More goal scoring — it’s something every hockey team needs no matter how many superstars round out its roster. The Calgary Flames found themselves drafting 13th overall at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and landed a player who could potentially put up a boatload of goals when he’s ready to make his professional debut. Eighteen-year-old Matthew Coronato is coming off a record-breaking season with the USHL’s Chicago Steel and has some pundits declaring that he’s the best pure goal-scorer in this year’s draft class.
The product of Greenlawn, New York is the current Chicago Steel franchise leader in goals scored (66 in two seasons), holds the single-season record for goals (48 in 51 games) and was named the United States Hockey League forward of the year for the 2020-21 campaign. These are fantastic numbers that had Coronato finish No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters and a lock to be a top 20 overall pick.
The Flames Get Another High-Skilled, Undersized Forward
So, if Coronato is indeed the best sniper of the draft class, why didn’t he get selected higher? In today’s NHL, size still matters. Standing at 5-foot-10, the right shot winger is barely bigger than Johnny Gaudreau at 5-foot-9 and matches the height of Andrew Mangiapane. Neither of those guys would be considered big bruisers, so some Flames fans might be complaining that we didn’t need another undersized forward who might get pushed around come playoff time.
But here’s the thing — Coronato is no wilting flower out on the ice. On Chicago Steel TV broadcasts, the smallish winger was referred to as “The Bison,” a testament to his bull in a china shop style of play. In an interview with TSN, the first-round pick explained the nickname: “They say it’s because I go hard to the net and ram like a bison.” He’s listed at 183 pounds at only 18 years old, so he will get bigger and stronger as he continues his development playing NCAA hockey at Harvard University.
Coronato’s NHL Debut Could Be Years Away
Now, before anyone gets too excited about the prospect of Coronato donning a Flames jersey and potting goals this coming season, I’m here to give you a serious reality check. Yes, this is a great prospect, but one that definitely needs some seasoning before he’s ready to make an impact at the highest level. If he progresses quickly at Harvard, there’s a real chance ‘the Bison’ could muscle his way onto the Flames roster after a couple of seasons with the Crimson.
It’s no secret that the Flames’ prospect pool is pretty thin at the right wing position, so it’s possible that Coronato’s pure sniping ability could rank him higher than other players (like Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier) already in the team’s pipeline. The 5-foot-10 forward has stated that he doesn’t have a set plan for his college career and is open to going pro well before his four years of NCAA eligibility are up.
Could We See Another Adam Fox Situation Unfold?
A lot of Flames fans are still feeling the sting of current Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox refusing to sign with the Flames after being drafted 66th overall in the 2016 Draft. Like Fox before him, Coronato is from New York state and will also suit up for Harvard to play NCAA hockey. Will we see another product of the Empire State snub the city of Calgary to play on the east coast? Theoretically, the Flames’ newest first-rounder could choose to become a free agent in 2025 after his senior year, utilizing the so-called “NCAA loophole” that allows collegiate prospects to become UFAs.
Coronato seemed to ease these fears by donning a Flames hat and declaring his intention to wear the Flaming C during an interview with Flames TV.
“I want to play in the NHL. I want to play with the Flames… I’m not exactly sure how long that’ll be but I definitely want to do that… I definitely loved talking to the Flames before the draft. I thought the whole staff was really nice, enjoyed my interviews with them. I did have a sense that they liked me and I liked them. It was a good fit and I’m really happy right now.”Matthew Coronato, after being picked 13th overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Coronato is gifted with great hands, quick feet and is definitely one of the most dynamic forwards in the 2021 draft class. The guy takes a ton of shots from all over the ice and for a smaller player, he certainly doesn’t shy away from the hard areas. If he develops the way everyone is projecting, I think the Flames can pencil him in for 20-30 goals a season when he’s ready to make the jump to the big leagues. Let’s all welcome ‘The Bison’ to beef country.
Greg Tysowski is a former broadcast journalist who chose the exciting life of a stay-at-home dad for over a decade. He’s now a published author, parenting blogger and aspiring sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for The Hockey Writers. Greg is also a regular contributor to the weekly roundtable discussion “Flames Faceoff”, now streaming on YouTube and all podcast outlets.