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Stienburg's Unexpected Path to the Avalanche

Colorado's fourth pick in the 2019 draft had to overcome Osteomyelitis, twice

by Samantha Wexler / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Matthew Stienburg's plan was not laid out like this.

At 15 years old, Stienburg was working hard in hopes of impressing Canadian Hockey League scouts and get drafted into the major-junior leagues. Instead, the forward was limited to just 15 games.

It appeared to be the flu coupled with shoulder pain, but it soon turned into something much worse for the Halifax, Nova Scotia, native.

"I got [my shoulder] treated for bicep tendinitis from January until August," Stienburg said to ColoradoAvalanche.com. "It just got to a point in the summer where it was so bad. I couldn't do much. I started getting sick again, so I went to the hospital the next day and went in for surgery."

It turned out his shoulder was not hurting from bicep tendinitis, rather he was diagnosed with Osteomyelitis.

The bone infection is hard to distinguish from other illnesses, hence why the flu paired with bicep tendinitis was diagnosed. The only real symptoms are fatigue, fever and bone pain, if anything at all.

The pain paired with a lack of mobility urged Stienburg to the hospital, which allowed the rare condition to be dealt with quickly.

Stienburg needed two separate shoulder surgeries over the span of three days to rid his shoulder of the infection. A peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line of antibiotics followed for six weeks before he took oral antibiotics for another two. Traditional shoulder rehabilitation rounded out the treatment plan.

"Rehab was mostly just getting my range of motion back, it wasn't as long (of a recovery) as some things are," Stienburg said. "The surgery wasn't to repair anything, more just to open it up and clean it out."

Video: Stienburg chats about being drafted with Avs TV

The rehab went well, and the antibiotics were effective. Everything was going according to plan, and the timeline for recovery exceeded expectations. By October he was back on the ice with his team and feeling good until his hip started to feel off a few months later. Somehow, the osteomyelitis had made its way back, this time in his hip.

"It was the same thing; I got to a point where I had no energy, really sore muscles and was)really tight," Steinburg said. "I went to the hospital and just went through the same process again with my hip."

Taking the rest of the year off to fully recover, he focused heavily on rehab and his overall health. Summer training quickly became a focus following another six weeks of an antibiotic PICC line, two more weeks of oral antibiotics and hip rehab.

Post-recovery, Stienburg played his major-midget year with Halifax McDonald's in Nova Scotia while going through the prep school recruiting process. Still recovering, he decided playing in prep school and eventually going the NCAA route would be the best fit for him. He ended up choosing St. Andrew's College--an all-boys school in Aurora, Ontario, with more than 600 students.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound forward played the past two seasons at St. Andrew's and has excelled in both the classroom and on the ice. After recording 62 points (29 goals and 33 assists) in 45 games in 2017-18, Stienburg registered 66 points (31 goals, 35 assists) in 48 contests as the team captain in 2018-19.

"[St. Andrew's] has been awesome, I've said it a hundred times I think," Stienburg said. "Going there is probably the best decision I have ever made. Everybody there from the hockey program, to the parents who I would stay with on the weekend, to my friends and the teachers. Everybody was really caring and put my best interest first."

Stienburg was more aware and open to the NCAA route than some of his peers, and his time at St. Andrew's reaffirmed that opinion. He wanted more time to develop and the injuries evidently played a huge role. However, growing up in Canada inspires dreams of playing at a high level for junior teams, including those based in your hometown.

For Stienburg, his local club was Halifax Mooseheads, the same squad that Nathan MacKinnon played for before being selected No. 1 overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.

"I always knew [the NCAA] would be an option," Stienburg said. "I mean growing up in Halifax with the Mooseheads and watching them, that is obviously something that I dreamed of. But for some reason the college route always appealed to me. After all [the injuries], that was the obvious choice."

He will take his talents to Cornell in the fall, an Ivy school that he described as similar to St. Andrew's given the high academics. Additionally, Stienburg resonated with the hockey program given the Western New York school's tradition of success, coaching staff and physical style of play.

From laying in a hospital with a PICC line of antibiotics to now being drafted into the NHL by the Colorado Avalanche, Stienburg is grateful for every experience he has had to this point and moving forward. He's been through a lot already and knows what it's like to have to go through adversity.

While he was never able to hear his name called in a CHL draft, his uncommon route has led him to where he ultimately wanted to end up. When he heard his name called by the Avalanche at the 2019 NHL Draft at No. 63 overall--the first pick of the third round--everything had come full circle.

"It's been really exciting, obviously, with the different path, my injuries and my surgeries," Stienburg said of being an NHL Draft pick. "Two years ago, this seemed pretty far-fetched. Everybody has been really supportive and really excited for me. It's awesome to see and makes it a lot more exciting."

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