Born January 16, 1991 (age 20) in Haliburton, Ontario, Canada
Center for the Colorado Avalanche
Let us tap the Rockies, so to speak, and uncover a gem of a man today. Matt got his start playing in the juniors for the Central Ontario Wolves and the Haliburton Huskies before being drafted to the OHL’s Brampton Battalion in 2007. He was awesome his first two seasons there, with 30 goals and 50 points as a rookie and 79 points in 57 games the next season. Add 26 more for the postseason, where he helped the team get to the J. Ross Roberston Cup finals. Unfortunately, the Windsor Spitfires won that contest.
It was on to the 2009 NHL Draft, where he was initially ranked second behind John Tavares but was knocked back by Victor Hedman when the draft actually went down (it had to have been fate that the Avs picked him, because he was a fan of theirs as a kid). He started on the team that fall, racking up his first NHL career point – an assist on a power play goal, no less – on October 1, 2009. His first goal came two weeks later on the 17th against the Detroit Red Wings. After that, it was decided that he’d stay put on the roster.
He wasn’t finished in that first season by a long shot. He became the first 18-year-old to have back to back two-goal games since 1995 and made the goal against Roberto Luongo that helped the Avs clinch a 2010 playoff spot (they were eventually eliminated in the first round by San Jose). For his awesome effort, he garnered third place for the Calder Trophy.
This past season, he got his first five-minute penalty for fighting with the Blues’ Vladimir Sobotka and became the first player in the history of the NHL All-Star Game to be awarded a penalty shot – eventually blocked by Henrik Lundqvist – after Alex Ovechkin threw his stick at him on a breakaway. He also scored his 100th NHL career goal against Ilya Bryzgalov, surpassing his boyhood idol Joe Sakic as the youngest player in the history of the franchise (including the Quebec Nordiques) to do that.
On the international stage, he’s struck gold in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, the World U18 Championships and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament – all in 2008. This year, he was named to Canada’s Worlds team for the second year in a row and helped them get to a 5th place finish.
I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be hearing A LOT from him in the future.
But don’t think for a moment that this guy’s all work and no fun. Here he is with Paul Stastny doing the Bang Bang Dance after beating my Blackhawks: