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Matteau leads talented USNTDP crop for '12 draft

Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 9:00 AM / 2012 NHL Draft

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Matteau leads talented USNTDP crop for '12 draft
Stefan Matteau, Stephan's kid, is one of several top prospects for the 2012 NHL Draft at the U.S. National Team Development Program.


Stefan Matteau knows all about the historic goal his father scored in the second overtime of Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals as a member of the New York Rangers against the New Jersey Devils.

While it took a while before he was able grasp the magnitude of the goal, he now admits "it was just crazy to see what he did."

Matteau's father, Stephan, was a 13-year NHL veteran. Of the 156 career goals he scored, including playoffs, none was bigger than the series-clincher against the rival Devils at Madison Square Garden on May 27, 1994 -- which came three months after Stefan was born.

The younger Matteau has been making a name for himself ever since. The 6-foot-1 1/2, 210-pound center had 15 goals, including four power-play goals, 32 points and a team-high 166 penalty minutes in 47 games. He's No. 17 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft.

"I'm a big-bodied power forward, have a lot of skill and a good shot and I play with an edge," Matteau said. "Some teams like that, and I like to bring an all-round solid game."

Does he feel he plays the game as his father once did? Well, not quite.

"Growing up, I did get to watch him ... he was a hard-working, physical guy who played with an edge," Stefan told NHL.com. "It's weird to say this because he played 15 years, but I think I'm more offensive than he was. Dad told me I'm bigger and more skilled ... that's what he said."

Matteau credits his mother, Nathalie, for providing so much support during his younger years, while dad constantly was on the road.

"She was the one at the rink with me, tying my skates, bringing me back and forth on every road trip," Matteau said. "As I got older and hockey was getting more serious, dad played a huge part. But he did his stuff and I did mine ... he wasn't going to make me the player I am now."

The older Matteau had just 742 penalty minutes in 848 NHL games; Stefan Matteau plays a lot more physically, and has been suspended for a combined 15 games because of two separate incidents with the NTDP.

"I don't like getting the penalty minutes, but I like that physical game that makes me a tough player, gritty player," Matteau said. "You can't take bad penalties when the team needs you most. I have to be smarter, but with the style I play, I'll get minutes [in the penalty box]."

Danton Cole, coach of the USNTDP U-18 team, envisions Matteau as a prototypical power forward in the NHL. Some believe he could be the next Jordan Staal, while Matteau said he sees himself as a future James van Riemsdyk, Scott Hartnell or Vincent Lecavalier.

"He's a powerful man, big and strong," Cole told NHL.com. "He plays a physical game and he's going to be good. I would think he's a little [more physical than dad]. He also probably has a little more high-end offensive ability -- Stef's going to put the puck in the net."

Matteau's father was taken by the Calgary Flames with 25th pick of the 1987 draft. Does Stefan, who will play for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League next season, feel he will go higher in the draft than his father?

"We have bets going on at home," Stefan said. "Hopefully, I will."

In addition to Matteau, there could be as many as four other players starring from the USNTDP U-18 team who could get picked as high as the second round in the draft.

In 2011, eight players with ties to the NTDP were chosen in the first two rounds: J.T. Miller (No. 15, Rangers), Connor Murphy (No. 20, Coyotes), Tyler Biggs (No. 22, Maple Leafs), Rocco Grimaldi (No. 33, Panthers), Adam Clendening (No. 36, Blackhawks), John Gibson (No. 39, Ducks), Brandon Saad (No. 43, Blackhawks), and Matthew Nieto (No. 47, Sharks).

NHL.com caught up with Cole to discuss the talented crop of players on this year's USNTDP squad who could be selected early.

"If you look at it just from a talent perspective, our defense is really strong ... probably one of the better top-six's that have come through here and I've been around for 15 years," Cole told NHL.com.

Players are listed with their rank on Central Scouting's final release.

No. 9 -- Jacob Trouba, D, 6-foot-2, 193 pounds: The top-rated skater from the NTDP enhanced his stock following a fantastic showing in the 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary.  The University of Michigan-bound defenseman served as captain for the U-17 team last season and is a co-captain for the U-18 team this season. He has the potential to one day become a top-two defenseman in the NHL -- he had nine goals, 31 points and six power-play goals in 50 games.

Trouba was chosen in the third round of the 2010 Ontario Hockey League draft by the Kitchener Rangers.

"Jacob is an excellent player ... big and strong both offensively and defensively," Cole said. "He plays the game right and is a solid leader. He's a complete player and will be a good one for a long time. I think he's probably as close as any other 17- or 18-year-old to being able to play [in the NHL] but I think the smarter organizations take a little bit more time, especially with defensemen and goalies. Teams might have to be a little conservative, but he's darn close."

No. 19 -- Brady Skjei, D, 6-2 3/4, 200: The Lakeville, Minn., native is headed to the University of Minnesota where his grandfather, Stan, was a collegiate football star in the early 1960s. Skjei has been compared to former USNTDP defenseman Derek Forbort, a 2010 first-round pick (No. 15) by the Los Angeles Kings. Skjei is an elite skater and puck-mover who offers creativity off the transition. He had four goals and 22 points in 56 games this season.

"His game has improved greatly, both offensively and defensively," Cole said. "He's a tremendous skater and a good example of a guy who understands the little nuances of playing defense. He's thrived in the program and is a physical specimen -- he's big and strong and has made great strides in learning how to play the game. His angling is good and he has put himself in a really good position moving forward in his career."

Could a player of his ability be overlooked?

"I don't see that happening," Cole said. "He's just played too well and he's been seen too much. I'd be shocked if he dropped in the draft."

No. 29 -- Nicolas Kerdiles, LW, 6-1 1/2, 201: Headed to the University of Wisconsin next fall, Kerdiles is a versatile big man who likely will be viewed as a power forward. He's also become a solid two-way player, using his frame to protect the puck.

"He really has nice hands and can move the puck well," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "He's got a pro stride already."

The Irvine, Calif., native led the team with 20 goals, eight power-play goals and 42 points in 50 games for the USNTDP. As a member of the U.S. team that won a fourth straight gold medal at the 2012 World Under-18 Championship in the Czech Republic, Kerdiles lead the team with four goals and nine points in six games, including a five-point effort in the gold-medal game.

"He plays up the middle after playing wing last season, but he skates really well, is strong on the puck and has done a nice job defensively for us at center," Cole said. "The thing that a lot of people like about him is that most of his goals are scored in the tough areas. He's good within 10 feet around the net, and has a good knack around there."

No. 31 -- Patrick Sieloff, D, 6-0, 198: The Ann Arbor, Mich., native is similar in stature to NTDP alum Justin Faulk, a 2010 second-round pick (No. 37) by the Carolina Hurricanes, and is proving to be just as effective. Sieloff, who is committed to Miami University, had three goals, 10 points and 115 penalty minutes in 56 games this season.

"He's a player who has a lot of dynamic qualities," Gregory said. "I love his first step and how quickly he gets to full speed. He's willing to push the offensive side of it and play physical in his own end. You can't watch a game without noticing him."

Cole agrees.

"He's a warrior," Cole said. "He's physical and strong on defense ... the kind of guy who everybody loves to have on their team. He's all about winning, and if that's blocking a shot with his face, he'd do it to win a hockey game. His puck skills are good, he kills penalties and has a tremendous shot.

"His competitive nature is off the charts and he's interesting because he has that leadership and he's able to put that all together. He's kind of a glue-guy on our team; an outstanding young man."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

 
2012 NHL Draft