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NHL Draft Lottery Profiles: Auston Matthews (C, Zurich Lions, Switzerland)

America's next great hope, consensus first overall pick, Southern hockey superstar...who is Auston Matthews?

Scottsdale, Arizona is not, traditionally, a hockey hotbed.

If you search on Eliteprospects' database by birthplace, Scottsdale has a list of players that are mainly young and playing in either university or minor-league junior (there are, however, several female players playing in the NCAA Div I who are testament to the early growth of the sport in the Sun Belt)

There are, though, two names that stand out head and shoulders above all the others when it comes to the 2016 draft and indeed Arizona hockey.

One is London Knights speedy forward Matthew Tkachuk, son of Keith, London Knights LW and #5 ranked skater in the 2016 draft.

The other is Auston Matthews. The player who many are already anointing as the 2016 Draft Chosen One - the player who will go first overall, as well as the single clearest example of NHL expansion working.

Matthews is a 6'2, 194lb center who surprised many when he moved to Switzerland rather than electing to play in North America - his move to play for the Zurich ZSC Lions in the Swiss A-League may, however, be one of the most crucial decisions he'll ever make. He is the only North American draft prospect who has followed the route of his European draft rivals in developing among men rather than among juniors his own age.

And my, how he's developed.

Playing in the Champions' Hockey League, a Europe-wide competition of the continent's best clubs, and also in one of the most moneyed and talented leagues in Europe has brought Matthews a draft-year experience that few of his North American contemporaries can ever match.

The talk among draft scouts is usually how a players' gifts will translate from junior to pro hockey. With Matthews, the question of how they translate to pro hockey has been answered already.

Pretty damn well.

This isn't every goal of Matthews' 24 in the Swiss league this season (it only covers up until January) but it's enough to give you an idea of how he plays given a puck in the offensive zone:

You can see in that clip that Matthews' main strengths are in his skating, puckhandling and shot. He's a fast, agile skater who is capable of thinking several moves ahead where he needs to be on the ice.

There have been questions raised by some about his play in special-teams situations, notably penalty-killing...some draft watchers put Patrik Laine's ability in this regard above him. However, he is without doubt a player worthy of the top pick - his all-around play gives scouts hope he could become a franchise two-way center for a team sooner rather than later.

Perhaps the biggest appeal of drafting Matthews, though, is his franchise value, particularly to an American team. I wrote about this way back in October, and the season that followed it hasn't changed my opinion.

Matthews has the potential to be the standard bearer for the "new" NHL, in the sense that he's probably the first really hyped Southern US product. He's a player who admits himself that it was the NHL expansion to Phoenix that led him to the game himself, and he is a proud Arizona boy with emotional ties to the Coyotes, one of the most unfairly-maligned examples of the NHL drive south in the 90's and early 2000s.

Matthews is a player who probably wouldn't have existed without the NHL expansion, and now he has the chance to be one of the league's generational talents and more notably only the seventh American to be taken with the first overall pick (the last was Patrick Kane in 2007).

There's a whole lot riding on his broad shoulders - he's already being assigned as the potential saviour of several franchises, not least the one in his home state.

But more than that, there's the hope that he can finally be a living vindication of the NHL's expansion into the American South.

That's a big responsibility to have, but it anyone can carry it, Matthews can.