Update: DeBlouw drafted 186th overall by Calgary.
Matt Gajtka is the Director of Communications for the USHL Muskegon Lumberjacks. He has profiled the Lumberjacks' Matt DeBlouw, a likely candidate to be drafted by the Capitals in the third or fourth round. The original story is here.
Matt DeBlouw spent the last two years with the Muskegon Lumberjacks building his reputation as a legitimate NHL Draft prospect. That work will likely come to fruition this weekend in Pittsburgh when he is projected to a be a mid-round selection Saturday at CONSOL Energy Center.
With the draft just days away (the first round will take place Friday night, with rounds 2-7 saved for Saturday), hockey observers are in the process of finalizing their evaluations of all relevant prospects. That list includes DeBlouw, 18, who will attend Michigan State University in the fall.
One person who already has an extensive mental file on DeBlouw is Assistant Coach Dave Noel-Bernier, who was part of the Lumberjacks staff when the 16-year-old center from Chesterfield, Mich., first arrived in Muskegon in the summer of 2010.
"His speed and skating ability are off the chart and he has the potential of being bigger and stronger still," said Noel-Bernier, who administers the Lumberjacks' strength and conditioning program in addition to his coaching and scouting duties.
DeBlouw certainly made Noel-Bernier proud with his impressive showing at the NHL Draft Combine last month, when he scored in the top 10 out of over 100 players in several fitness tests. His best result was a second-place finish on the Wingate bike, which measures leg power and is regarded as one of the most important tests at the annual combine.
Matt's combine breakout could give him a boost when NHL teams assess his place on their draft boards; in fact, his profile has been raised to a point at which it wouldn't be entirely surprising if he sneaked into the bottom of the second round.
|DeBlouw put up 33 points, including 11 goals, in 2011-12, his second USHL season.|
"To succeed as he goes up the ladder, Matt has to keep working on all assets of his game," Noel-Bernier said. "As the competition gets tougher, you have to play to your strengths. Matt's biggest strengths are his athleticism and speed."
Most projections have DeBlouw being selected anywhere from round 3-5, which virtually guarantees him of becoming the first Lumberjacks alumnus to be drafted by an NHL team. After a ruptured spleen robbed him of half the 2010-11 season, his status among the best draft-eligible players in the world is already an achievement in itself.
As far as DeBlouw himself goes, he can confirm that at least one NHL club has reached out to him, telling him that "it's a good thing" he will be in Pittsburgh.
That's certainly cause for excitement, an emotion that's been building steadily in DeBlouw for months.
A closer look at Matt DeBlouw
Weight: 185 pounds
Birthdate: September 17, 1993
Hometown: Chesterfield, Mich.
NHL Draft eligibility: First-year eligible
Rankings (210 players will be chosen):
NHL Central Scouting - 51st among North American skaters
The Hockey News - 93rd among all players
HockeyProspect.com - 126th among all players
Future Considerations - 137th among all players
College Hockey Prospective - 19th among college-bound players
What they're saying:
HockeyProspect.com's NHL Draft Black Book - "Right now, DeBlouw is a terrific defensive center. He reads the play properly, is extremely smart and has a pro frame. He is a good enough skater to keep up with whoever he's defending. There is certainly pro potential in his game with his size and defensive ability. If he works on the release of his shot, he could improve greatly in the offensive zone. DeBlouw is a safe pick in the middle to late rounds with potential to advance to the professional ranks"
Scout Mark Edwards - "A big body up front. He's a good skater and he might have a little more offensive upside than some may think. He plays smart in the offensive zone but needs to work on his shot. I think it's a safe bet to project him as a role forward in the NHL."
NHL Central Scouting's Dave Gregory - "I just like his presence on the ice, how he plays the game and how he presents himself."
College Hockey Prospective - "It's important to remember that you're building a team, not just a collection of individual talents. DeBlouw is a guy who will give you a steady presence, solid play on both sides of the puck and leadership."
The Hockey News - "DeBlouw plays a smart, two-way game."