Auston Matthews Will Play Draft Year in Zurich

The Zurich Lions announced on Friday that prospective number one overall draft pick in the 2016 draft, Auston Matthews, has decided to play his 18-year-old season in Switzerland. He has signed a one-year deal with the NLA club.

There was a lot of debate about where the top prospect would wind up, but the opportunity to play for the Lions gives him the chance to play against adults in a pivotal year of his development, when he’s already proven to be a dominant player against his peer group.

Matthews has spent the last week in Lake Placid at the U.S. National Evaluation Camp to help USA Hockey select the roster for the 2016 World Juniors Championships, which Matthews is likely to be a part of. He scored a goal and an assist in his first four scrimmages at camp.

Earlier in the summer it was rumored that Matthews would head to Switzerland, but there were questions about his work visa status that might have lead him to seek another opportunity.

That potential snag has been resolved, according to Swiss Hockey News, who reports:

The problem is that non-EU players only get a work visa if they had been under contract with a pro-team for at least one year. As the ZSC Lions inform, they have reached an agreement that Matthews is only allowed to play after his 18th birthday which is on September 17. In addition, there is now a bilateral treaty between Switzerland and the USA about young professionals.

Matthews played for the U.S. at the U18 World Championships in Switzerland recently, where he served as alternate captain, helping the team to a gold medal by scoring eight goals and seven assists in seven games before being named the tournament’s best forward and MVP.

Last season he played for the U.S. National Development Team, scoring an impressive 55 goals and 61 assists in 60 games, according to Elite Prospects.

Auston Matthews released a statement on the situation, via Mike Morreale’s tweets:

RELATED: U.S. Trims Roster at World Juniors Evaluation Camp