Matt Tomkins was an AJHL rookie this season that was supposed to be a backup, but somebody must have failed to give him the memo.
As the 17-year-old, Tomkins stepped in and played like a seasoned vet for his Sherwood Park Crusaders club. The goaltender went 18-11-2 on the year, with a 3.41 goals against average and a .894 save percentage, while helping the Crusaders to the fifth best record in the league.
Last season he posted a 3.83 goals against and .890 save percentage in 16 games in the AMHL with the Sherwood Park Mids, and in 2009-10 he went 8-5-5 with a 2.69 GAA, a .900 save percentage and two shutouts with his Midget AAA Sherwood Park Squires. Tomkins also went 8-0 in the playoffs that year, with an impressive 2.08 GAA and .931 save percentage en route to leading the Squires to the 2010 AMMHL Provincial Championship and captured the Playoffs Most Valuable Player honors.
He is positionally sound, has tremendous rebound control, anticipates the play well, is unflappable between the pipes, and plays a mature, very steady game. At 6-foot-2, 171-pounds, he combines size with tremendous athleticism that allows him to quickly recover in the rare occasion he does give up too much room to a shooter, as he never gives up on a puck and has a high compete level. It’s easy to see why the tender is on the radar for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and was ranked among the top 10 North American goalies by Central Scouting, as he is simply a remarkable talent.
I had the chance to catch up with the calm, cool and very collected Matt Tomkins for a quick Q and A.
Who has been the biggest help and influence in developing your game so far?
Matt: My goalie coach Dustin Schwartz has really helped improve my game and allowed me to simplify the position at a high level, as well as to be consistent. At the same time however, I can’t give enough credit to coaches and my dad, especially this year, to push me to be better.
You are yet another in a long list of big, athletic tenders that play the butterfly style to perfection, what do you see being your best attributes as a netminder?
Matt: I think my best attribute is my speed. For a big guy I think I move really well. My rebound control and positioning are also what I consider some positive traits. My biggest attribute however I would say is my battle and compete level.
Is there a goalie in the NHL you style your game after?
Matt: My favorite goalie is Carey Price who I like to style parts of my game after.
What was your ‘welcome moment’ to the AJHL?
Matt: Well my first game went really well, we won 4-1 and I made 40 saves. My teammates and coaches were very supportive and it made the transition pretty easy.
What is the highlight of your young career?
Matt: Obviously there are many highlights from when I was younger, such as winning a provincial championship, but I think the most significant highlight has been being identified as a potential selection in this years NHL draft.
You participated in the Vancouver Giants main camp last year, so are you hoping to play in the dub next season or are you wanting to go the NCAA route right now?
Matt: I have always been pro-NCAA and thought it would be an ideal route for me, and have had many options. But, on the other hand, Vancouver is in need of a goalie for next year and it would be a great opportunity for me. It will have to be a decision I make in the near future.
You’re highly regarded by NHL Central Scouting for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, I know it’s an honor in itself just to be selected, but if you could pick the team that chooses you, who would you pick?
Matt: Like you said it would be an honor simply to be chosen into the NHL, but if I had to pick a team it would be Colorado, they have been my favorite team since I was a kid.
A lot of guys like to talk trash on the ice, especially at the tenders, what is the funniest chirp you’ve ever heard while playing?
Matt: I have heard a lot while playing, some more appropriate than others. My favorite though is the guys who sit behind the net in Fort Mac, they like to chirp pretty good.
Being a first year player, did you have to endure any rookie pranks, and if so what was the funniest/worst one?
Matt: My rookie initiation wasnt too bad, but the funniest one was when all the rookies had to dress up on Whyte Ave in Edmonton. My vet Jessi Hilton gave me a nice little tank top and a bright pink skirt to wear on a busy Friday night.
Who, in your opinion, who has the hardest shot you’ve ever faced?
Matt: There is always that one guy with a cannon, but thinking back I would have to say Duncan Siemens, who I played most of my first years of goaltending with.
Do you have a game that stands out as the best one you’ve ever played?
Matt: There are alot of games that come to mind, but most recently would either be in the playoffs against Bonnyville facing elimination in a 2-0 win, or against Fort Mac when we won 5-4.
A lot of goalies are seen as being superstitious, do you have any rituals you go through before or during the course of a game?
Matt: I’m not too superstitious, but if I am to think about my pregame routine it is pretty much the exact same. I like to keep things the same I guess. There are also alot of little things in games that I always do. I suppose I am a little superstitious.
What is the worst goal you’ve ever surrendered?
Matt: I’ve never given up a goal that always pops into my head when asked that question, but thinking back probably the classic fan on a pass, right to the opposition, and into an open net.
What do you like to do in your downtime from hockey?
Matt: During the season I like to get out and go for quick snowmobile rides, but in the summer I enjoy spending time at the lake wakeboarding and qauding.
Any hidden talents?
Matt: I can solve a rubik’s cube.