The OJHL’s Georgetown Raiders won’t have Matthew Cairns for long, but they’re making the most of his presence.
The defenseman, who is listed on NHL Central Scouting’s list of players to watch for the 2016 draft, is helping the Raiders to the top of the OJHL’s West Division with a record of 25-11-3.
Cairns leads all Raiders blueliners with seven goals and 17 assists through 32 games of his draft year.
“There’s going to be pressure in your draft year, but you try to focus on your game as much as you can,” said the 6-foot-2, 190-pound blue-liner from Mississauga, ON. “It’s a huge honor to be recognized like that but you try to be focused as much as you can.”
A 2014 Ontario Hockey League pick of the Peterborough Petes (third round, 48th overall), Cairns opted to take the NCAA route towards a NHL career. He landed with the Raiders, with whom he’ll wrap up the 2015-16 season before entering Cornell University’s program.
Cairns is one of five members of the Ontario Junior Hockey League listed on NHL CSS’s list, joining Raiders teammates center Josh Dickinson and fellow defenseman Matthew Thom along with Cobourg Cougars center Sam Dunn, Burlington Cougars winger Jack Jeffers and Whitby Fury center Luke Keenan.
According to Future Considerations’ Ontario scout Daniel Deschenes, Cairns is a bona fide two-way defenceman, whose fluid skating and excellent mobility make him a threat at both ends of the ice.
“He sees the ice well and makes good decisions in advancing the puck,” Deschenes said. “Good offensive upside from the back end; makes good heads up plays and will hop into the rush as an option when he sees fit.
“Calm and collected when faced with pressure and dealing with bad pucks to control and move to his man. Picks up speed after a few strides and makes his mark with his skating in all three zones. Strong and accurate passes and shots. Sees plays develop and has impressed hockey sense.”
Cairns agreed with the assessment.
“I’m a two-way defender,” he said. “I like to get up in the rush as much as I can. I want to be a guy that can be relied on in his own end as well. I’m always looking to improve, but I think d-zone coverage and picking up guys in the d-zone is definitely something I’d like to improve upon.”
He added that his decision to take his talents to the NCAA rather than the OHL was driven by his thirst for knowledge. He explained that with Cornell, he’ll get the opportunity to play hockey at an elite level, while getting an Ivy-league education.
“I’ve been a pretty good student my whole life and school’s a big part of my life,” Cairns explained of his decision to commit to the Ithaca, NY university. “I wanted to be given the chance to play at an elite level of hockey and also continue my studies. That’s the big decision why I wanted to go to school.”