2021-22 Team: Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Date of Birth: Jan. 24, 2004
Place of Birth: Kamloops, BC, CAN
Ht: 5-foot-8 Wt: 157 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 137th (amongst NA skaters)
- Recruit Scouting: 69th
- Peter Baracchini’s May Rankings: 106th
- Andrew Forbes’ March Rankings: 92nd
- Matthew Zator’s April Rankings: 68th
- Craig Button’s (TSN) May Rankings: 95th
- Draft Prospects Hockey: 58th
What Mathew Ward lacks in size, he makes up for in work ethic, creativity and most of all, hockey IQ. Suiting up for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League (WHL), he led all skaters with 57 points in 64 games and was one off the team lead in goals behind fellow 2022 draft-eligible forward Josh Filmon, who had 23. He also led the way in power-play goals with 10 and game-winners with seven. Then, to cap it all off, he added a shorthanded goal as well.
Related: THW’s FREE 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Basically, Ward did it all for the Broncos in 2021-22. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to lead the Broncos to the playoffs as they finished with a paltry 26-35-5-2 record and ended the season on a four-game losing streak. He did, however, get the call to join Team Canada at the U18s with teammates Filmon, Joshua Davies, Owen Pickering, Connor Hvidston and Reid Dyck where he finished with two points in four games.
Ward has always been underestimated as a threat to make it anywhere in the game of hockey. Though, like many players with his physical attributes, that hasn’t deterred him one bit. One of the hardest-working players on the ice at any given moment, you wouldn’t know he was 5-foot-8 by the way he plays. He isn’t afraid of the dirty areas and he doesn’t shy away from throwing checks himself, despite his size.
“I think when you just look at me, people see I’m small, but I think I play bigger than how I look,” Ward told Guy Flaming during their interview on The Pipeline Show. “I’m not scared to get in the corners, cause I think I’m a competitive guy, obviously with some skill. I’m a good playmaker, but also I’m not just a straight playmaker, I think I have some touch around the net and can score goals as well.”
Scouts have expressed concerns about his lack of success at even strength with only 21 out of his 57 points coming at 5-on-5, which could be a problem when he goes up against stronger defenders at the next level. His strengths also seem to be more pronounced when he’s given the space that the man advantage usually provides. Again, not a good trend considering power-play specialists are few and far between in the modern NHL. You have to be able to produce at even-strength to succeed, so Ward will have to work on that if he hopes to make it – even if it’s just as a bottom-six forward or call-up option.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Mathew Ward – NHL Draft Projection
Ranked as low as 95th by Craig Button and as high as 58th by Draft Prospects Hockey, Ward could find himself going in the latter part of the third round depending on what teams need in their system. His sluggish finish to the season (no goals in his final 10 games) might be a reason he dropped in Button’s rankings from 77th to 95th, so it remains to be seen where he will end up. Despite that, I still believe a team will take a flyer on him at some point, just for his work ethic and two-way potential.
“He’s [Ward] just so smart with the puck…He’s so calm and collected. Even when you talk to him, it seems like he doesn’t have a heartbeat, but that’s just the way he is on the ice. He’s so good with the puck and just sees everything. He knows when to get in and when to get out.” – Gary Aubin, Broncos Director of Player Personnel
“A small player with big talent. At 5-foot-8, Ward oozes competitiveness, and never plays small. Calm with the puck, Ward’s hockey IQ and vision allow him to find success beyond his stature. He is dynamic, and that alone will earn Ward a shot at the NHL someday.” – Ian Kennedy, The Hockey News
“There is some danger to him [Ward] when he has enough time and space to work with — mostly as a playmaker but also as a shooter to a degree — though that doesn’t happen much for him outside of the power play. He is chippy and pest-like, though he can go too far and have his temper get him in penalty trouble. Kills penalties at this level and will sacrifice his body to block shots, but his range is just so short that opponents have too easy of a time working the puck around him. Gets closed on and bottled up a lot, and is already having trouble freeing himself up.” – Derek Neumeier, FC Hockey (from ‘Mathew Ward Player Report, Swift Current Broncos vs. Calgary Hitmen – April 3, 2022’, FC Hockey, 4/18/22)
- Work ethic
- Decent shot
- Hockey IQ
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Skills are sometimes negated when space is limited
- Lack of even-strength production
- Needs to get stronger to better overcome his lack of size
Ward has all the tools to be an effective bottom-six forward in the NHL one day. Over the years, undersized players have surprised me time and time again, so I have learned that it’s best not to underestimate them. While he doesn’t have the dynamic goalscoring potential Alex DeBrincat has shown in the NHL, he could conceivably carve out a successful career like 5-foot-4 Nathan Gerbe, which saw him make stops in Buffalo, Carolina and Columbus en route to 63 goals and 151 points in 435 games. In fact, he is still playing today in the American Hockey League (AHL) and even saw nine games with the Blue Jackets where he scored a goal and three points. Oh yes, he is four inches shorter than him. Basically what I am saying is, Ward has a chance to make it in the NHL, especially with his high-octane work ethic and hockey IQ.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 7/10, Defence – 6/10
Ward was named to Team Canada’s roster for the 2022 IIHF U18 World Championship where he recorded two points on the strength of a goal and an assist.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.