Future Considerations’ top ranked prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft is still looking for a place to play next season, after being denied a work visa in Switzerland.
17-year-old Auston Matthews planned to play his draft eligible season with the Swiss NLA’s Zurich Lions, but that plan appears to have been kiboshed by Swiss officials, according to reports. Matthews appears to have fallen victim to a Swiss legal provision that only grants work visas to hockey and football players with minimum one year of previous professional experience in their sport. Matthews has spent the last two seasons with the US National Team Development Program, which is not considered a professional hockey team.
Despite putting up the best numbers ever seen at the NTDP — 116 points in 60 games this season with the U18 team to break the record of Chicago Blackhawks standout Patrick Kane — the uber-talented center won’t be able to see how his talents translate to pro hockey next season, at least not in Switzerland. Matthews could attempt acquiring a work visa from other countries with prominent professional hockey leagues, namely Sweden’s SHL and SM Liiga in Finland, however Matthews’ interest in the geographical location of these leagues may prevent any deal of the sorts.
He does have the option to commit to college hockey, but expressed a disinterest in going the NCAA route.
The most likely alternative at this point appears to be the Western Hockey League. Matthews was a third round pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft by the Everett Silvertips, and Everett has been working hard to try and recruit Matthews to spend the 2015-16 season with them.
Staying in United States is undoubtedly an attractive option for Matthews and his family and the WHL is regarded as one of the best developmental leagues in the world, producing the largest number of draftees for the 2015 NHL Draft.
As it stands, though, Matthews is still without a hockey home for next season.