Author: Mike Halford

Auston Matthews

It’s official: Top-ranked ’16 draft prospect Matthews will play in Switzerland


Auston Matthews is off to the Swiss League.

On Friday, National League A club ZSC (Zurich) Lions tweeted out that Matthews, the Arizona-bred phenom projected to go No. 1 overall at next year’s draft, will suit up for them next year rather than play junior hockey for WHL Everett.

The news comes after months of speculation and bureaucratic red tape. While Matthews has long been tied to a move to Switzerland, work permit issues prevented the Lions from making the signing official; per Swiss Hockey News, Matthews will have to wait until he turns 18 (in mid-September) before playing.

It promises to be worth the wait.

Matthews had a banner campaign for the U.S. National Team Development Program last year, setting single-season records with 55 goals and 117 points. He broke the previous scoring mark led by Chicago’s Patrick Kane, who also happens to be the last American-born player to go No. 1 overall.

In Zurich, Matthews will play professionally and against men, which should be a good test — at 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, he’s expected to handle himself physically.

He’ll also get an opportunity to work under an experienced head coach in Marc Crawford.

Crawford brings plenty to the table, having racked up over 500 wins during a 16-year coaching career with stops in Quebec, Colorado, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Dallas. He captured the Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach in 1995 and, a year later, helped the Avalanche win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Following his last stop with the Stars in 2011, Crawford took the Zurich job and has achieved a high level of success. The Lions captured the league championship in 2014 and were largely credited for the development of Ronalds Kenins, an undrafted Latvian forward than caught on with the Canucks last season, scoring 12 points in 30 games.

“Matthews is an outstanding young hockey player and everyone involved with the ZSC Lions is so excited about seeing him play in Zurich,” Crawford told Today’s Slapshot back in May. “I believe [the Swiss National League A] is the the perfect training ground for young athletes.”

With the Lions, Matthews will also skate with a slew of ex-NHLers: Robert Nilsson, Ryan Shannon, Dan Fritsche and Marc-Andre Bergeron, to name a few.

Police confirm Patrick Kane investigation

Patrick Kane

On Friday, Hamburg police chief Greg Wickett offered a brief statement on his department’s involvement in yesterday’s reported Patrick Kane rape investigation.

“The town of Hamburg is investigating an incident that allegedly occurred at the residence of NHL player Patrick Kane last weekend,” Wickett said, adding that his department was still gathering information, waiting on the results of forensic testing, and would have no further comment.

Wickett then declined to answer any questions related to Kane or the investigation, telling reporters “you’re wasting your time.”

Kane, who lives in Hamburg during the offseason, reportedly had his residence searched by police over the weekend, per the Chicago Tribune:

Neighbors told the Tribune that three unmarked police cars descended upon Kane’s Hamburg home Sunday, and several plainclothes officers entered his house using flashlights.

At least one officer wore gloves and could be seen taking pictures in the front, said one witness, who asked not to be named.

Here’s a more comprehensive timeline of events thus far, per the Buffalo News:

• A young local woman has alleged that Kane, 26, took her to his Hamburg waterfront home and raped her after meeting her in a downtown Buffalo nightclub Saturday night or early Sunday.

• The alleged victim went to a local hospital, where she was examined for physical signs that she had been raped.

• The prosecutor assigned to the case is Roseanne Johnson, who specializes in sexual assault cases and heads the Special Victims Unit in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.

More to follow…

Under Pressure: Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton

First, there was the big trade.

Then, the big contract.

Now? The big expectations.

That’s what d-man Dougie Hamilton faces this season, his first in Calgary, after this summer’s blockbuster move from Boston and his subsequent contract — all six years and $34.5 million of it.

“I think the expectations are going to be higher,” Hamilton admitted earlier this summer, per the Calgary Sun. “But I think in Boston there’s a lot of scrutiny from fans and expectations for me when I came in, being a top-10 pick.

“I think I handled that fine and think it’ll be the same here, just have fun and play my game.”

Though the Flames and GM Brad Treliving have been quick to classify the 22-year-old Hamilton as an “emerging talent” and remind everyone he’s still young, there will be pressure on Hamilton produce, probably more than the 10 goals and 42 points he notched in Boston last year (which, by most measures, was a pretty productive season.)

There’s also that price tag.

At $5.75 million, Hamilton will be the highest-paid Flame — at least in terms of cap hit — next season. That’s ahead of a slew of older, more experienced veterans, including captain and team leader Mark Giordano (who, it must be mentioned, needs a new deal himself) and last year’s leading scorer, Jiri Hudler.

As for other challenges? Oh, you know: Develop rapport with a different defensive partner, get comfortable in new surroundings, make the switch from Eastern to Western Conference and establish a relationship with a fairly demanding head coach. Stuff that most veteran players would find overwhelming, let alone a guy with less than 200 NHL games on his resume.

Which is probably why Hamilton, like Treliving, also trying to temper expectations.

“You can’t really put too much pressure on yourself, better to just do your best and try to be as consistent as you can,” he explained. “It’s interesting. I’m still 22 and there’s a long future ahead, so I think there’s a lot of development.

“I think I have that ceiling that hasn’t been hit and hopefully do my best to reach my potential.”