Swiss league ‘perfect training ground’ for Matthews, says coach Crawford

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Interesting interview over at Today’s Slapshot, where former NHL head coach — and current ZSC Lions bench boss — Marc Crawford spoke about the possibility of his club landing Auston Matthews, the US NTDP project pegged to go No. 1 overall at the 2016 draft.

“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 the site, via email. “I believe [the Swiss National League A] is the the perfect training ground for young athletes.

“He will be coached by an NHL coach, he will be challenged by playing against men in a fast-skating, highly-skilled league.”

Crawford does bring 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.

As a result of his success in Switzerland, Crawford has interviewed for a variety of NHL gigs — including vacant jobs in Pittsburgh and Florida last summer — which could be part of the reason why Matthews is seriously contemplating a move to Zurich. In addition to NHL-caliber coaching, Zurich has minimal travel that allows for more practice time than other leagues, and is filled with former NHL players (this year, the team featured Ryan Shannon, Robert Nilsson, Dan Fritsche, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Henrik Tallinder.)

Related: Everett GM expects Matthews decision this week