By Kyle Shohara
|"I'm looking to develop my skills and take things that I need to work on back home."
Five days ago, Wisconsin native Matthew Berkovitz sat with friends and family inside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for the 2014 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old from Green Bay was ranked No. 61 among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Service, and he was coming off a season where he represented Team Wisconsin of the Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League, collecting 13 points (3g/10a) in 21 games.
After the third and fourth rounds had come and gone, Berkovitz waited patiently – and anxiously – for his name to be called. With his family by his side, Berkovitz’s life changed forever when the Ducks selected him with the 123rd pick in the fifth round, a moment he says he’ll never forget.
“I was just really happy,” Berkovitz said during a break in the Ducks’ prospect camp at THE RINKS – Anaheim ICE. “I hugged my family and just headed down there. I was just too awestruck to start thinking about things.”
He made his way to the draft floor where he met with the Ducks brass. There, he received his jersey and hat and was escorted into one of the arena’s various locker rooms for portrait shots.
It was a lot to digest for an 18-year-old straight out of high school, but Berkovitz enjoyed every bit of it. He really had no choice but to savor the moment, because he went straight home to Wisconsin for just enough time to pack his bags and make his way out West.
“I went home for a day, and then I was already flying back out here,” he said. “Everything happened pretty quick.”
Berkovitz is a first-timer to the sunny skies and beaches of Southern California. “I love it here,” he said. “We’ve had a few drives around the area, and I absolutely love the weather. I love everything about Orange County.”
Berkovitz is committed to attend the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 2014, and for those who aren’t familiar with his style of play, he says he’s a “reliable two-way, puck-moving defenseman who likes to create offense on the rush.”
Berkovitz was the lone defenseman out of eight finalists for the 2013-14 Wisconsin Hockey Coaches Association Player of the Year Award after scoring 37 points (11g/26a) with a +16 rating in 24 games with the Ashwaubenon Jaguars. He helped the team to the Section 5 championship game with a team-best four points (all assists) in three playoff games.
Martin Madden, Anaheim’s Director of Amateur Scouting, says Berkovitz’ selection was the result of two of his staffers. “He happened to be a pick two of our staff members had real passion for,” Madden said. “I would’ve liked a forward there, but two of our staff members were really passionate about this kid and his long-term potential. We think he’s going to a good school. They develop really good defensemen.”
Berkovitz says he’s looking to make the most out of this week-long camp before heading back to Green Bay for the rest of the summer. “I’m looking to develop my skills and take things that I need to work on back home, and work on them there. Hopefully I can get better and keep coming back. I hope to produce for them in a few years.”