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Matteo Gennaro finds his groove

Jets prospect takes offensive step in 2017

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 / WinnipegJets.com

Up until the start of the 2016-2017 WHL season, Matteo Gennaro was clipping along at an average of 0.44 points-per-game.

Then January 2017 happened.

Gennaro, a seventh round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in the 2015 NHL Draft, exploded offensively. He scored 20 goals and added nine assists in only 15 games that month.

"I ran into a situation where I had a lot of chemistry with my line mates, and I think a lot of it was honestly just shooting the puck a lot," said the Calgary Hitmen forward. "I didn't turn away a lot of chances to shoot when I was in key scoring areas. I've been given a lot of opportunity by my coaches, and (have been) playing in key situations in games.

"When you're feeling hot and you're confident in your game, that's when you start to play really successfully."

For his efforts, the WHL named Gennaro it's Player of the Month for January. But the 19-year-old hasn't slowed down. Just two nights after being named the award's recipient, Gennaro scored twice (including the overtime winner) and added an assist in Calgary's 4-3 win over Vancouver.

"It gave me confidence that I'm one of the elite players in this league," Gennaro said of the award. "It was a pretty cool achievement, but now I'm really focused on trying to get my team in the playoffs here and help as much as I can to get some wins."

Gennaro's WHL career began with the Prince Albert Raiders, who drafted him 41st overall in the 2012 Bantam Draft. He laced up his skates for his first season shortly after, in the fall of 2013.

"It's a year when you're doing everything you can, and what you're being asked of your coaches," Gennaro said of his rookie season, where he scored 15 points in 60 games. "You may have to step out of your comfort zone a bit, but it does help you in the long run…. You're still learning and developing as a player."

At the end of that season, Gennaro played in the Under-17 World Hockey Championship for Canada Pacific. His first look at the international stage saw him score four times, and add three assists in six games, helping his team to a silver medal finish.

In total, Gennaro would play 182 games with the Raiders before he was traded to the Hitmen at the WHL trade deadline in January 2016.

"When it happened it was a bit of a shock. (But) I'm in a position now that I'm on a team that's a great organization, the coaches are awesome, and the teammates are great," said the St. Albert, AB native. "I'm a little bit closer to home too, so the family is happy about that. They get to see me play more often. I think it's worked out well in my career."

It was almost fate, as Gennaro would suit up with Jordy Stallard in Calgary. Only a few months later, Stallard was selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets.

"From what I remember last year, toward the end of the season and the playoffs, we were on the same line. I was happy for him," Gennaro said. "He's a great guy and a buddy of mine. When he got drafted to Winnipeg, it was pretty cool. We went to training camp together at the start of the year.

"To start the year this year, we played together for a little bit. It's a little bit easier when you have a guy that's going to the same organization. You can talk to him about stuff, and we'd meet with (Jets Player Development Coordinators) Jimmy Roy and Mike Keane together."

The two wouldn't be together in Calgary long, however, as Stallard was traded to Prince Albert on Jan. 10, 2017, just as Gennaro would begin his path toward winning the Player of the Month.

Now Gennaro can only look forward, as he hopes to get his Hitmen into the WHL playoffs. In his career, Gennaro has never made it out of the first round of the league's post season, and wants to change that this year.

The best way to do that, is keep doing the right things that got him to where he is today.

"It's coming down to me being consistent with my compete level and winning all my battles," Gennaro said. "Just playing that pro game that I'll have to do on a consistent basis if I'm fortunate enough to play pro hockey. Just little details like that that I can do pretty well at this level, I think I need to carry on those habits as I move forward."

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