The Jolly Rancher has himself a bison.
With their first-round pick in the 2021 NHL entry draft on Friday evening, the Calgary Flames selected Harvard-bound, Chicago Steel (USHL) star Matthew Coronato, who was nicknamed “The Bison” by Steel public address announcers.
“They say it’s cause I go to the net hard and ram like a bison,” the five-foot-10, 183-pound right-winger told reporters after he was picked No. 13 overall.
“It was funny and entertaining.”
Coronato led the USHL with 48 goals in 51 games and was an integral part of the Steel’s Clark Cup title. Despite those gaudy stats, Coronato takes pride in other elements of his game. The New York native finished No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting's list of North American skaters.
“Something that I’m proud of in my game is the ability to play 200 feet,” he said.
“I think I’m competitive in all three zones and contribute in all three zones. I think my work ethic might be my biggest asset.”
That style of play should endear Coronato to Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, whose own nickname is The Jolly Rancher, and fans at the Saddledome.
“He’s a right shot, plays multiple positions,” general manager Brad Treliving said.
“This guy is unique in his ability to score. To us, you add a goal scorer with a motor, a hungry player, really intelligent. He’s not a perimeter guy or a guy who cheats to score. He’s a really well-rounded player, which is unique for someone with his finishing skill.”
Treliving’s research into Coronato revealed other details.
“There’s a lot of background homework,” he said.
“It kept coming back how popular of a teammate he was. It’s not just a popularity contest. He leads by the way he’s in the gym. He’s a rink rat. He’s there first, he stays late.”
Coronato felt comfortable with the organization in the pre-draft process.
“I definitely loved talking to the Flames before the draft,” Coronato said.
“Their whole staff was really nice. I enjoyed my interviews with them. I did have a sense that they liked me.”
Beyond his style of play, Coronato may also win Flames fans over by who he patterns his game after.
“My favourite guy to watch in the NHL right now is [Calgary native and Tampa Bay Lightning centre] Brayden Point,” he said.
“He’s a really talented player. He has a lot of skill and plays 200 feet and is really smart.”
Before he suits up for the Flames, Coronato will head to Cambridge, Mass., to play for the Harvard Crimson for at least next season.
It’s tough to blame Calgary fans for wincing at that notion, as ghosts of Adam Fox still haunt the franchise.
Fox was originally drafted by the Flames in 2016 and also Harvard-bound. He ultimately refused to sign with Calgary and was dealt to Carolina as part of the 2018 trade that brought Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin to the Flames. Fox was then traded to the New York Rangers, his preferred choice, and just won the Norris Trophy as a sophomore.
“I’m sure there’s some sort of narrative with the situation we had previously with a player that was drafted and chose not to come here,” Treliving said.
“At the end of the day, you take the best player and we did a lot of homework with Matt.”
Early in his media avail on Friday night, Coronato quelled any fears Flames fans may have about history repeating itself.
“I don’t have a set plan to stay for four years [at Harvard] at all,” he said.
“I want to play in the NHL and I want to play for the Flames.”