Many people weren't happy when the New Jersey Devils drafted Stefan Matteau in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Here was the post of the first day of the draft and Tom's post about the selection itself. I was underwhelmed and others were less than kind. The sentiment at the time was that most (including myself) wanted someone else. In fact, there was a large contingent of fans who felt the Devils should have forfeited the pick as part of the NHL's petulant penalty for signing Ilya Kovalchuk as the likelihood that they'll draft at #29 or later in the next two years is rather small. And they kept the pick to get Matteau, someone who doesn't immediately impress at first glance. Those were the feelings back in June. However, when we did our rankings in mid-September, Matteau was regarded as the top non-professional forward in the system.
#10 - Stefan Matteau - C/LW - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 209 lbs. - Age: 18 - 2012-13 Team: Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL)
Not much from the numbers immediately jump out at you. Matteau was declared ineligible by the IIHF, so he couldn't represent the United States on the international level against the best within his peer group. Thus, his body of work is only with the national team. While 32 points in 46 games isn't bad, it's doesn't suggest that he's a superior offensive player. His gigantic amount of PIM in with the USHL and the USNTDP suggests the guy is more than just physical. If anything, he needs to settle down because discipline is a big problem for him. Moving the QMJHL was thought to be a better fit for him; but so far (and after we've ranked him), he's managed to miss games due to suspensions already. Seriously, Stefan, take it down several notches.
That said, those who have viewed him come away with the knowledge that he has several good traits. Corey Pronman's short profile on the player highlighted that he can skate well for his size, he's got good hands, and he excels at being aggressive. Back when he was drafted, many of the outside opinions based on seeing his play that Tom cited in his post note that he's got a good shot, he tends to take a lot of them, and he plays with a nasty edge. I, for one, appreciate forwards who like to shoot and can be good at it. It helps that his frame is already filled out and he's clearly knocking guys around. Though, he probably should do that less among other actions.
Of course, those same opinions including Pronman's profile question the offensive upside of Matteau. As complimentary they've been about his skating and shot, the production wasn't enough to make others confident that he could develop into a top scoring player. If he hasn't been excellent against his own peer group, then why should we think otherwise at future levels? I think the sheer amount of penalties he's taken undercut that to a degree (you can't shoot or make plays from the box), too. The main point is that he's not going to suddenly turn into a top player. Those who liked him a lot think he's going to be a second line player. Those who weren't as enthusiastic think he'll be a grinder. He has a safe projection, as Hockey's Future's profile more simply puts it, but it's not that high.
At the same time, that's a big part of the reason why he was ranked so high by all of us, except for Karen (Aside: She didn't rank any of the 2012 draft picks highly except for Ben Johnson.) That may seems strange since quite a few players were ranked lower who were also projected out to be bottom-six forwards. The difference is that those players, such as Blake Pietila, Ben Johnson, Mike Hoeffel, and David Wohlberg, are still question marks. They could make it to the NHL, or the AHL may be the highest level they reach. In the case of Matteau, I get the impression that his floor is pretty high. If he turns out to be nothing more than a banger or an energy guy, I think he'd still make it to the highest level to be that player. In a way, it's disappointing that a first round pick may turn out that way. In another, it reflects well on Matteau's skills and traits that most are confident he'll make it someday. After all, the idea is to get NHL players out of the draft.
Additionally, Matteau is also one of the few big forwards in the system. While size isn't everything, it can be an asset. Like offensive defensemen and offensive forwards, the Devils don't have too many of those players in the system. As far as I can tell, the only forward on this top 25 list larger than Matteau is #24 Mike Hoeffel and that's only in height. That's even more reason to value Matteau. That all said, Matteau has plenty of work to do in the Q. While he may not turn out to be a scorer, I expect him to produce at a good rate with his junior team. The scoring may not follow him to the pros, but it would mean he's doing enough good things on the ice to make a difference. Above all, he needs to play with more discipline. As much as we all can appreciate a guy who throws his weight around to make plays, nobody appreciates giving away power plays or losing games due to suspension. Moving to the juniors hasn't really alleviated that, so it's on him to learn how to play with an edge as opposed to over the edge. If he can do that, then he's got a better shot than being more than just a bottom-six guy like his dad. Though, Stephane did well enough to stick around and he got 957 total games in the NHL out of it. Not a bad career, but like with most of the writers, I'm hoping Stefan can do more on the ice.
Now that you've learned more about Stefan Matteau and why our collective ranking put him at #10 on our list. We'd like to know your opinion about that. Do you think that ranking is too high, too low, or just about right? What do you expect him to accomplish at Blainville-Boisbriand this season? Is he on the path to meet those expectations? Will Matteau learn to be a disciplined player? Can Matteau learn to be a disciplined player? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Matteau in the comments. Thank you for reading.