You don’t receive Hockey Canada national team assignments and have various scouting organizations putting together articles about your under-rated skills without some semblance of knowledge that you’re on the National Hockey League’s radar.
This past Tuesday, it all become official, as the 17-year-old defenceman was ranked as an ‘A’ level prospect by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau for the upcoming 2022 Entry Draft. As a result, he’s expected to be among the first 32 players chosen when the first round of the draft takes place on Thursday, July 7.
Not a huge surprise given the scuttlebutt surrounding the Winnipeg product, but an impressive turn of events nonetheless.
“It’s definitely cool to see my name on there and it’s an honour to be on a list like that,” Mateychuk said after practice on Friday afternoon. “But I’m not going to focus on it too much, I’m just going to try and stay humble and keep playing as well as I can here.”
Mateychuk has looked the part of a top-flight NHL prospect through the first seven games of the campaign. In addition to his two goals and five points, he’s proven to be a wizard with the puck in his own end, often escaping dangerous situations through sheer agility and puck sense.
The contest against Winnipeg offered a good example in the first period, as with a trio of Ice attackers bearing down on him in the corner, Mateychuk whirly-bugged his way into finding a passing lane and with a quick tape-to-tape pass set up an odd-man rush.
Even though those kinds of plays have become commonplace at this point, the key will be to keep things on an even keel with all the attention his ranking gathers him and not let the expectations get out of hand.
“It can be in your head a little more, but I’m going to try and not worry about it too much,” Mateychuk said. “It’s more for confidence and to keep pushing myself.”
One thing that’s for certain is Mateychuk is in good company. He was one of three Western Hockey League players to receive the top ranking, with the other two being Winnipeg Ice standouts Connor Geekie and Matthew Savoie.
Interestingly enough, Mateychuk is plenty familiar with both players, having skated with each in the past.
“That’s definitely pretty cool,” Mateychuk said. “Me and Connor played hockey and baseball growing up and we’re really good buddies, and I met Matt in Switzerland there at the (2020 Youth Olympic Games). They’re both really good guys and it’s good to see them out there and listed as well.”
Of course, friends and respect off the ice and what happens on the ice are two different things, and Mateychuk will be doing all he can to help shut down the high-scoring duo after what happened in Winnipeg on Wednesday night.
“That was a tough one to handle, a 10-2 loss,” he said. “I thought we played well for the first 40 minutes and the game could have gone either way until the third period. So I think we’re going to come back ready tomorrow night, and we’ll play our game and hope things go a lot better than they did.”
Game time is 7 p.m. at Mosiac Place.