Matthew Stienburg had a path to the Colorado Avalanche that he would not have imagined a few years ago. When he fell ill at 15 years old with Osteomyelitis, a serious bone infection, a different path became apparent. He was limited to just 15 games that season--one that he was hoping would be his big break to getting drafted into Canada's major-junior leagues--but he wound up in the hospital rather than on the ice.
Stienburg then traveled from his hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, to St. Andrew's College prep school in Ontario, where he has played for the past two seasons. In 2018-19 while serving as the team's captain, the forward recorded 66 points (31 goals, 35 assists) in 48 games. Now at the age of 18 and fully healthy, he will play collegiate hockey next fall at Cornell University.
At 6-foot-1 and 182 pounds, Stienburg was the first Nova Scotian player off the board at the 2019 NHL Draft, selected by the Avalanche at No. 63 overall--the first pick of the third round.
Stienburg talked with ColoradoAvalanche.com about his journey to being drafted, brief acting career and thoughts on joining the Avalanche family.
How did the prep school path influence your game and you personally?
"I'm a late birthday, so I'm back a year in school from the guys that are my age. Having graduated and then going back to school this year--I had the choice between that and juniors--personally for me going back just seemed like the best option for a lot of reasons. The ice time, the facilities we have, the option we have to develop; I thought it was the best fit for me. That was the main reason I was back at St. Andrew's this year."
You battled some intense injuries the last few years, how did you get past those and continue to develop as a player?
"I was out for most of the year, I think I played 10-15 games. The main thing for me was staying around the locker room, going to the rink as much as I can. Having a routine was the main thing, I didn't want to just sit at home and lay in bed too much. Getting out and being with the guys in the locker room was the main thing that helped me."
It looks like you had a brief acting career, how did that happen?
"'Mr. D' is what I was on. It was shot in Halifax at my old high school. My uncle is the producer of it, so I kind of had a bit of an in there. He got me on it. I told him one day that I wanted to go and just do some background stuff and then they found a speaking role for me. That was obviously pretty exciting. It was something that I wasn't expecting. Season 8 just came out and I was on it, had a couple lines. In season 7 I was just floating around in the background."
What was your draft experience like?
"I got to the second day of the draft at like 10 a.m. and sat there with my family and just kind of waited. After you hear your name called, it starts to get really exciting. It was a moment I will never forget. After that, I started to meet some of the scouts and then went up to meet the rest of the staff. I spent the day with them, and it was fun."
How cool is it that your dad also played for the Avalanche organization, with the Quebec Nordiques?
"Growing up, he was a big influence on me. He is someone that I always look to for advice. I didn't even realize until after the draft that it was the same organization. Once that sunk in, it was honestly pretty special."
Had you ever been to Colorado before development camp?
"No, I had never been. It was really cool to see and it's a really nice spot with the landscape and the mountains and everything. During development camp, one thing that we did was visit the Denver Broncos' practice facility. It was pretty cool to see, and I was excited to take that all in."
What are your plans for the rest of the summer?
"I'll head home to Halifax and skate there until leaving for Cornell. It's just getting into the gym and on the ice again and getting ready for next season."
Why did you end up going the college route?
"I think the main thing, one of the reasons I went to college, is just the extra time it gives me to develop. I want to take advantage of that, give my body some time to grow and develop physically. Hopefully one day I'll step in and play for the Avalanche."
What are you most excited for about being a member of the Avalanche organization?
"I think just being a part of the trend that they're on, all of the young prospects they have and all of the young guys on the roster. It's a good taste of what is to come, and hopefully I can be a part of it someday."