Growing up, Matt Hackett always wanted the pressure of being a goaltender. He would watch his uncle play on TV and knew that that’s what he wanted to do.
His uncle, Jeff, who played 500 games in the NHL over 15 seasons as a goalie, talked to Hackett’s parents and thought that he’d be better off as a forward because being a goaltender might be too stressful. Eventually, though, Hackett’s parents gave in.
“I guess I bugged them enough and they finally bought me a pair [of pads],” Hackett said.
Hackett, the Buffalo Sabres’ 23-year-old goaltending prospect, joined “Sabres Hockey Hotline” with Kevin Sylvester and co-host Andrew Peters on Thursday and talked about thriving on pressure.
“That’s the part that makes it so much fun I think, having the pressure on your shoulders at the end of a game or in a tie game,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, I really enjoy it and that’s what makes goaltending so special.”
The Sabres acquired Hackett when they traded captain Jason Pominville and a 2014 fourth-round pick to the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline in March. Buffalo also received forward Johan Larsson, a 2013 first-round pick (used to select defenseman Nikita Zadorov) and a 2014 second-round pick in the deal. Initially, the move caught Hackett off-guard.
“It was very exciting. I didn’t see myself getting traded but once I did, it’s a fresh start to prove myself. It’s nice to be wanted around the League,” he said. “I’m excited to prove them that they made the right choice by trading for me. I’ll come to camp ready to go.”
That’s the part that makes it so much fun I think, having the pressure on your shoulders at the end of a game or in a tie game. - Matt Hackett
Hackett was assigned to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League after the trade was completed. He appeared in three regular season games with the Amerks and started Game Two of the team’s first-round playoff series against Toronto. He served primarily as the backup for David Leggio, who signed a two-way contract the Washington Capitals this summer.
“David’s a great guy. I had fun playing alongside him,” Hackett said. “He played basically all the games to that point so I didn’t expect to come in there and steal a spot. I just knew to be a good teammate and to jump in there and make saves whenever I was called upon.”
The Sabres have plenty of goaltenders currently in their professional ranks. Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth are in Buffalo. Hackett, Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen are likely to be joined by Andrey Makarov in Rochester. Hackett is looking to distinguish himself during training camp in September and make a case to be on the NHL roster.
“My goal is to come into camp and prove that I can play at the NHL level and give them a tough choice to make,” he said.
Hackett also said that Jeff and the experiences he’s shared have been extremely beneficial to him as he works to improve his game.
“He’s been giving me pointers here and there,” Hackett said. “Not just on the ice, but off the ice as well, so he’s been very helpful to my game.”