Draft Prospect Profile: Matt MacKenzie


The 2010 NHL Entry Draft is quickly approaching, and, thus far, the Flames' first pick will be in the third round, 64th overall. I've decided to profile a few players whom the Flames could potentially select come June 25th-26th. Today's player is Hitmen defenceman Matt MacKenzie. Ranked 74th by Central Scouting in their final rankings, he moved up  11 spots from his mid-term ranking of 85th overall. 

Junior Team: Calgary Hitmen

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 198

Position: D

I've decided to veer off the map a bit here and take a look at Matt MacKenizie--not because I think the Flames should draft a defenceman, but because he's a local kid, which just about guarantees that he won't hear his name called by Darryl Sutter this weekend. He was interviewed by the Flames at the NHL Draft Combine, however, and had this to say about the process (hitmenhockey.com):

"The two Sutters from Calgary asked me pretty straight forward stuff about the year and what I needed to work on and what my strengths are. They didn't throw any weird questions so that was nice."

MacKenzie placed in the top ten in two of the physical tests at the combine, where he was also interviewed by the Leafs amongst other teams. He operated in a shut-down role for most of the season, and was relied upon to stifle the other team's top line with partner Zak Stebner, who came to the Hitmen in a deadline day deal with the Kamloops Blazers. He was even given the complex task of keeping Taylor Hall off the scoreboard during Memorial Cup play. MacKenzie still managed a career-high six goals  and forty points (including 5-21-26 PPP) in his third season with the Hitmen, and was +16 in the process. In the post-season, MacKenzie accumulated six goals and sixteen points in 23 games, and was +9 while averaging 20-25 minutes of ice time per game. Despite these impressive totals, MacKenzie knows he still has to work on some aspects of his game (Yahoo! Sports):

"Skating and mobility always need to improve, but I think they (NHL scouts) would like to see me take more offensive risks when an opportunity presents itself. It’s definitely come a long way, my offensive game, but there’s still room for improvement."

When asked about his strengths, MacKenzie acknowledges the versatility that allowed him to emerge as one of the Hitmen's go-to defenders this past season and in the playoffs:

"I’m an all-around defenceman who plays well in all situations, power play, penalty kill, against other teams’ top line."

Here's what scout Micheal Remmerde from the blog NHL Draft Notes had to say in his scouting report of MacKenzie:

Does so many things well, but isn't flashy. Combine that with the fact that his sophomore season was a huge disappointment for scouts, and it's easy to overlook this guy. If you're worried about the slow development, consider his role on the Hitmen for the last two seasons - they've had a deep, veteran-laden defensive corps the previous two seasons. It wasn't until this season that he even really had much opportunity to get top-four or special teams minutes.

Raw offensive skills that we saw in his first two seasons finally started to come together this year. Moves the puck well and can run the power play. Has a hard shot from the point, but accuracy isn't great - tends to use it to generate rebounds rather than try to hit the corners to beat the goaltender.

Plus skater with decent footspeed, but you wish he were just a bit faster given the offensive style he plays. That said, there's nothing about his stride that is a red flag - backward stride, pivots, overall quickness is all at least a bit above average.

Defensive zone play improved greatly this season. Thinks the game well. Makes the right plays in all three zones. Has a knack for keeping opponents to the outside and filling the seams. Also picked up the physical play, but he's probably not going to be much of a banger in the NHL. However, he has good strength and should be able to hold his own in battles for the puck at the next level.

MacKenzie knows that part of his good play was the result of his team's success, but sees his increased role with the Hitmen as a confidence booster heading into the Draft; however, he still plans on spending the weekend with his family in Osoyoos, BC rather than making the trip to Los Angeles, even though he could still potentially be selected in the late first to the mid-second round:

"...I'll just expect a call, hopefully. Wherever I go, I'll be happy."

Overall, the Flames certainly don't need another defensive prospect in their already crowded stable of blueliners, but if MacKenzie is still available to Calgary when they pick 73rd overall, he likely wouldn't be the worst player remaining to take a chance on. 

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