If available, Matteau eager for chance at WJC roster
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Not too many players had the kind of season in 2012-13 that Stefan Matteau had. It had lots of highs and lots of lows, and the ride certainly was an interesting one.
"I think it was just a roller coaster all around for my emotions, and my family and myself," Matteau told NHL.com. "I was all over the place."
Matteau's season actually started in June at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, when the New Jersey Devils chose him with the 29th pick.
After a summer of training -- which included a trip to Lake Placid to take part in the national junior evaluation camp -- Matteau opted to sign on with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
In 35 QMJHL games, Matteau had 18 goals, 28 points and a plus-19 rating. That kept him on the radar for the United States team that was going to Sochi, Russia, for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. Matteau was invited to the final tryout camp in December, but was one of the final players cut from the team that went on to win the gold medal.
"I was so close last year," he said. "I got to play a few [exhibition] games."
While he missed the trip to Russia, the salve on that wound was a trip to New Jersey in January for the Devils' abbreviated training camp.
"[Devils general manager] Mr. [Lou] Lamoriello told me to pack for a week," Matteau said. "I brought a suit just in case and ended up staying for one game, two games, three games. We were going day by day. My family was stressed out, too."
Matteau ended up staying for two months, totaling one goal and two assists in 17 games. He played his last game March 16, and was returned to Blainville not long before the team's run through the QMJHL playoffs.
"They said we want you to live that playoff experience," he said. "I had never done that before, a seven-game series. They wanted me to get that going for my career."
Unfortunately, the playoff run didn't go the way anyone wanted. Blainville advanced to the third round and Matteau had nine points in 11 games, but he left the team after Game 2 of the league semifinals against Baie-Comeau in what was reported as a dispute with the coach over being benched for taking a penalty.
"It wasn't a good fit overall," Matteau said. "I don't want to go into detail. Just want to move past it. I've learned from it and I'm focusing on [2013-14]."
In focus for him is another trip to New Jersey, this time for a full training camp.
"It's going to be my first real training camp," he said. "Last year was short and sweet. This year coming up, it's going to be three or four weeks with a lot of guys, a real training camp. It's going to be a lot different, a lot more stressful."
Matteau said he's hoping to be able to put into play some of the things he learned last season in his NHL time.
"How they hold themselves around the rink, on and off the ice," he said. "They're so professional and everything is so simple and everyone does their job. It's a different game when you get to that level. You've really got to take care of what you've got to do, and do what you've got to do. To stick around, you have to do the little details.
"I'm really going for a shot. I played there a lot last year. It's always my goal to stay there and be a regular player and eventually be a big part of the team. I want to be there as soon as possible."
If he does get there, however, he'll likely lose out on a shot playing in the WJC. He's back in Lake Placid this week trying to show coach Don Lucia and his staff that he deserves to be on the team that looks to defend the gold medal at the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden.
Where Matteau starts this season remains to be seen. If he doesn't stick in the NHL, he can play in the American Hockey League with the Albany Devils, or return to the QMJHL -- the Rimouski Oceanic hold his rights.
But wherever he ends up, the 2014 WJC will be a big part of his thought process.
"It's a second chance to prove myself and show what kind of player I can be," he said. "They're going to give me a role and I'm going to fill that role and do everything I can to make the team."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor