Who Do We Have With Matt Luff v2.0?
Matt Luff emerged as a star player for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the final three months of their inaugural Ontario Hockey League season. The increased confidence he gained from securing a role on the top line, combined with the impressive chemistry he developed with his linemates contributed to his drastic increase in performance. Luff elevated his game beyond what a lot of early onlookers could have predicted about his abilities, and has established that he is more than worthy of being selected by an NHL team in his second year of eligibility.
I wrote about Matt Luff’s chances of being drafted last year here. We’re looking at a player with an impressive development curve.
- NHL Central Scouting:
- 2015 Final – #90
- 2016 Midterm – Not Ranked
- 2016 Final – #183
- DraftAnalyst.com: #321
Luff suffered an early season concussion taking a high hit in the second home game of the season. It took him a month to really find his legs once he returned to the ice, but once he found them he never looked back. It seemed early on that the coaching staff were more than comfortable to play him in a defensive role. Luff, Petti and Strome had a strong even strength road trip in the middle of December that provided them with the first chance to prove themselves on the top line following the Harper/Marchment/Colella trades. Luff proved with his increase in both even strength and power play minutes resulted in his producing offense above a point per game rate. Provided he and his linemates of Petti and Strome maintain their pace next season, Luff may be able to push for an 80 point season down the road.
Matt Luff is becoming an #IceDogs killer. 2 goals last game and now a roof job today. Kid can play the game.
— Matt and DJ (@IceDogsThisWeek) March 13, 2016
The line of Luff-Strome-Petti is special to watch. Mark my words they will be one of the highest scoring lines next season
— Peter Kneulman (@PeterKneulman) March 13, 2016
@BulldogsOHL Matt Luff has 11G-6A-17PTS in 8GP this February. 7 game point streak.
— DraftBuzz Hockey (@draftbuzzhockey) February 19, 2016
Luff was ranked 162nd in the DraftBuzz 2015 NHL Draft final ranking. Has improved PPG rate 77%, goal scoring 200%. https://t.co/FuTZC4YZQX
— DraftBuzz Hockey (@draftbuzzhockey) February 16, 2016
Free agent’s Niki Petti & Matt Luff make it look easy. Smooth give-and-go play for Petti’s 19th goal. https://t.co/0nV5v2jMCm
— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) February 16, 2016
@RRestraint I’d say they are low.
— Grant McCagg (@grantmccagg) June 14, 2016
Grant McCagg is the senior editor of McKeen’s Magazine, which is arguably the second best draft guide next to Bob McKenzie’s final list which should come out next week. He indicated above, he doesn’t find it likely that Luff will be drafted. I think is important not only to look at Luff’s production against the current list of draft eligible players, but to stack him up against the drafted OHL players of his 2015 class. You’ll find that Luff is very comparable to most of the forwards drafted out of the OHL last year, especially when it comes to even strength production. Props to Hayden for accumulating the statistical data and to Brandon Dennis for creating the visualization tool here.
What’s being said?
- Brock Otten, OHL Prospects: “It’s how he finished the year that should have scouts taking notice. In his final 20 games, Luff had 17 goals and 14 assists and was generally an unstoppable force for Hamilton. Last year many expected Luff to be a late round selection, but he finished the year very poorly and failed to have his name called. This year, the 6’2 winger made noticeable improvements to his skating, making him a much more dangerous option off the rush. His shot is definitely an asset and as the year went on, he really gained confidence in using it from anywhere on the ice. Luff also increased his intensity level away from the puck and is developing into a power winger who can score goals in a bunch of different ways.” (Source)
- Sean Lafortune, Scout, Owen Sound Attack: “Tough and honest, he’s at his best within 4/5 feet of the net, finding ways to finish plays and positioning himself in prime areas around the net. Not overly skilled but offers makes up for it with his ability to win battles…Projects more as a depth forward at this point (2015), but he’s done enough to prove himself an NHL pick at this point, he’s worth the gamble.” (Source)
- Chris Edwards, NHL Central Scouting (2015): “Like Crouse, [Luff] uses his size, fights through checks and has a real good wrist shot with quick release. He’s starting to get some special teams play and I’m looking forward to watch how he develops.” (Source)
Luff has a long stride that allows him glide past the defender when he’s rushing the puck. There are times he looks a bit like a water beetle on the ice when he is on the cycle, as he’ll use one leg to protect the puck and the other to propel himself forward. It’s a very deceptive method of working his way from the corner or behind the net to the high traffic areas in front of the net, but he’s become very adept at squeezing his way past defenders. He is very difficult to control because of his lower body strength and strong balance for a larger player.
Luff’s shot is difficult for goalies to handle. He’ll release it from anywhere on the ice, especially once he’s below the hash-marks. Coaches worked with him over the last two years to worry less about picking corners, to ensure he’s making the most of every shot by focusing more on getting the puck on net. The result was a drastic spike in shots attempted and pucks working their way behind the opposition’s keeper. Shot frequency began to increase in December, resulting in far more goals.
Matt Luff is able to read the play well. He uses his linemates very well, the trio of Strome, Petti and Luff developed chemistry during the last four months of the 2015/16 season, which allowed them to remain as a line. Luff has decent vision, but that could be really a result of trusting where his linemates would be on the ice most situations.
One of his knocks is that he is lanky, but he’s built pretty solid for an18 year old. He could benefit from adding some meat to his frame, but it’s not holding him back by any means. Luff isn’t shy of playing the body, he’ll follow through on the forecheck provided it doesn’t take him out of the play, and he wins battles for possession along the walls. Luff has a similar skating style former first round pick Magnus Paajarvi Svensson, but Luff is a more physical forward.
Where will he go?
It’s hard to truly comprehend how Matt Luff didn’t get drafted in June of 2015. His offense slipped in the second half of the 2014/15 season, and he was ultimately considered by scouts as inconsistent. He overcame that criticism this season. Once he returned from his concussion in early October, Luff became a vital member of the line up, and exploded offensively once he was given the chance to play his role as the premier player on the first line.
When you compare his even-strength primary point numbers to the cohort of draft OHL forwards from 2015 that can be described as physical two-way forwards, you see that he out-preformed 7/9. Honestly, of the cohort, most teams would probably rank Luff third in draft-ability behind Crouse and Zacha (arguably Lorentz has stronger numbers).
I believe that there is a team among the 30 who will be drafting on June 25th who will like what they saw enough to risk a 5th – 7th round pick on a player who’s proven to be an even-strength killer.
The 2016 NHL Draft Series
- Who Do We Have With Ben Gleason
- Who Do We Have With Cole Candella
- Who Do We Have With Ondrej Kachyna
- Who Do We Have With Brandon Saigeon
- Who Do We Have With Luke Kutkevicius
- Who Do We Have With Trent Fox
- Who Do We Have With Connor Hicks
Feature Image: John Rennison / The Hamilton Spectator