The speculation is finally over.
Auston Matthews has made a decision, and he will be spending 2015-16 with the ZSC Lions of the Swiss National League A, Matthews announced on Friday.
Matthews, a native of Scottsdale, Arizona, will forego a season playing for the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips and instead play professionally in Switzerland next year as an 18-year-old.
This is a rather unprecedented move for a North American hockey prospect. Most players elect to play in the NCAA or with a Canadian Hockey League affiliate, such as the WHL.
Earlier this year, myself and Carl Putnam debated the pros and cons of the different avenues available to hockey prospects. Matthews is certainly a juggernaut in electing to play overseas.
"He is something special," Lions general manager Edgar Salis told Sportsnet. "He has good speed, good skill, the whole package. We have good players, and with his hockey IQ I think he can feed our guys and fit the team. He brings everything. That was why we jumped on him."
Matthews is the front runner to go No. 1 overall in next year's NHL Draft, which will be the first time the first three picks will be subjected to the lottery process.
Matthews led the U.S. National Team Development Program's under-18 contingent with 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) this past season. He also missed this year's NHL Draft eligibility deadline by just three days, and some suspect that had he been born 72 hours earlier Matthews could have overtaken Jack Eichel as the No. 2 overall pick.
Speculation of Matthews wanting to play overseas was well-documented, but the difficulty lied in the 17-year-old obtaining a work permit to play professionally. However, the final resolution was that Matthews can begin living and playing in Switzerland on Sept. 18, the day after he turns 18.
Matthews scored 15 points in seven games at the IIHF under-18 world championships in Zug, Switzerland in April.
Statement from Auston Matthews in decision to play for Zurich: pic.twitter.com/kAoilCFam1— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) August 7, 2015