NHL Clock Ticking On Stefan Matteau, Likley Set To Run Out

As part of the NHL’s abbreviated schedule, the league shortened the normal 10-game limit for juniors players to half that. With two games already out of the way, that means 18-year-old Stefan Matteau has only three games left before the Devils must decide whether to keep him with the big club or send him back to juniors. Pete DeBoer is impressed by what Matteau’s shown thus far.

“He’s a competitor. You like his size, you like his compete, you like his skating,” DeBoer said at Wednesday’s optional skate. “You know the details of the game are something we gotta work on with him daily at this level, but there’s a lot of good things there.”

But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to rule on whether the kid will stay.

“Those are discussions Lou and I will have and Lou will make those decisions,” DeBoer said, deferring to general manager Lou Lamoriello.

For his part, Matteau isn’t looking ahead or even back. As he told me (about nine times, hilariously), he’s just taking it day by day.

“I have no reason to believe that I would stay or reason to believe that I would be going back, but I’m just taking it day by day, haven’t heard anything and obviously things are going well,” Matteau said.

Matteau was pretty pleased by his effort Tuesday night, which including getting into a couple scraps with the always-feisty Flyers.

“It’s pretty cool. Last week I was in the Quebec league and now I’m getting in a scrum with these guys,” Matteau said Wednesday. “I jumped in when there was a little scrum just like anyone else would do for me and I guess something that teammates do for each other.”

Corey Griffin

Matteau is a smart kid. You can see it out on the ice and you can tell when you talk to him that he’s been well prepared for the NHL life by his father, the infamous Stephane Matteau. That said, the first quote from DeBoer is what stuck out to me. It’s one thing to have an NHL-ready body or an NHL skill set. It’s another entirely to understand all the intricacies and little things that come from playing 12-15 minutes a night at any professional level. If the Devils still believe that Matteau’s mental side has to catch up to his physical, I don’t see any reason why they’d keep him up here in a shortened season when all mistakes, particularly ones of the mental variety, will be amplified. Matteau has showed through two games that he will play on this level and there’s a good chance he’ll play well, but even for a team desperate for a boost up front like the Devils are, sending him back to learn at the juniors level at least for another year makes too much sense.