Columnist image
Mark Masters

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

|Archive

On Chicago Steel broadcasts this season, forward Matthew Coronato was referred to as "The Bison."

"Our play-by-play announcer Mark Citron and hockey operations guy Johnny Lehmann came up with it," Coronato explained. "They say it’s because I go hard to the net and ram like a bison."

Citron even imitated bison noises after Coronato scored. 

"It's funny," Coronato said. "My family likes it. It just makes it entertaining. Mark does a great job, so I loved it."

Coronato gave Citron plenty of opportunities to fine-tune his bison call. No draft-eligible player scored more goals than Coronato, who potted 48 in 51 USHL games. But the 18-year-old from New York, whose actual nickname among teammates is Noto, isn't sure he's the best pure scorer in the draft class. 

"There are a ton of great players," he said. "My game is more than just scoring. I do a lot of other things that help my team win as well ... but, definitely, I feel confident in my ability to score goals." 

All the goals helped Coronato ram his way up draft boards. He finished No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting's list of North American skaters. TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button has Coronato at No. 11 on his latest list.

Coronato spoke to TSN about his style of play, growing up an Islanders fan, and why he admires Lightning centre Brayden Point. The following is an edited transcript of the interview. 

How would you describe your style of play? 

"The biggest part of my game is my compete level. When I’m playing my best, I’m moving my feet and hunting for pucks. I’ve become more of a shot-first guy but finding the balance between playmaking and the right time to shoot is important to me. So, I’m a competitive guy who likes to shoot the puck." 

Where are you at with the balance between shooting and playmaking? 

"A big focus for me this year was to try and improve on that. It’s still something I’m trying to work on and not take bad shots and use my teammates when it’s the right time. I’ve definitely made progress, but still looking to improve on it."

So, you feel like you're still wasting some shots?

"No, I don’t think I’m wasting shots. I don't think it's ever really a bad time to get a puck to the net, but there are times when the better play is maybe to set a teammate up."

You were named the USHL forward of the year, what are you most proud of when it comes to your season?

"I’m most proud of the end result for our team, which was winning the Clark Cup. It was a great run with a lot of skilled and talented players on our team, so it was a lot of fun to be a part of it." 

Winning a championship at any level is special, how would you describe the moment of winning? 

"No better feeling. We worked all year for it. Like you said, it’s special at any level. Winning is everything." 

Where did your game grow the most this season? 

"I took strides with my skating. It’s still an area I need to improve a lot in. My attention defensively also improved a little bit but is still an area I need to work on."

What did you do better defensively? 

"Little details like box outs, stick positioning, all stuff you can work on in video and practice. I paid a little extra attention and worked a little harder at it this year than in years past, which helped me."

What stands out about the program the Steel have built in Chicago? 

"That program is crazy, really. I'm so grateful that I got the two years there with [former general manager] Ryan Hardy and [coach] Brock Sheahan and the whole staff really. They do an unbelievable job of player development with extra skills work, extra ice and video work. The environment that they created there is like no other."

Can you give us a specific example of how the development staff helped you? 

"The new GM, Mike Garman, was one of the assistant coaches in my two years and he was a goalie coach as well and he did a ton of video with the players on shot selection and goalie movements. I think that helped me a ton with beating goalies. I don’t know if I would’ve gotten that anywhere else." 

So, you can read goalies better now? 

"He explained the different percentages from certain areas and looking at the goalie’s feet to see how they move when you’re in different spots in the offensive zone. And, after a certain amount of time, it became kind of instinctual for me, knowing what goalies are going to do and when the right time to shoot is and when to change the angle on my shot. So, that definitely helped me score some more goals." 

You seemed comfortable wherever you played be it on left wing, centre or right wing. Do you have a favourite position?

"No, I don’t. I feel really comfortable at all three forward positions. I played all three this past year. I don't know where I’ll play next year, but I feel comfortable either way." 

How much of an advantage is that versatility? 

"It’s definitely good to be versatile and offer different things. Being able to play on the penalty kill, power play, five-on-five and being able to play in any position definitely helps." 

You led the USHL with 19 power-play goals. What's the key to producing on the man advantage?

"The key is shooting. I think that a lot of guys have a tendency to keep the puck on the outside and maybe move it around too much. With the Steel, we did a good job of creating lanes and creating shots with our movement, so I think getting the puck on net is how you score goals." 

Who is your NHL role model? 

"Brayden Point. I love watching him play. He's a really good skater and really smart, really smart without the puck, so a great guy to learn from." 

I'm sure you appreciate that he gets it done at 5-foot-10, which is also your height. Among the top 20 ranked North American skaters this year, you are the only guy who's listed under 6-foot. Why has size not been an issue for you?

"Point is a little undersized but being competitive and outworking opponents will overcome that. And, also, being smart. You got to be in the right spots. If you're competitive and smart, I think it’s something you can overcome." 

Why do you wear No. 27?

"My dad played college lacrosse at Holy Cross, and he wore 27 there. My favourite number is actually 21, but Sean Farrell had it with the Steel." 

Why do you like 21? 

"I wore it my whole life. I'm a big New York Jets fan, actually, and my favourite player growing up was LaDainian Tomlinson and he wore 21. I think that may be how it started, honestly."  

What excites you the most about playing at Harvard next season? 

"A lot of things. Coach [Ted] Donato does a great job developing his players and moving them to the next level. I'm really excited to work with him and the rest of that staff with James Marcou and [Jim] Tortorella. It will be a great opportunity for me to develop. Definitely excited for the college experience and to get to go to a school like that and do that work and try and excel in that area as well."

What will you study? 

"I’m not entirely sure. I think economics might be something that interests me. I like math, so that could be an area I like."

What was your favourite moment being an Islanders fan growing up? 

"The John Tavares overtime goal to clinch a series [against Florida in 2016]. I was there. They weren't very good when I was little, so one of the first years when they made the playoffs, I was there, and Tavares scored the OT winner, and it was so exciting."

Will you miss Nassau Coliseum? 

"Definitely. I went to a lot of games at Nassau when I was little with my dad and my brother, so will definitely miss it. The first playoff game I ever went to was there."

How would you describe Islanders fans? 

"Islanders fans love it. They’re crazy. They get into it. They love hockey. Hockey’s getting bigger and bigger on Long Island. People are starting to get more into it – especially with the Islanders finding some success. Islanders fans are great."