett Silvertips held Matthews’ junior rights, but there was also the possibility he would choose to go the NCAA route.
Said Matthews in a statement on Friday: "My focus and the focus of everyone here at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp is on Team USA. Therefore, my strong desire was to wait until camp was over to make any kind of announcement, to avoid distractions for my teammates and USA Hockey. It was also my intention to speak, in advance of any announcement, with Coach Constantine as well as Gary Davidson of the Everett Silvertips, who have been nothing but absolute class acts throughout this entire process. I have learned in life, however, that many things are beyond your control and this is just one of them.
The Lions are coached by former NHL bench boss Marc Crawford and have reached the NLA final in three of the last four seasons, winning twice. Said Crawford to Today's Slapshot's Sean Tierney in May: "There is no doubt that [Matthews] can play and excell [sic] in the Swiss NLA and I believe it is the perfect training ground for young athletes. He will be coached by an NHL coach he will be challenged by playing against men in a fast skating, highly skilled league. He will learn what it is like to play the systems that will be utilized as he continues to rise up the hockey ranks."
If selected no. 1 overall next June in Buffalo, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-born Matthews will be the first American-born player to go first since Patrick Kane in 2007.
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