With the Calgary Flames holding the 13th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, general manager Brad Treliving selected winger Matthew Coronato who had just concluded a 48-goal, 85-point season through 51 games with the USHL’s Chicago Steel. Coronato was a +37 over the course of the regular season in his draft year and later registered nine goals and 13 points in eight playoff games, where he was at a +11.
Coronato’s 48 goals came close to breaking the USHL goal scoring record, which was previously set at 54 by Kevin Roy in the 2011–12 season. Although Coronato didn’t quite get there, he holds the Chicago Steel’s franchise record for most goals scored in a USHL career and led the USHL in goals, both in the regular season and in the playoffs, in his draft year. Lastly, Matthew Coronato also holds the title of having the most goals scored in a USHL season by a first year draft-eligible since Thomas Vanek in 2002.
Prior to draft day, during Bob Mckenzie’s Final Draft Ranking show, TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button claimed Coronato to be the best pure goal scorer of the 2021 NHL Draft class over the likes of now Winnipeg Jets prospect Chaz Lucius and now Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Guenther.
In terms of labelling his play under the likes of scout terminology, Coronato is tenacious and constantly hungry around the net. His quick release, his ability to play in all situations and his level of patience—coined by NHLCSB’s Greg Rajanen as “a goal scorer’s patience”—really shined through both in his draft year and his freshman year with the Harvard Crimson in the ECAC.
Prospects projections from JFreshHockey during Coronato’s draft eligible season had him projected at a 45% of becoming a star, ranked fourth in his draft class with that potential, along with an 84% chance of becoming an NHLer, which was ranked sixth in his draft class.
So how did all of Coronato’s scoring prowess translate into his first season at the NCAA level?
Coronato’s first full NCAA season
Matthew Coronato led the Crimson in points this season as a rookie. He finished two points above a point-per-game at a 1.06 point-per-game pace through 34 games played and registered a +11. Relative to other NCAA rookies within his draft class this past year, Matthew Knies (Toronto Maple Leafs second-round pick) registered at point-per-game pace of 1.00 and Josh Doan (Coyotes secound-round pick), one of Coronato’s former Steel teammates, registered a point-per-game pace of 1.06.
Given that Chaz Lucius was also rumoured to have been a potential draft choice of the Flames last summer, I’ll note that Lucius who was selected 18th overall by the Winnipeg Jets had a point-per-game pace of 0.79 in his rookie season in reference to Coronato’s 1.06 PPG pace as stated above.
To top it all off, Coronato was also rewarded by being named to the NCAA’s (ECAC) All-Rookie Team near season’s end.
Matthew Coronato’s shooting percentage noticeably took a slight dip over the course of his first season at Harvard. Coronato was shooting at a rate of 25.13% as a member of the Chicago Steel and fell to a more earthly 13.74% in his freshman year as a member of the Crimson.
Coronato’s primary point even strength scoring rate was well over half a point per game at 0.6176, which showed he was driving the bus offensively at 5v5. Out of his 36 total points, 21 were even strength primary points and out of his 18 goals tallied, 13 were potted 5v5. The importance of these tallies exemplify just how impactful and well-rounded his play driving ability is at this stage in his development currently.
Adding to this, Coronato is a really intelligent player who likes to carry the puck in with possession. His offensive xG rates and shot rates are above average and he is the pinnacle of pure offence. That being said, Coronato was deployed in all situations this season and really expanded his role and versatility as the season went on.
For instance, Coronato started the year on Harvard’s top penalty kill unit and second power play unit but it didn’t take him long to be moved right up to the first unit there as well. Furthermore, Coronato registered five primary points on the man-advantage by season’s end.
In terms of his line deployment and usage, Coronato was predominantly a fixture as a second line right winger for the majority of the season. This being said, head coach Ted Donato did trial him under a few looks as Harvard’s first and third line centre, along with first line right wing for a few nights. Ultimately, his versatility and ability to play in every situation should receive nothing but top marks at this point in his development stage.
When will Coronato sign with the Flames?
Due to his commitment to Harvard’s program, the inner circle media in Calgary couldn’t help but make the connection to what went down between this organization and 2016 third-round selection Adam Fox, who both refused to sign in Calgary and in Carolina before picking his own destination and fulfilling his personal dream of signing with the New York Rangers.
Although it’s highly prefaced that Fox was indeed a rare league-wide case that just so happened to come through at the Flames’ expense, this is still a very real concern to the entire fanbase. It is no secret that Coronato is a highly touted draft pick playing for Harvard and it’s easy to worry that he may not sign with the Flames just like Fox and others have done in the past. However, according to Elliotte Friedman, this is not a concern for the Flames up to this point, who feel very confident in their ability to sign him.
Coronato has already proven himself at the NCAA level and at this stage it is widely believed that he is going to return to Harvard next season. Once again, the Flames are not worried about this being an issue down the road. The general consensus on behalf of the fanbase should be one around the sense that as a collective we’d want Coronato to be ready to jump right into the NHL when he is ready, rather than going through the AHL first.
Essentially, one good season does not give the Flames enough confidence that he is ready to make the huge jump, but giving him the chance to play a sophomore year to just light it up in the NCAA could do wonders for his confidence. Another year under Donato’s strong system could grant the leeway for Coronato to get bigger, tougher, faster and more comfortable within all elements of the game.
Coronato essentially deserves all the hype and here’s to hoping he has an excellent World Junior tournament in August and that he has an even better sophomore season as a member of the Crimson before signing his entry-level contract in Calgary at the end of next season per NCAA rules.