Projecting a path for Matt Coronato to the NHL

Matt Coronato and Team USA bowed out of the World Juniors earlier than anyone would have expected. The tournament just wrapped up with Team Canada winning gold, but for players who were eliminated sooner, they’re already turning to the start of the new season. It’s a bit of a quirk in the schedule to have an August tournament, but that’s the reality.

Coronato’s next steps

For Coronato, he’s preparing to return to Harvard. In early April, the Flames confirmed what was previously speculated regarding Matt Coronato’s wishes. He was to return to Harvard for his sophomore season in 2022–23.

Published on July 18, 2022, NHL.com Independent Correspondent Aaron Vickers sat down with Coronato where he placed the most emphasis on his return to Harvard on the basis of continuing to get better. During his interview, Coronato was quoted as saying, “I think it’s just important for me to keep getting better. The staff there does a great job with developing guys and moving them on, so I think another year there, get bigger and stronger, continue to develop with a lot of my teammates that I like a lot. I just thought it was the best move for me.”

In terms of on-ice statistics, Coronato was a goal scorer through and through. He led the USHL with 48 goals in his draft year as a member of the Chicago Steel in 2020–21. He debuted in the NCAA scoring 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points at Harvard in 2021–22.

Most recently, Team USA’s World Junior run came to an abrupt quarterfinal end on August 17. Ousted with a final score of 4–2 at the hands of the Czech Republic, the exit shocked the hockey world. However, in the smaller sample of games, Coronato had a standout performance with four goals and three assists.

Coronato has put in the work to improve

Coronato has put the work into increasing the overall size of his frame as well. In his draft-eligible season with the Chicago Steel, Coronato clocked in at 5’10” and 183lbs. Heading into his freshman year at Harvard, he weighed in at 185lbs. While the difference may seem trivial by the numbers, the difference in his build has been noticed by the Flames’ brass.

Flames development coach Ray Edwards hinted at Coronato’s build progression in mid-July stating, “the first thing I noticed with Matthew after not seeing him for a few months is the work he’s put in on his upper body. One of the action items we had for him was to get a bit stronger in the shoulders, arms, wrists, core, those types of things. I can see he’s already put that work in.”

Coronato also remarked, “I’ve been working out at home with my trainer. He’s been great. Putting on upper-body weight was one of the biggest things going into the offseason for me. I think it’s going to be big for being hard on pucks, and just shooting, just everything, overall strength. I think my speed is a big area I can improve on and I’m looking to improve on. Still putting on a little weight and getting stronger and staying harder on pucks.”

Coronato’s development comparable

Creator of Hockey Prospecting and NHL Draft consultant Byron Bader laid out Cole Caufield’s development path as being the most ideally comparable pathway for Matthew Coronato’s entrance into the Calgary Flames organization.

Cole Caufield’s freshman year at the University of Wisconsin was in the 2019–20 season where he put up 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points in 36 games. It’s of note that Matthew Coronato’s point-per-game rate was slightly higher than Cole’s in his freshman year this past season. Coronato had a 1.05 P/GP pace in comparison to Caufield’s 1.00.

Caufield’s sophomore year in 2020–21 included 31 games with the Wisconsin Badgers. He ultimately put up 30 goals and 22 assists for 52 points. Finally, he ended his year off signing an entry-level contract (ELC) with the Montreal Canadiens, while also winning the Hobey Baker Award.

Caufield then joined the Canadiens for the final 10 games of their regular season. That was followed by his hyped up 20-game playoff run. Who would have thought Caufield would have gotten Stanley Cup Final experience right after exiting the NCAA? Lastly, just for reference, Cole Caufield signed his ELC with the Montreal Canadiens on March 27, 2021.

From a skill perspective, the similarities between Coronato and Caufield are quite striking. For instance, they’re both speedy game-breaking goal scorers who possess quick releases. This makes their quality rate of shots hard for any goaltender to contain, making them offensive dynamos. One last note in comparing the two, Coronato possesses the bigger frame, which bodes well for him.

Predicting when Coronato will make his pro debut

Turning the calendar over to 2023, we can look at scheduled dates to predict when he might sign with the Flames. It’s important to note that this year, the 2022 ECAC playoffs begin on March 4, 2023 and last up to March 19.

Nation-wide regionals then begin during the window of March 23–26. Following that, this year’s NCAA Frozen Four will be held on April 6 and 8 in Tampa, Florida. Based on how far the Crimson are expected to go, it seems like a safe bet that Coronato could elect to sign his entry-level deal after the window closes for regionals on March 26. Here there would be two scenarios:

  • Based on this theoretical timeline prediction and assuming the organizational plan is he gets into NHL games right away, Coronato could make his NHL debut with the Flames as soon as March 28, 2023 at home against the Los Angeles Kings.
  • If instead the organizational plan is for him to get time in the AHL with the Wranglers right away, Coronato could make his pro debut with the Wranglers as soon as March 29, 2023 at home against the Henderson Silver Knights.

Both of the above predictions can change depending on the NCAA postseason, but it’s not out of the question to expect Coronato to make his pro debut before the 2022–23 season is up. Nevertheless, the hype for Coronato is very real. Here’s to hoping he has an amazing sophomore year with the Crimson before ultimately turning pro in the spring.

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