This week, we’ll showcase a prospect out of the American Hockey League (AHL): center Matthew Peca. He was selected in the seventh round, 201st overall, at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
The Petawawa, Ontario, native is currently playing his first full season with the Syracuse Crunch. “He’s got good patience and is gifted on the rush,” Crunch head coach Rob Zettler said. Granted, Zettler also mentioned Peca needs to adjust his game defensively but is improving. “He’s getting better and better,” Zettler said. “His offensive instinct and ability has always been there.”
Before beginning his tenure with the Crunch, Peca played four years at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. In 157 NCAA contests, he scored 42 goals in addition to tallying 101 assists and a +41 rating.
His shining moment came against Union College at the 2013 NCAA East Regional Final where he scored a natural hat trick. His three goals helped carry the Bobcats to a 5-1 victory and the school’s first ever appearance in the Frozen Four. Also, Peca scored the fastest hat trick in an NCAA Tournament game by more than a minute (3 minutes, 12 seconds).
Last season, Peca signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Lightning and concluded the season with the Crunch. He finished out the regular season with the Crunch and registered a goal and three assists in eight games. He also scored the lone goal for the Crunch in Game One of the AHL playoffs against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
This season, Peca has shown upside with five goals and 19 assists in 45 games. His season was hindered by an upper-body injury that sidelined him for over a month. Last Friday, he scored on his first shift back against the Binghamton Senators. His two-point performance on the night steered the Crunch to a 3-2 victory. On Sunday, Peca again burned the Senators with a game-winning shootout goal to squeeze a 5-4 win.
“We missed his speed,” said Zettler, who raved about Peca’s ability to break away from opponents. Overall, Peca’s speed and offensive prowess will be a key asset as he strives to establish a foothold in professional hockey.