NHL’s top prospect Mateychuk shines in hockey and baseball


Denton Mateychuk and Conor Geekie have a lot in common.

Both were born and raised in Manitoba, both were recently listed as Level “A” prospects for the 2022 NHL Draft by Central Scouting and both love baseball almost as much as they love chasing after. the washers.

Mateychuk, a 17-year-old Dominion City defenseman, was the second youngest player for Canada’s under-18 world champions in the spring, but still found time in the offseason to pitch and play on the home ground for the Altona Bisons of the Manitoba Junior Baseball League.

It is not a chore for him to do both.

“It’s good because you know you stay active, but I think it also makes me forget the game in the summer when I don’t always think of hockey, hockey, hockey,” says Mateychuk. in his second full season with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors.

“It gives me a chance to mentally rest and prepare for the season, but some baseball skills can translate very well as well.”

Warriors head coach Mark O’Leary wants more hockey players to be multisport athletes like Mateychuk.

He says the 5-11, 186 pounds has exceptional physical tools, but his vision and reaction speed are off the charts. He calls him a “one-man breakout” capable of recording 26 minutes of playing time per game and sometimes more.

“He does such a good job doing his homework – looking over (his shoulder) and finding out what he’s got – so I feel like by the time he gets the puck, he knows what he’s got.” he’s going to do it, ”says O’Leary. “And then he uses his deception to mess up the guys.”

Watching athletes who can excel in baseball and hockey is nothing new to Baseball Manitoba General Manager Jason Miller.

Geekie, a center for the Winnipeg Ice, and his brothers Morgan and Noah from Strathclair, and Mateychuk and his older brother Maddux are well known in provincial baseball circles.

“Every year with the 14 to 16 age group, we get these players who are outstanding in both and are on the radar of both provincial teams’ program,” Miller said. “Some of them choose hockey early on, others continue to play both at the end of 16 years.

“Usually at 17 they chose or if they’re at the level of Mr. Geekie and Mr. Mateychuk, they were kind of forced to choose.”

It is probably not a coincidence. The only other WHL-rated “A” prospect for the 22-draft, Winnipeg Ice center Matt Savoie of St. Albert, Alta., Is also trained in baseball.

While Mateychuk, who played with Geekie on the provincial U16 and U13 teams, considers batsman and baseball tracking to be transferable skills from baseball to hockey, Miller believes the differences between the games could be even greater. .

“I think it’s the inconsistent nature that makes it so unique,” ​​Miller said. “I think it’s baseball that gives kids the need to improve in the five different skills – running, catching, hitting, throwing and lining up.

“So unlike lacrosse or football where there are similarities in the game (with hockey), baseball offers a complete contrast in the sense that they have to get really, really good at five different things and they have to be good enough. brain to think about the nuances of the game. So in that sense, I think it gives these kids a complete break from what hockey is, which is high impact, high energy.

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Twitter: @ sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

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