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Matthew Poitras is Where the NHL is Going

The Guelph Storm center is a potential 2022 first-rounder and he's put in a lot of work to get there.
Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images.

Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images.

OK, so I've written a lot about how the pandemic has impacted NHL prospects, especially those from the OHL, but with each player I speak to, I learn different and fascinating things. Such is the case with 2022 draft prospect Matthew Poitras, a center with the Guelph Storm.

Like many of his fellow 2022 peers, Poitras found himself on a roller coaster last year. The lows were obvious: after a number of start dates came and went, the OHL campaign was eventually cancelled due to provincial regulations. On the other hand, the youngster was able to build up his body: Drafted 12th overall by the Storm in 2020 at 5-foot-9 and 149 pounds, Poitras is now listed as 5-foot-11 and 170.

"I was skating two times a week and I was pretty fortunate to skate throughout," he said. "From the training aspect I basically spent the whole year in the gym, focusing on that. When we expected to play, I would ramp things up and then we'd get the bad news so I'd go back to the basics and do power lifting. Then I'd ramp up again and do more cardio before we were postponed again and then eventually cancelled. Taking a positive out of it, I was able to get stronger."

While strength is important, Poitras is seen as a potential first-rounder this summer because of his other talents, which have led him to being one of Guelph's top scorers this season.

"He's the way the NHL is going," said one NHL team scout. "Not big, but very smart, on the puck, plays at both ends of the ice. He's a kid I really like."

Though centers in the big league still tend to be bigger, Poitras does have a great model in Tampa Bay Lightning star Brayden Point. The youngster admires Point's skating, hockey IQ and offensive zone play. When it comes to his own skating, Poitras is still fine-tuning his craft.

"I have pretty good edges in east-west skating and maneuvering in the corner, but I'd like to improve on my straight-line skating," he said. "And I don't have the greatest shot but I'm putting a lot of work into that after practice."

Speaking of practice, the Storm did a lot of it recently, as pandemic postponements and the holidays saw Guelph go basically a month without playing an actual game in late December and early January.

"We also had 10 guys in protocols so having those guys away from the rink seemed weird," Poitras said. "When we did practise we had 12 guys on the ice - it's good cardio because after you do a drill, you're back at the head of the line and going again right away. It was just a weird time."

When the Storm have their full roster going, they are an intriguing and dangerous group, however. On top of NHL prospects such as Sasha Pastujov (ANA) and Daniil Chayka (VGK), Guelph has a number of kids up for the 2022 draft: Besides Poitras, there's also Danny Zhilkin, Jake Karabela, Michael Buchinger and goaltender Jacob Oster.

"I don't know if many teams are in the same boat as us," Poitras said. "It's cool because we're all going through the same thing and you can ask guys what they said to teams in interviews, or what things they're doing and help each other out. You see the rankings obviously, but it's healthy; we're all competing to be the best and overall that helps our team and we succeed as a team on the ice."

Right now, Poitras will likely be the first off the board, followed closely behind by Zhilkin. But that team success will come first. The Storm are in a good position right now, just a few points behind the London Knights for first in their division. The last time Guelph won the OHL championship, they were led by a smaller center named Nick Suzuki, back in 2019. Poitras may not be the exact same player as Suzuki, but he does have a lot of potential and a great cast around him.

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