USA Hockey Magazine

February 2016

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POWER 19 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM FEBRUARY. 2016 TEEN PRODIGY AUSTON MATTHEWS TRAVELS AN UNCONVENTIONAL ROUTE TO REACH THE PINNACLE OF THE GAME THERE ARE PLENTY OF LABELS you can put on Auston Matthews. Phenom. Prodigy. Teenager. On June 24, 2016, right after the NHL Entry Draft starts in Buffalo, you'll probably be able to add "No. 1 Pick." But there's another that fits just as well: Trailblazer. That's because the Scottsdale, Ariz., native is cutting a new and unusual path to hockey stardom. A 6-foot-2 center, he emerged as a top pros- pect while playing with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. Now, instead of spending a year in college or in Canadian Junior hockey before he enters the NHL Entry Draft, Matthews has jetted off to play in Switzerland's top professional league, the NL A. And just 18—his birthday was Sept. 17, remem- ber that date—he's competing not against other young prospects, but against stronger, full-grown professionals, including some former NHLers. And he's earning a reported $400,000 for his efforts. He's lighting it up, too. As of early January, Matthews was leading his team, the Zurich Lions, in goals with 16. "Absolutely, he's a trailblazer, in all forms of the word," said Pat Brisson, the uber hockey agent at Creative Artists Agency, who represents Matthews and orchestrated the move to Zurich. "He's a unique player in a unique situation. He's an 18-year-old who's ready to play in the NHL." Matthews himself said he didn't go to Switzerland to be any sort of pioneer. He just wanted to play and get better. "I felt like I was ready for the next step in pro hockey and in my development, to prepare for the NHL," he said. By NEAL E. BOUDETTE |

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