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Siddall not feeling sorry for himself with Gladiators

Friday, 03.20.2009 / 10:00 AM / Prospects

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Sometimes when a player is demoted from the American Hockey League to the ECHL, depression sets in and production is scarce.

That didn't happen in Matt Siddall's case. In fact, the Gwinnett Gladiators forward saw it as an opportunity -- an opportunity to work on all facets of the game.

Siddall has done just that. Although he started the season with the Chicago Wolves, the rookie managed just 1 assist in 20 games with the Atlanta Thrashers' top affiliate. But under Jeff Pyle's direction at the ECHL level, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound bruiser has 16 goals, 17 assists and 151 penalty minutes in 36 games.

"The guys here have been great," Siddall told NHL.com. "Jeff Pyle's given me all the opportunities to play in all situations. I'm getting a couple of good bounces and things are going pretty good."

Things were going extremely well for Siddall in September. The Northern Michigan alum played so strongly in training camp he made the Wolves' roster. But a slow start and a lack of playing time led to his reassignment to Gwinnett on Nov. 10.

"That was great," Siddall said of his time in the AHL. "Coming in and going to camp and to be able to be around an organization like that, you get to see first-hand how pro hockey is. It was awesome. The guys up there were great. Things went well. But I have no complaints about Gwinnett. It's been a great time. I'm getting an opportunity to play as much hockey as possible. I'm just trying to get better and get a little seasoning."

Pyle certainly has been pleased. With time winding down in the regular season, Siddall is fourth on the team in scoring with 33 points.

"He's a great kid," Pyle said. "He started a little slow. I'm sure he was frustrated that he wasn't in the American League. Sometimes these kids don't understand that the best thing is for them to get a bunch of ice time here. Once I got his mindset a little changed, he's been phenomenal."

Stability also could be a factor. Siddall has been reassigned to Gwinnett on three separate occasions this season, but he's looked the most comfortable with the Gladiators. 

"Obviously you want to be playing at the highest level possible," Siddall said. "But you know when you're down here you know you're going to be playing a lot. It's a great setup. I've been put in a position to really contribute and help the team win. There's definitely positives to it."

One of those positives has been the ability to establish a leadership role. Even though he's just a rookie, Siddall will turn 25 in September. He didn't begin his collegiate career until 2004, when he was 20 years old.

"When the possibility was there to play major-junior, I was really small," Siddall said. "I kind of grew and developed really late. It was an opportunity to play four years of college hockey and get an education. It was kind of a no-brainer at that point. It was a good fit for me, for sure.
   
"It was awesome (college hockey). Some of those guys are my best friends now. I met so many good people. The coaching staff was awesome. I've got nothing but good things to say about that program."

Pyle has taken notice of Siddall's maturity level and has noticed how the rookie has become more vocal as the season has progressed.

"His work ethic has been great," Pyle said. "He's stepped up in the leadership category. You have to be smart enough to put yourself in a position to be able to make plays. The smarter he plays, the more opportunities he's got. He has an NHL wrist shot and he's a tough kid." 

"He's a great kid. He started a little slow. I'm sure he was frustrated that he wasn't in the American League. Sometimes these kids don't understand that the best thing is for them to get a bunch of ice time here. Once I got his mindset a little changed, he's been phenomenal."
-- Gwinnett coach Jeff Pyle, on Matt Siddall

The only question is will Siddall receive a full-time AHL job in 2009-10. The North Vancouver, B.C., native is confident that chance is on its way.

"I think so," Siddall said. "Given the right opportunity, I think I can contribute and be consistent day in and day out. I'll do whatever it takes to play in that league. If I have to play a different role, then that's totally what I'm willing to do. But I think it's been a good first pro year. I'm learning the ropes. No complaints."

Pyle also believes Siddall can become a force at the Triple-A level.

"I would think he's going to get a good chance at the next level," Pyle said. "He plays with such an edge. He just needs to never feel satisfied."

Contact Brian Compton at bcompton@nhl.com.


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