Draft season is here. The Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft is soon and the 2021 NHL Draft is right after, giving Blues fans something to look forward to, other than drab rumors and early playoff exits. It also means it’s time for the SB Nation Mock Draft! The Blues will pick 17th-overall this year — technically 16th overall thanks to the Arizona Coyotes being stripped of their First Round — and there is going to be a ton of talent to choose from for St. Louis. Cole Sillinger, son of NHL record holder Mike Sillinger, is likely to fall to the Blues. As are high-end Swedes like Isak Rosen and Oskar Olausson. But while these players do have a ton of talent to offer, none of them match the amazing season of one humble USHL-winger, Harvard-commit, and proud American. So for the second year in a row, St. Louis Game Time is dipping back into the Chicago Steel with our Mock Draft selection.
With the 17th Overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, St. Louis Game Time is proud to select Matthew Coronato, a winger from the Chicago Steel (USHL).
Matthew Coronato Goes 17th Overall
It’s hard to argue any player had a more-impressive season than Matthew Coronato. In the year leading up to his draft, Coronato broke multiple records. This includes the record for longest consecutive point-streak, going over-28 games with a point. In fact, there were only nine games the Steel played this season, including the playoffs, where Coronato didn’t score. That means he scored in 85 percent of his outings this season, as he tore up the USHL on track to 85 points in 51 games during the regular season, 48 of them being goals, and an additional 13 points in 8 playoff games, nine of them being goals.
Of course, scoring isn’t everything in young players. But when their ability to put the puck in the net reaches Coronato’s levels of extreme, it has to be noticed. Coronato’s goal-scoring ability itself is historic. 48 goals in 51 games means Coronato scored 0.94 goals-per-game. That is a level that hasn’t been accomplished since Jason Sessa scored 0.96 goals-per-game in 1994-95. That’s over 26 years ago and Sessa did it in a USHL that saw, on average, 0.6 more goals-per-game than this year’s league.
In a tougher league to score in, Coronato put up goals better than any USHL player of the last quarter-century. He scored in nearly every single game he played in this year and led his team to a USHL championship.
What Makes Him Great
A lot of prospects that reach this level of incredible-scoring do it on the back of amazing raw skills. And while Coronato certainly has solid stickhandling and a great shot, it’s his hockey IQ and great vision that makes him so dangerous.
Coronato has an ability to orchestrate play in the offensive zone that is truly eye-catching. When entering the zone, Coronato attacks opposition head-on and shows a great ability to use the wide-areas of the ice to slow down play and open the curtains. From there, he’s able to show of his talents. Coronato’s passing is next-level. He doesn’t care if opponents are filling up the lane, if Coronato thinks he can complete a pass, he will. It’s a confident and fearless style of passing that led to his 35 assists this year.
But if he doesn’t see a passing option, Coronato is quick to play the puck to a teammate and show off what really makes him so great: his ability to read the play 10-steps ahead of anyone else. Coronato is as strong off the puck as he is with it on his stick. His knowledge of the lanes of the ice and how to pull the defense out of position is tremendous and he used it constantly to exploit unaware opponents and score easy goals. His positioning is smart and very aware. Coronato places himself exactly where he needs to be to score and is quick to react if opportunities close up, making sure he’s always in as high-danger of an area as he can be.
Of course, Coronato can score in a menagerie of other ways. You don’t get to 48 goals in 51 games without an incredible level of versatility. His shot is terrific. While not up there with some of the best snipers in the class, Coronato shows off a great release and very solid form on his shot, making it extremely accurate and crisp off the stick. He also knows his strength and had the ability to overpower any defenseman in the league in the slot, meaning rebounds weren’t safe from Coronato’s persistent attacking.
To add to the mystical of Coronato, all three of the above clips are from the 1st and 2nd periods of... his most recent game. With his high-level of scoring this year, Coronato has nearly-100 different clips flaunting various skillsets he’s used to dominate play in the offensive end.
What’s more, none of Coronato’s scoring was reliant on the rush. Many young prospects, even first-round players, can have a bad habit of relying on the speed of the rush up the ice to help them beat the defenders and make scoring a bit easier. While Coronato can certainly do that as well, his true talent comes when play is set up in the offensive end. Coronato’s passing and ability to exploit lanes makes him so dangerous. It’s a very mature ability that will lend itself to more-and-more success as Coronato continues to climb the ranks.
Rounded Out Style
Of course, a player with Coronato’s level of awarenes and respect for the fine details of hockey isn’t going to be bad in any one area. While Coronato’s defensive play doesn’t jump off the page, he still shows off the great fearlessness he has in the offensive end. Coronato defends the rush well and knows when to step into opponents and how to separate them from the puck. His stick is always in an active position and makes him hard to beat one-on-one. He’s smart with his positioning in defensive setups and quick to turn up ice on the breakout, helping him control the pace of play and work in tandem with his team defensively.
So... Why So Low?
With the amazing talents Coronato shows off comes the same question St. Louis Game Time asked about Brendan Brisson last year... if he’s so great, why is he falling to the Blues?
Well, rumor has it Coronato may not fall this low. In fact, he has the potential to be a top-10 pick. Many different NHL teams have expressed overwhelming interest in the forward and for clear reason. He has a nose for the net and knows how to dominate play, while not being a true liability anywhere. But some public scouts aren’t convinced. Many think Coronato should be in the late-First, with his skating being the often-cited reason as to why.
While this is a perfectly fine reason, it’s one that falls a bit short in Coronato’s unique case. His style of play has shown a consistent ability to slow down play and open up lanes. While he’s not the fastest in transition, his edges are smooth enough to work play well in the offensive end and his first step is strong enough to jump into lanes before unsuspecting defenseman can react.
Still, there are those who think Coronato shouldn’t go above #20th overall. But the NHL disagrees, with many teams even above the Blues’ pick already claiming they’re going to take the dazzling winger.
But no matter the dramatics about where he’ll be drafted, one thing is abundantly clear. Coronato has an incredible ability to score, thanks to a calm, poised, and very mature style that will continue to thrive in the coming years. He’s a left-handed shot but has experience on both left and right-wing. With the Blues’ confusion around players like Mike Hoffman and Vladimir Tarasenko, Coronato’s amazing ability on either side of the ice would be an extremely coveted talent to have in the wings. He is going to Harvard next season but will likely only spend two or three years there before he’s ready to make the jump up to the NHL.
And if he’s there at 17th overall, the Blues need to make sure he’s going to be making that jump in a Blues jersey.
Thanks to the Chicago Steel for supplying the photo for this article and InStat Hockey for their help!
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