Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect Spotlight: Chatting About Matt Finn
Scott Walker took a sip of his coffee, looked me in the eye and laughed, “he’s been playing real good for a guy with mono.”
Just imagine what happens when Matt Finn is healthy again for the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm.
The Toronto Maple Leafs selected Finn with the 35th choice in the 2012 NHL draft. The 6-foot, 207 pound defenceman grew up in Toronto – idolizing Mats Sundin and Doug Gilmour, although Bryan McCabe was his favorite player.
Finn is an offensive-minded defenseman and is captain of the Storm. He had 18 points in his first 21 games.
“I think he’s a very smart hockey player,” said Walker, in his 3rd season as Guelph head coach.
Finn last played November 9th for the Storm. He had been struggling with what the team though was the flu. It turned out to be mononucleosis and Finn is expected back soon.
“It’s on the back side of it so he had it for a while and we didn’t know,” said Walker. “We will get him healed up. He been playing real good for a guy with mono so it’s only positives I think.”
He could return in the next week.
“It just makes what he’s done all the more amazing,” said Dave Poulin, the Leafs Vice-President of hockey operations to Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun.
The Maple Leafs have plenty of young defencemen, and Finn could be part of an exciting crop of defencemen wearing blue and white in the future. Stuart Percy and Morgan Rielly are 1st round picks who – like Finn – could one day be playing for the Maple Leafs.
“I think he’s a very smart hockey player,” said his coach. “A lot of people say he has lots of points from the power play. It’s because he shoots for tips or he shoots for rebounds. Some guys just shoot to score. He’s a smart kid. He doesn’t put himself in trouble.”
The 18 year-old Finn plays big minutes on the Storm blueline. If he is having a poor game or makes mistakes, Walker will tell you don’t necessarily blame the player.
“The only time he struggles is when he is dead tired,” said Walker, who was a defenceman in his OHL days and like Finn provided plenty of offence from the blueline. “When you play him the amount we do it really is a reflection of how good he is that we have to get him our there that much. He loves the game. He loves to be out there.” Walker added, “They got a good hockey player and a good person. He certainly will give himself a chance (to play in the NHL). He will work his butt off and give himself every opportunity to play. I think he is a great prospect.”
“Matt Finn is 17 (turned 18 on February 24) going on 27,” said Guelph general manager Mike Kelly to Alan Avital of Islanders Point Blank.
“He is well above the maturity level of any kid that I have ever come across. He came here at 16 years old, and has been our #1 defenseman from day one.”
Still with the Guelph Storm, goalie Garret Sparks is a Leafs 7th round draft pick from the 2011 NHL draft who has been among the busiest goalies in the OHL this season.
He has started all but one game for the Storm this season. He has 3 shutouts on the season and has shown an ability to not let a bad game bother him.
Case in point: He gave up 3 goals on 8 shots in a loss earlier this month and was pulled from the game in the middle of the first period.
His next start he gave up 1 goal while making 27 saves. It was a 1-0 loss.
The start after that, Sparks took matters into his own hands with a 39 save performance and a shutout win.
When he is on his game the 19 year-old is as good as any goalie in the league.
“He could be a real good steal for the Leafs,” said Walker. “He has been a great goalie for us. I wish he would be more consistent. He’s put in some games where they can’t pour water past him. I think he is a heck of a goalie and he is going to be a pleasant surprise for the Maple Leafs.”