Matt D’Agostini’s childhood sounds a lot like the story of any other young boy growing up in Canada.
Before he began to crawl, he was watching hockey games on television with his father. Before he could walk without falling, he was falling on skates on a backyard rink his family built and maintained. He played organized hockey with his brother, while his dad was part of the coaching staff or helped out with whatever the team would need.
Everywhere he looked, there was hockey.
“That was always the thing to do is go out and play hockey, so I’ve been doing it my whole life,” D’Agostini said recently. “My dad was a big hockey fan, my brother and I both played…our whole family was always into hockey.”
And that’s how it starts for most children growing up north of the border. A dream to one day play in the NHL is prominent, although a vast majority of the dreamers never get a chance to play on the big stage.
For D’Agostini, his first chance at the NHL came on perhaps the biggest stage in hockey: in Montreal, where fans of the Canadiens are widely considered to be among the league’s most rabid fans.
As a rookie, D’Agostini potted 12 goals and 9 assists (21 points) in 53 games with the Canadiens, proving that the offensive prowess he displayed while with the Guelph Storm (OHL) and the Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL) was no fluke.
“He gets (his shot) off quick. He’s got a great one-timer, a great wrist shot,” said Blues forward Alex Steen
, who has seen plenty of ice time with D’Agostini this season. “He’s able to place his shots too, which is tough to do. He’s got good skating ability, good quick first steps.”
For some reason he can’t quite explain, D’Agostini couldn’t replicate that early success during his sophomore season in Montreal. Through 40 games, he had just four points (2 goals, 2 assists) before being traded to the Blues for prospect Aaron Palushaj on March 2, 2010.
“I was caught off guard, but there’s always (trade) rumors floating around in Montreal. You never know which ones to believe,” D’Agostini said. “(The trade) came as quite a shock. It changes your life right around and it happens in a split second.
“Coming into the situation (in St. Louis), where the guys were in the middle of a playoff run, it was tough for me to work my way (into the lineup) in the middle of the year.”
D’Agostini didn’t get much ice time immediately after the trade. He played just seven games last season with Davis Payne’s club and failed to register a point.
“There’s so much change in a short period of time. Not just hockey stuff, but other things, like your surroundings,” said Steen, who also went through a midseason trade to the Blues in 2008. “You don’t know how to get to the rink, you don’t have a car, you’re staying at a hotel. You don’t get that ‘home’ feeling. At the rink, there’s a whole new structure, new teammates, new chemistry.”
So D’Agostini spent the offseason getting acclimated to his new home: the city, his teammates and the organization. He knew he’d have to work hard in training camp to earn a regular spot in the roster. And that’s exactly what he’s done.
Whatever caused his production to slip in his sophomore season is history.
“I’ve always had confidence in myself, that I could put the puck in the net,” D’Agostini said. “I’ve seemed to do it at every level. I had a good offseason, I worked on a lot of things and I’ve got the confidence back right now.”
That confidence has translated into six goals through 17 games this season, giving D’Agostini the team-lead in goals.
“I don’t think I have anything to prove,” he added. “I’m just going out there and playing my game. Hopefully it’s good enough for the coaching staff and the organization and hopefully helps this team win.”