Matt Luff: The 2016 Tanner Pearson?
Prospect development is a constantly evolving science in all levels of sport. Hamilton Bulldogs forward Matt Luff signed a three year entry-level NHL contract with the Los Angeles Kings, ensuring that he’s a prospect that embodies the fact that talent development is not a linear process.
Beyond the Entry Draft, NHL teams can acquire prospects through trades, courting mature players that sign out of college as free agents, maybe lure some over from Europe and the KHL. Rarely are 19 year old players signed before their final year of draft eligibility like Luff was following the Kings’ rookie training camp.
Coach John Gruden spoke to Stew Kernan on TSN1150’s Bulldogs This Week about Matt Luff’s new contract on Monday night.
“He’s a game-breaker. When the puck gets on his stick, in areas when he has time and space, he’s going to make you pay. For him, his next step is to get those opportunities. and to continue to understand the importance of playing a 200-foot game. I believe he’s going to find himself on the score sheet even more so.” (Source)
LA Kings’ scouting
The Los Angeles Kings are no strangers to the development potential of the Ontario Hockey League. The Kings have had 34 draft picks in the last five years, and 16 have been OHL players. 47% of the Kings draft picks were OHL property in the last five years. It’s fair to say they’ve had their eyes on Matt Luff since his rookie season in Belleville – his team captain was Jake Marchment, LA’s seventh round pick in 2014.
Signing Luff is not the first time LA has invested in a player who was overlooked twice in the entry draft. LA picked winger Tanner Pearson in the first round of the 2012 draft, after a banner season where the Barrie Colt surprised the junior hockey world by finishing third in OHL scoring, along with a bronze medal at the IIHF U20 World Juniors. This was his sophomore season in the OHL after developing two years in the GOJHL.
— Hamilton Bulldogs (@BulldogsOHL) September 26, 2016
If Matt Luff can continue his style of play over the next two months, Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s head scout, won’t have any choice but to extend him an invitation to participate in the 41st World Junior Championship. Luff will likely receive his first audition for the team on November 14th when Hamilton hosts game four of the CHL’s Canada Russia Series. Nothing is set in stone, but it’s hard to imagine that the host team won’t have at least one player on the roster. Safe money says it will be Matt Luff.
Feature Image: Brandon Taylor / Hamilton Bulldogs