Family affair for Manitoba prospects
Second cousins Mateychuk and Pickering projected first rounders
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Dominion City’s Denton Mateychuk and St. Adolphe’s Owen Pickering have a tight family connection. By Thursday night, they will be bonded by history, too.
The second cousins (Mateychuk’s mom Keela and Pickering’s mom Dana are cousins) and former Eastman U15 AAA teammates are both expected to be chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft.
The dynamic defencemen will celebrate the occasion when they are joined in the stands at Montreal’s Bell Centre by 30 or more members of their extended families.
And no, they do not have a wager on who will hear his name called first. Mateychuk is rated 14th among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting. Pickering is ranked 15th.
“When we get those questions we just don’t know what to say,” said Pickering last week. “I know he’s a great player and great person who’s going to have success. What I’d say to somebody who asks is, I hope he goes somewhere that’s a fit for him, somewhere can have success because he’s very unique. He’s a very good player. Tough to play against.”
Mateychuk, a risk-taking 5-10, 194-pounder who plays for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, is one of the draft’s most unique talents.
Pickering, at 6-4 and 179 pounder from the Swift Current Broncos, is more of a conventional pro prospect.
Both players are expected to be joined in the first round by fellow Manitoban Conor Geekie, the sensational Winnipeg Ice centre from Strathclair.
The trio headlines a bumper crop of local players with as many as 12 Manitobans or more ready to join the 2012 draft class.
Prospects making the trip to Montreal have been advised to bring their skates because a number of teams have plans to hold camps for all their prospects following the weekend.
“It’s gonna be a crazy July,” said Pickering, who is represented by Newport Sports Management’s Greg Landry. “We have the return flight booked for the for the eighth or the ninth or whatever, but it’s definitely subject to change, depending on the team. I know a lot of teams run their development camp right away. So depending where I’m lucky enough to go, I might be headed straight there.”
The 18-year-old is slender and still growing.
“I think the deficiencies in my game right now are mostly strength-related,” he said. “( I wasn’t being) pushed around, but I just think I want to get better killing plays, pinning guys…
“I feel like I’m good skater now but my skating will get better when I add muscle and I add strength. I think that there’s definitely a high ceiling with me to use my scouts’ vocabulary, but I definitely get asked a lot of questions about how big you think you’re going to be.”
Pickering’s off-ice pursuits have also been a curiosity to NHL teams during pre-draft interviews. He was a dedicated violin player for more than a decade, giving that up when he moved to Swift Current as a 16-year-old, although he still picks it up to play on occasion.
“I was at the (NHL) Combine and I showed a team a video of me playing the violin — that’s how that interview ended up going — and they loved it,” he said.
“So I don’t think it’s that negative. I’ve told people before. I think it’s a decent release, something totally different than hockey. You kind of get caught up in the pressures and stuff like that and have something that you can fall back on like that, is important.”
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.