Wed Jun 20 02:03pm EDT
Matthew DeBlouw's rough rookie season was a lesson in taking nothing for granted.
The Michigan State recruit has become a NHL draft prospect after overcoming an interruption during his first season in the USHL. DeBlouw, an energy player who scored impressively during the physical testing (tied for second on the Wingate bike test behind Alex Galchenyuk), missed half of his rookie year with the Muskegon Lumberjacks after his rupturing his spleen. That is not an easy injury to return from, but he came back and was a key cog for the 'Jacks this season.
"Before the injury, it was always 'go and give it always you got,' " says the 18-year-old centre, who is NHL Central Scouting's 51st-ranked North American skater. "After the injury, it reminded me to do the same thing. You can't change the way you play, you have to play harder. You have to look at it like it was your one freak accident for your career and it's out of the way. It was pretty painful. It was pretty much the worst pain."
DeBlouw, who's from Chesterfield, Mich., is considered a safe pick. The 6-foot-¼, 185-pounder also scored highly on the strength testing at the combine and looks like his frame still has some filling out to do, which could give him the strength to be an effective bottom-six forward at the NHL level. On the ice, he uses his speed well and is considered a very heady player, making his offensive contributions through good positioning. He had 11 goals and 33 points in 58 games this season. Overall, DeBlouw's a likely third- to fifth-round pick at this weekend's NHL draft in Pittsburgh.
"I can be a sparkplug to a team, not a guy who needs to score every game," says DeBlouw, who turns 19 in mid-September. "Wear down opposing teams' forwards and maybe get the odd goal."
"The team had high expectations. We didn't meet them. As an individual, I thought I did all right. I developed my game as a two-way player, so that helped me as a dynamic player."
2. What drew your toward Michigan State?
"It was really close to my hometown, so it seemed like a really good place to pursue my college career. You got to have an education because hockey can only go so far. I go in early on July 1. The whole team will be there, so we'll have a chance to bond. It's going to be fun."
3. What specific components of your game do you really need to develop?
"My physical strength really needs to be worked on. I think the college will really bulk me up, make me a little bit stronger."
4. If hockey didn't exist, what sport would you play?
"I was a good baseball and basketball player. That's lots of hard work. I like golf. That's a nice, easy sport, sit in the sun, hit the ball around.. I played baseball till my senior year of high school last year and I played basketball until my sophomore year. I was actually a guard and a forward in basketball because our school was so small. Only 170, nice Catholic school. The jumping in basketball helped me out with hockey, the explosiveness."
5. What's your favourite TV show?
"Probably say Tosh.0 [on Comedy Central and the Comedy Network in Canada]. It's really funny and I'm a funny guy."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet .