Apparently, both of my last draft profiles for the 2022 NHL Draft share the same birthday. And it’s not just any regular ol’ birthday, they are both born on the first day of the year. Talk about a perfect symbolism to end both this draft period and, with it, the hockey year 2021-22. Now we’ll piggy-back on Team HuGo, hoping and praying they’ll bring us into a new year which is better than the last.
Matthew Savoie is under the microscope today. He has been an expected top selection since the start of this (still very fresh) decade. In 2020, his older brother, Carter, was a presumtive second-rounder, but ended up falling to 100 where he was scooped up by his local team, the Edmonton Oilers. Something similar won’t happen to young Matt. When pick 100 (or the Oilers for that matter) comes around, he will already be on a plane to his new home town to get ready for a forthcoming development camp.
Still, if you consider that two years ago he was considered to be someone who could challenge Shane Wright (and Brad Lambert) for first overall, it’s surprising to see Savoie the younger now rated around number 10. What in the Alberta native’s CV during these last few seasons has contributed to making his stock drop?
Birthplace: St. Albert, Alberta
Date of birth: January 1, 2004
Weight: 179 lbs.
Team: Winnipeg ICE (WHL)
With Savoie, scouts should know what they’re talking about. After being rejected for exceptional status in the WHL, he was later drafted first overall in the league’s Bantam Draft. With COVID stopping him from continuous game time in Western Canada, he took his talents to Dubuque, Iowa, putting up 38 points in 36 games for the Fighting Saints during 2020-21.
Let’s go through his positives first. Savoie is an offensive machine, equally comfortable to rip one home as he is assisting one of his linemates. On top of that, he is an above-average skater, with McKeen’s even ranking him second in that category when looking at the entire class.
While in the WHL, he’s been a power-play star. There was even a time when the draft community started to question Savoie’s ability to put up points at five-on-five, after he had mainly demonstrated his scoring abilities on the power play for a period last season.
Much like Cole Caufield, Savoie has a low centre of gravity, which helps him remain sturdy against physically more advanced opponents. He remains calm when pressured and forechecks with intensity. He handles his stick as well as any player in this draft class, which aids him in both offensive and defensive aspects of his game.
With all of this upside, what then are his defects? Well, if we want to be crass and sum it up, it is as simple as this: he is small. And since he’s small, he needs to skate like the wind to be considered worthy of a top selection by the NHL community. Let’s just see what one anonymous NHL scout told Hockey Prospect during this season:
“I saw him a lot last year and a few times so far this year. What scares me is I think he is done as far as his physical development /.../ That’s not good.” - NHL Scout, November 2021
Elite Prospects: #9
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #9
NHL Central Scouting: #4 (North American Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #8
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #4
Another problem is that the expectations on him were so high going into this year that, much like with Wright’s situation in Kingston, 102 points in 70 games and an improved 200-foot game just wasn’t dominant enough. Shortly put, he had little to win by dominating in the WHL, but a lot to lose if he didn’t.
With these prospects who have been highly regarded for several years before they’re even drafted, you want to see a continued overall development. But perhaps that’s easier said than done if you’re already mentally and physically ready for more of a challenge?
In 2014, NHL teams hesitated to pick up an undersized Albertan, even though he had put up 150 points over his first two seasons in the WHL. In the end, the Tampa Bay Lightning took a flier on him in the middle of the third round. That guy recently eclipsed 450 NHL points in just over 450 games played and has since gone on to win two Stanley Cups for his Floridian franchise. In the pre-draft process, his measurements were 5’9” and 160 pounds.
Now, I am not saying Matthew Savoie is or ever will be Brayden Point, but you would be foolish to doubt his talent at this point (no pun intended) in time. The Canadiens’ very own Cole Caufield is the latest example showing us that a lack of size can be overcome if compensated by a high motor and a delicate offensive touch.
Savoie’s future lies in the NHL. His combination of skill, work ethic, and scoring prowess should instantly make him slot in right up there as his new NHL team’s most tantalizing talent. Whether he will live up to his lofty potential and become a top-line player is up to him, because the qualities needed are certainly already within him.