Denton Mateychuk, 5-11, 194 pounds
Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
1st round (#12 overall), 2022 NHL draft
Playstyle comparisons: Ryan Ellis, Cale Makar
NHL upside: Top-four defenseman
Professional ETA: 2024
Head amateur scout Ville Siren announced the second of two first round picks for the Columbus Blue Jackets, and often is the case with CBJ first rounders, the pick surprised many. After picking a defenseman sixth overall, the club again targeted a blueliner six selections later, nabbing Denton Mateychuk from the Western Hockey League.
Mateychuk had a stellar draft eligible season for Moose Jaw, nearly averaging a point per game with 13 goals and 64 points in 65 games played. He finished 5th in the entire league for scoring amongst defensemen, very impressive production for a player playing in his first full season in the league. He was also an assistant captain for the Warriors and played in all situations, showing maturity at a young age.
A terrific skater with excellent vision and hockey IQ, Mateychuk was likely lower on a lot of scouting lists because of his size and raw defensive game. But, while he doesn’t have the height typically sought after in top defensemen, he’s an athletic kid with a strong frame, who brings a tantalizing skillset to go along with his skating. He flows around the ice with ease and moves to find open space, and seems to know where his teammates are at all times. The biggest thing he will need to work on is his defensive zone play, but he brings the kind of natural talent that you just can’t teach. Watch: Denton Mateychuk 2022 highlight reel.
Mateychuk will almost certainly head back to Moose Jaw this fall (and likely the fall of 2023 as well), where he’ll be expected to produce big numbers, while rounding out the defensive aspects of his game. I know a lot of people were hopeful that the team would take a center in the first round, but once this pick was announced I had to laugh to myself because it’s exactly what I expected. No, I didn’t expect them to take Mateychuk specifically. But, it was the unexpected pick, and right away, I thought this sure looked like another coy selection by the Blue Jackets.
Once you get into the middle of the first round, you start finding players who are lacking in one or two areas. Some guys it might be upside. Some guys, it’s skating. Others, it might be attitude. A lot of guys just need time to develop, but the teams picking in the top-10 can’t wait for them. In the case of Mateychuk, he checks 3/4 boxes above … the only one missing? Time. And the Blue Jackets have the luxury of depth on defense, that will allow him to come along at his own pace. I think he’s good enough to be a top-3 defenseman in the NHL.
Jarmo Kekalainen told everyone before the draft that their duty is to pick the highest player on their list, regardless of position. While Frank Nazar is a center who may in fact have been a Blue Jacket in 2-3 years, who’s to say they will need a center by then? His upside is likely on the second or third forward line, and they have several of those guys both on the team and in the system. Mateychuk could be a top pairing defenseman and I’m guessing that the scouting staff for the Blue Jackets had him much higher than #12 on their list. This was a fantastic pick, that bolsters a position of strength moving forward.