Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Plymouth's Hackett top NHL goalie prospect

The National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Bureau has named Plymouth Whalers goaltender Matt Hackett as the top prospect among North American goaltenders for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, held June 26-27 in Montreal.

Hackett moved up the Central Scouting list from not being listed in the preliminary rankings to eighth in the mid-term rankings to No. 1 in Central Scouting final list released Tuesday.

"A huge improvement over last year," Central Scouting's Al Jensen, the group's goalie specialist, told "Great potential, got very good size (6-2, 170), very poised. His angles, his net positioning are very good. He's a very smart goaltender with excellent net coverage."

Hackett, who posted a 3.04 goals-against average, .913 save percentage, two shutouts and a 34-13-3-0 record in 55 games for the Whalers this season, started 2008-09 as a backup to Jeremy Smith. But when Plymouth struggled at the start of the season, Hackett won the lead goaltender’s position in November and was effective all year. Hackett continued his fine work through the playoffs, posting a 3.01 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in 11 playoff appearances.

Hackett was named ADT Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Week twice this season – for the weeks ending January 10 and March 31. In addition, Hackett started 29 consecutive regular season games from January 9-March 15 and continued with 11 straight playoff starts from March 21-April 11.

“You look at Matt, and he’s a pure goaltender,” said Whalers goaltending coach Stan Matwijiw. “He’s the type of goaltender that NHL teams are looking for. He’s big in stature and takes up a lot of net. He’s very fundamentally sound. The work that I’ve done with him is tweaking a thing here and there. He’s already had good instruction, with his uncle (former NHL goaltender Jeff Hackett) already a goaltending coach in the NHL (for Colorado).”

“He’s taken the ball and run it with,” said Plymouth general manager and head coach Mike Vellucci earlier this year. “He’s improved his reflexes and his rebound control is very good. One of the things I like about Matt is the fact that the players play really well for him. He’s a likeable guy, and our guys play great and want to play in front of him. They help him, they block shots and they clear the pucks away from in front of the net.”

While London’s John Tavares has been rated first or second in the Central Scouting’s rating all season long, Hackett has come a long way during his time with the Whalers. Hackett, acquired by the Whalers from Windsor on November 13, 2007, was Windsor’s third-string goaltender at the time he came to Plymouth.

Plymouth defenseman Beau Schmitz was also listed by Central Scouting at 195th overall.

VELLUCCI FINISHES THIRD IN MATT LEYDEN TROPHY VOTING: Although Vellucci didn’t start the season behind the Whalers bench, he still finished third in the voting for the Matt Leyden Trophy as the Ontario Hockey League’s Coach of the Year. Vellucci, who took over for Greg Stefan on November 10, finished third in the voting, behind Windsor’s Bob Boughner and Belleville’s George Burnett.

Boughner, who won the Matt Leyden Trophy for the second consecutive year, finished in the voting with 58 points, Burnett with 38 and Vellucci with 34.

Vellucci won the Matt Leyden Award in 2007.

Photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

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