Featuring Peterborough's Matt Puempel
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a player who is as enthusiastic and passionate about the game of hockey than Peterborough Petes left winger Matt Puempel. The 18-year old has continued his dominant play this season after winning the CHL Rookie of the Year as a 17-year old last year.
After being drafted sixth overall in the 2009 OHL Priority Draft, Puempel scored 33 goals and 64 points en route to being named the top freshman in all of junior hockey. He has followed up his performance last season by elevating his game to another level, despite playing for a Petes’ roster that is thin on skill and experience. Puempel has scored at a 1.26 points-per-game pace, with 63 points in 50 games thus far. The next highest scorer – Austin Watson – has only46 points, which proves the team’s offensive struggles this season.
Puempel prides himself on having excellent poise with the puck, finishing ability, and a smooth skating stride. He is a powerful player who uses his 6-foot-1 frame to drive past opponents and get to the net. Puempel is not a very physical forward, but is known to throw around his body similar to NHL power forwards Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash.
“Definitely Jarome Iginla is my favorite player,” Puempel said. “But the player I think I play like is Rick Nash.”
He doesn’t have a comparable frame to Nash, who stands all of 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, but he will grow at least one more inch by the time he makes it to the NHL. Puempel also flies under the radar like Nash and quietly gets the job done without much hype. Among the group of prospects expected to go in the first round in the upcoming draft, Puempel doesn’t command much attention.
One of the primary reasons for Puempel’s scoring success is his quick release and inclination to get the shot off when the opposition goalie isn’t prepared. Scouts point to his minus-33 plus/minus rating and question whether his game as a first line forward will be able to translate to the professional game, however Puempel cannot be singled out when the majority of players on Peterborough have a negative rating.
Puempel earned a silver medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge for Team Ontario, where his posted five points in six games. He is also expected to compete for a roster spot for Team Canada at the 2012 World Juniors in Calgary and Edmonton this December.
Puempel will likely play one more season in the OHL before turning pro, so he can work on his game and refine his two-way play. Once he rounds out his game and continues to play substantial amounts of ice time in Peterborough, Puempel is expected to develop into a star player and could be an important player for a rebuilding team to construct a franchise around.
Not only will Puempel be relied on to lead an NHL team offensively, he will also be labelled as a leader on and off the ice with his dedication to the game. He has a very refreshing outlook for a player of his age.
“Unbelievably high character,” said Puempel’s minor hockey coach Greg Trojand. “He’s very dedicated to the game.”
Prospects who turn pro sometimes crumble under the intense pressure, but Puempel’s maturity and poise will go a long way towards his progression towards becoming an NHL player. Not only does he have the skill set to become a star, he also possesses the intangible assets that teams crave from a young prospect.
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