Stefan Matteau may just have the make-up of the ultimate hockey player with his size and skill set.
The six-foot-one, 207-pound 17-year-old winger is having a solid season with the U.S. National Team Development Program and has potted three goals and seven points through 22 games while playing against much older competition in the USHL.
Earlier this season, Matteau was outstanding in helping his American squad capture a silver medal at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, potting two goals and six points in six tournament games. Those numbers put the talented Matteau fourth overall on his club in scoring and seventh overall in the tournament.
Last season, while with the storied Notre Dame Hounds Midget AAA program, Matteau put up 15 goals and 37 points in 40 games en route to helping them win the Telus Cup, Canada’s National AAA Midget Hockey Championship. Once again, the prototypical power forward came through in the clutch, with three goals and six points in the seven games it took the Hounds to capture the title.
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that Matteau has a knack for performing in the big games. After all, his father Stephane did score one of the most famous goals in New York Rangers history in double overtime against the New Jersey Devils to send them on to the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.
Along with having the bloodlines, the younger Matteau is an excellent skater that loves getting engaged physically, brings a ton of energy every night, has tremendous vision and hockey sense, a hard, very accurate shot, loves going to the dirty areas of the ice in order to get rewarded, and is a very dangerous two way player.In fact, of the 15 goals he scored last season with Notre Dame, four were shorthanded.
I had the chance to catch up with big forward for a quick Q and A.
Obviously having a dad who played in the NHL is a plus, how influential has he been in developing your game, and who else has played a part in molding you into the player you are today?
Stefan: Yeah, it’s a huge plus to have a dad like that, but he was often on the road because of hockey. My mother was always there to tie my skates, buy me new sticks, and bring me to and from games. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to play growing up.
You are a big prototypical power forward, that has the ability to really do it all, what do you see being your best attributes as a hockey player?
Stefan: My size and strength is definitely a plus for me. I also have a good shot and can pass the puck well. I try to use everything as much as possible.
Is there an NHLer you mold your game after?
Stefan: I try to be a Eric or Jordan Staal. A tall, big and strong power forward all over the ice.
You are yet another product of that great Notre Dame Hounds program in Saskatchewan. What made you opt to play there, and in your opinion why have they had so much success over the years in developing players?
Stefan: Going to ND helped ’cause just being away from home, it forces you to mature. We pick up the best players from all over the country, and winning the Telus Cup two years in a row, it will encourage people to go there. But, I first got the idea from a book about Vincent Lecavalier, and one thing led to another, I was there holding a National Championship.
You’ve had a good campaign with the Team USA Juniors competing in the USHL. What was your ‘welcome moment’ to the league?
Stefan: My welcome moment didn’t happen in the USHL, it happened in the NAHL in our 3rd game. It was an exhibition game, and I got my first USA fight. The kid asked me to go and I knocked him down with one punch. That was pretty cool.
You guys fell just short at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, but you had a very strong tourney personally. Now that it’s in the rear-view mirror, is taking home the silver medal a little more rewarding?
Stefan: Yeah, I had a good tournament but the way we are coached is, ” if your not first your last” and not getting gold got us mad, but we are doing great now. We really have become a team, and have just broke a NTDP record with a 7 game USHL win streak.
What is the highlight of your career thus far?
Stefan: I would say the highlight would be winning the Telus Cup last year. Or playing in front of 13 000 at the final in Winnipeg at the Under-17 Challenge.
You’ve racked up a few goals internationally, and while playing with the Hounds, do you have one that stands out as your biggest so far?
Stefan: In Winnipeg, I scored a goal in the Semi-finals against Canada Pacific to tie it up, and we ended up winning.
You are committed to the University of North Dakota following your USHL career. What made you choose the Fighting Sioux program?
Stefan: The whole staff is great, and the rink is phenomenal! When I visited they were all great, and it’s a nice town too.
Your father will always be remembered for helping the Rangers end their 54 year Stanley Cup drought, and you wear his old number 32. When you are drafted next season, is their a part of you that would like to maybe go to one of the clubs he played for?
Stefan: Yeah, I’ve been wearing the 32 as many years as I can so far. But, for getting drafted next year, going to a team that he played for would be a plus. My goal is to just get drafted. It’s been my dream to get selected, and I would be honored to go to any team.
A lot of guys like to talk trash on the ice, what is the funniest chirp you’ve heard while playing?
Stefan: (Ha/ha), that’s a funny one. The guy was pretty big and intimidating, he had a huge beard and everything, and he said to me with the highest voice, he just said ”Hey you! Shut up, nice skates buddy!” what he said, and the way he looked didn’t go together at all (ha/ha).
Where is your favourite visiting arena to play in, and why?
Stefan: Green Bay, when we played there it was the teddy bear cancer night. There were 10 000 fans. It was loud and crazy, and was so much fun!