Monday, May 25, 2009

NHL Draft Guide: Hackett interview

By Rick Morris

It's almost that time of year again! In mere weeks, we will be releasing HOCKEY DRAFTOLOGY 2009 in conjunction with the NHL Entry Draft as a partnership with our good friends, and fellow members of the 21st Century Media Alliance, Sportsology. This one is actually a bit special in the sense that it was the first one that we worked together to produce a year ago and we've now completed the entire cycle the first time around!

HOCKEY DRAFTOLOGY 2009 will contain material about the draft and other content as a bonus to all puckheads out there. As we did last year, we will be serializing it here -- and so will Sportsology.

Our first piece to reproduce here is an interview that Sportsology's Russ Cohen conducted with blue-chip goaltending prospect Matt Hackett. Enjoy reading about this young man with a bright future.

Hackett Has Worked Hard To Get Drafted
By Russ Cohen

Plymouth Whalers goaltender Matt Hackett is a top-notch prospect in the Ontario Hockey League who sported an eye-popping .913 save percentage this season and a .930 in the playoffs. A lot of scouts and pundits have paid close attention to the #1 ranked Domestic Goaltender, according to Central Scouting, and now his life will soon change forever once he finally hears his name called in Montreal at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft this coming June 26th and 27th.

“It’s nice to be ranked,” he said in an understated way. “Our team had a solid year and I have them to thank for a lot of my accomplishments this year. Last year was my draft year and I was passed over, so I had a chip on my shoulder this year. It has always been my dream to get drafted and play in the NHL. It will definitely be an amazing moment for me.”

Hackett, 19, loves playing in front of the loyal fans in Plymouth, Michigan.“Our fans are pretty crazy and it’s a good atmosphere there,” said Hackett, who expects to come back next season.

A fair amount of top prospects hail from the OHL and two of them require some special attention.

London’s John Tavares is a devastating scorer who is fully capable of dishing off for a goal every time he touches the puck. He is especially dangerous in the crease, and that doesn’t go unnoticed by this netminder.

“It’s definitely in the back of your mind and you say ‘uh oh,’ you just have to be more careful. He’s a sneaky player,” he added.

Matt Duchene’s speed is his best attribute and Hackett is very aware of that when he’s facing the Brampton Battalion.

“Yeah definitely. My goalie coach, Stan Matwijiw, shows me what their tendencies are and stuff. It’s fun and he’s definitely a very talented player, so it’s always fun when he’s coming down the ice on you,” said Hackett.

During the summer, his uncle Jeff, a former NHLer and current Colorado Avalanche goaltending coach, works with his nephew to help him get to the next level.

“Since I was 13 he brought me out with all of the NHLers that are around town here and just on ice he would be there once or twice a week. He’s been a great influence on me and he has basically made me the goalie that I am today,” he said with pride. “When I was younger I went to his games in Chicago a lot, and of course I went to his games in Toronto.”

Jeff was drafted in the second round, 34th overall in 1987. It’s possible Matt could be drafted earlier than that, and if he is, will he nudge his uncle a bit?

“Yeah I might. I’m not too worried about where I go but I might give him a little nudge,” he said honestly.

At 6-3, 175 he’s a big butterfly goaltender who takes his off-ice conditioning very seriously.

“Last year I put on 11 pounds and this year I hope to do the same. My trainer and I along with Nazem Kadri (the 11th-ranked Domestic Skater according to Central Scouting) trained almost everyday, maybe five, six days a week. We are in the gym doing either legs and arms and lots of core exercises. Then on Saturday, we go to the track, and then Sunday we have the day off.”

And when questioned who was the faster athlete? He laughed and then he said, “I don’t know? It goes back and forth; he’s a good athlete. But I’d say I’m a tad faster than he is.”

The lanky goalie has a difficult food challenge that most of us would love to have.

“You try and eat healthy and trying to put on just muscle, I don’t want to put on any fat, but yeah, I’m eating a lot right now,” he said casually and then he talked about the dinner he had the other night. “A few potatoes, a big steak, vegetables, lots of bread and for dessert I think I had four tarts. Then I came home and had a protein shake that’s like 12,000 calories. It’s hard to force it down.”

Jeremy Smith helped him a lot this year until he was traded to the Niagra IceDogs, and that’s when Hackett had his chance to shine.“My backup is a good friend of mine, Scott Wedgewood, and he was now getting a chance too. I was ecstatic when I heard he was traded. Smitty was a good friend to me. I love playing and I hate sitting on the bench,” said the competitor.

Like most young backstops, he had a little trouble with his rebound control last season, but this year was another story.

“Last year I was having trouble with it and the game seemed faster -- this year it’s slowed down a lot and controlling rebounds has gotten a lot easier,” Hackett stated. “Getting the pucks to the corners, and just catching pucks with my glove and clearing them with my chest. My 'D' did a great job all year. They did a great job of clearing the rebounds if I had any, and they kept the shots to the outside.”

When his defense performs well, does he take them out to dinner like a quarterback does with his offensive lineman in football? “We don’t get paid that much yet. I’ll get them something but we only get paid $50 bucks a week.”

Hackett is a special player who has a bright future ahead of him.

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