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World Junior gold medalist grabs on to hockey opportunities

Jack Matier's junior career has seen him win gold medals internationally while also getting drafted into the NHL and getting his first taste of professional hockey during training camp
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Ottawa 67's defenceman Jack Matier warming up prior to a game against the Soo Greyhounds at the GFL Memorial Gardens on Oct. 21, 2022.

The past two years have been quite a whirlwind for Sault Ste. Marie’s Jack Matier.

As the Ontario Hockey League returned from a cancelled season due to COVID-19 in September 2021, Matier returned to the league as a draft pick of the NHL’s Nashville Predators.

He also had a gold medal as a member of Team Canada at the 2021 U18 world championship in Texas in the spring of 2021.

This season, the 19-year-old has added a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship and is in the midst of a career season offensively with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, a team looking to make a long playoff run they hope will culminate with an OHL title and a Memorial Cup championship.

Over the past two seasons in Ottawa, the blueliner has seen his game develop with age.

“My skating ability has really helped me create plays and create plays for myself,” Matier said. “That comes with overall strength and that’s becoming an older player in the league and being more confident.”

A fourth round pick of the Predators, Matier said he’s focused on the small details in his game as the 67’s season continues and he looks to making the jump to pro hockey after his time in Ottawa comes to an end.

“It’s really dialing in on the small details and stuff during practice, working on small stuff like moving your feet at the blueline or doing simple drills like that,” Matier said. “Just keying in on the small details is something that will help me be successful when I turn pro."

NHL training camps are always an eye-opening experience for young players after they’re drafted.

For Matier, taking full advantage of it was crucial to learn about playing at the next level.

“It’s always good to be around really good NHL players,” Matier said. “I was really seeing what guys were doing away from the rink, rehabbing and stretching and stuff like that. Their preparation for their ice times and their workouts, it’s at another level from junior.”

While in camp with Nashville, Matier said he also learned how players focus on their roles and make the most of it.

“It’s really something where guys find their role and they master it,” Matier said. “A guy like Ryan McDonough is off the charts with his skating ability and moving the puck up. Roman Josi is obviously a guy that puts up a ton of points, but what gets overlooked is his ability to share the puck with his teammates.”

Part of the Canadian team that won gold at the World Juniors earlier this month, Matier spoke of the unforgettable experience of Team Canada’s overtime win in the final over Czechia.

Dylan Guenther scored the overtime winner for Canada after Czechia battled back from a two-goal deficit with a pair of quick goals in the third period.

The game was also a form of redemption for the Canadian team who dropped their tournament opener to Czechia on the opening day of the event.

“Going into the game, we were really confident that we were the better team, but you always have to respect your opponents and we knew Czechia was a really good team,” Matier said. “We were really confident, but when they came back with those two quick goals, we kind of took a step back and took a breath. In overtime, there’s so much skill on the team and so many great players from across Canada that we knew one of them was going to step up and be the hero.”

Matier added that winning gold was special in another way as a group of players including the Sault product were part of a gold medal-winning Canadian team at the Under-18 tournament in the spring of 2021.

“It was special winning with those guys,” Matier said.

The gold medal was made even more special for Matier as he had plenty of family with him in Halifax to watch him play.

“As a kid growing up, you always want to play in the World Juniors and play for Team Canada and having my parents there and seeing how much they sacrificed over the years for me to become successful, my brother is one of my best friends, to have him there too was special and my grandparents too,” Matier said. “It was just a great experience to share with them.”

Matier is one of two Sault products suiting up with Ottawa this season. Cooper Foster cracked the 67’s roster this season after spending last year with the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Soo Thunderbirds. Foster was a second round pick of the 67’s in the 2021 OHL draft.

“It’s awesome having another Sault guy on the team,” Matier said. “When we’re feeling a little bit homesick, we can just chat about the Sault.”

Matier also spoke highly of Foster’s game on the ice as well.

“He’s really turned himself into a really good hockey player this year,” Matier said. “The year of tier two last year for him really helped his development. He was able to play big minutes and develop a lot. Coming back this year, I knew he was going to be a big part of our team and he’s really stepped up for us.”

In his third full season with the 67’s, Matier is playing for former Soo Greyhounds coach Dave Cameron in Ottawa. The Sault product had high praise for Cameron.

“He’s a really great coach and just a great human being,” Matier said. “He’s definitely came in here and taken over from Andre Tourigny and did a really great job with a young team last year. You could see us building toward what was coming this year at the end of last year (with) our culture and our DNA on the ice.”

Matier said playing for coaches like Cameron and Tourigny in Ottawa is a plus for players.

“If you talk to people around the hockey world, you’ll probably hear that they’re pretty similar people,” Matier said of his OHL coaches. “They’re very demanding coaches, but that’s why you see so many players develop under them and turn into NHL players and have successful careers after that. They’re very demanding, but they know what it takes to get to the next level. They’re really proud of their players and what they accomplish after they leave.”

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Brad Coccimiglio

About the Author: Brad Coccimiglio

A graduate of Loyalist College’s Sports Journalism program, Brad Coccimiglio’s work has appeared in The Hockey News as well as online at FoxSports.com in addition to regular freelance work with SooToday before joining the team full time.
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