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2016-17 IceCaps Season Review: Inconsistency and a lack of discipline continue to plague Stefan Matteau

When focused, Matteau became a huge asset for the IceCaps, but those times were few and far between.

St. John’s IceCaps/Jeff Parsons

When he was acquired for Devante Smith-Pelly at the trade deadline in 2016, Stefan Matteau was seen as a reclamation project undertaken by Marc Bergevin. A former first-round pick who had struggled to make an NHL impact with the New Jersey Devils perhaps just needed a change of scenery to find his game in Montreal with the Canadiens.

The NHL was not in the cards for Matteau this year as he spent the entire season in St. John’s with the IceCaps. While he showed flashes of what his top potential could be, his lack of discipline and inconsistent effort put a damper on what could have been a great season for 23-year-old.

Matteau was at his best this year when he had his head on straight and didn’t stray over the line with his physical play. Standing 6’2’’ and 220 lbs., he was an ideal power forward for the IceCaps, unafraid to throw hits and get involved physically. His imposing stature worked best along the boards, as he was able to shield the puck and keep the play moving in the dirty areas of the ice. Coupled with a soft pair of hands and some decent puck-handling skills, when he was on his game he was not an easy player to contain. Using his body as a screen, his presence in front of the net was a nightmare for opposing goalies, and tip-ins and redirects became a big part of his game.

His speed allows him to get into the zone with ease and blow by defenders due to his long strides, often creating odd-man rushes. There he could also showcase his play-making ability, however, he was much more suited to be the triggerman on these rushes as he possesses a howitzer of a shot. He gets his snap shot off quickly, with velocity behind it, and almost always looked for the corners of the net to put the puck in, making it difficult for goalies to get a glove or blocker on.

Much like his linemates Max Friberg and Jacob de la Rose, Matteau became a utility player for Sylvain Lefebvre this season. He and his line took the toughest matchups against opposing teams night in and night out. They also got time on the power play, in addition to serving on the penalty kill. How did Matteau respond to the added responsibilities in the playoffs? With three goals in four games while eating tough minutes against the Syracuse Crunch.

The issue with Matteau this year wasn’t a lack of skill but consistently utilizing his strong assets and not taking the night off. Over the course of the season Matteau had scoreless streaks of five, eight, and 10 games, and those often coincided with a large amount of penalty minutes. It’s understandable that it isn’t easy to score goals in pro hockey, but on a team that desperately needed someone to step up at various points of the year, Matteau often disappointed in that respect.

Discipline has been a long-standing problem for the young forward. With 122 penalty minutes this year, Matteau put his team at a serious disadvantage with reckless play and abuse of officials. Much like Bobby Farnham, Matteau wasn’t always one to agree with an official’s call, and would berate them on the way to serve his penalty having a 10-minute misconduct tacked on. Add in that sometimes he is prone to seeking revenge for a hit earlier in the game, and often making a rash decision that leads to more penalties being called, or in his case another suspension being levied against him.

If he could tap into his playoff mode during the regular season he’d be a major piece going forward in Laval, and possibly even Montreal. However, the fact remains he didn’t prove this year that he deserves an NHL roster spot, and that could spell the end of his time with the Canadiens organization.

If he is brought back next year, he’ll have to mature a bit and become a leader for the Rocket, as they’re going to be in a transitional stage where their top stars may not be available anymore. Max Friberg went home to Sweden, Michael McCarron seems bound for the NHL, and Charles Hudon could very well be in Las Vegas. Those are some big shoes to fill, but if Matteau plays up to what he’s capable of then he can fill a good chunk of that void next year in the AHL.