For many teenagers, an ideal Friday night may sound like a bit of partying and spending time with friends. For others, a few hours of hitting the books before hitting a couple of hormone-crazed hockey players sounds more enjoyable. Cast the added pressure of deciding which major contract to sign in hopes of pursuing a hockey career while keeping your marks to a level only hard work can get you to and you have the life of a junior hockey player. Times can be tough for many young kids around the world in hopes of trying to make the professional ranks of their favorite sport, but freshly signed Oakville Blades forward Matt Luff is hoping to come out on top in hopes of living the National Hockey League dream some day.
As a member of the Oakville Rangers Midget AAA team last season, Luff proved himself a goal scoring machine. A 7th round pick of the OHL’s Belleville Bulls, Matt finished with 56 goals, 42 assists in 66 games, breaking the team goal scoring record set the previous year by current Blade Ryan Garvey of 51. His season didn’t end there, as Luff would help the Rangers win the silver medal at the OMHA’s, a Memorial Cup style tournament for AAA midget players that saw Luff shine throughout. Additionally, Luff looked like one of the better call-ups for the OJHL’s Oakville Blades, posting six points in 10 games while shuffling around in different roles.
“Matt is one of the purest goal scorers coming out of minor hockey. He was the top goal scorer with the Midget Oakville Rangers system and we expect that trend to continue” said coach Mike Tarantino. “Matt’s hands around the net make him a threat every time he gets the puck. Once Matt rounds out his complete game, he will be a threat in the OJHL for years to come.”
Luff, who has also won gold at the 2013 Canadian Junior National Ball Hockey Championships, has garnered lots of NCAA interest during the past two seasons. A member of the stacked Oakville Rangers team that won the 2013 OHL Cup, Luff was one of the more effective forwards for Oakville during the tournament despite only putting up three points. As pointed out earlier, Luff has succeeded in a variety of different situations during his career, whether it be controlling the power-play, acting as a quick two way skater or simply being counted on to put pucks in the net, Luff has proved himself as a reliable young forward at the age of 17.
The OMHA Midget Championships allowed Luff to really shine. He showed a knack for the net throughout the tournament by becoming one of the top offensive forwards from the tournament. While online stats are iffy when it comes to tracking midget games, Luff’s shooting percentage was incredible throughout the multi-day finals, scoring on nearly chance he got during the strong effort by the Rangers. It was clear however, that Luff needs to work on his defensive zone positioning and work harder to get pucks out, as well gaining a bit of muscle to work in unison with his 6’0″ height span. He did appear to have gotten bigger and stronger last year compared to his draft year, and you can expect that he has time to grow into his frame in the next couple of years.
The Blades will have a lot of options for Luff in his first full season with the club. After years of proving themselves to be one of the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s top clubs, Oakville missed out on the 2014 playoffs following a one game elimination contest against the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, a game that could be considered one of the top junior games of the year in any league. It’s still unclear as to what role Luff will have with the team, but surely the club will be happy if he can continue to succeed in any role similar to how he did in limited action last year. Will he put up points in a top six role with Canisius College commit Matt McLeod, or maybe develop his two way game further with former Rangers teammate and future Penn State forward Sean Kohler? Regardless what happens, expect Coach Tarantino and his cast of helpers to get the most out of Luff in the next coming years and help Luff reach his full potential.
Steven is a junior hockey reporter for the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and also focuses on international hockey for his website, TheHockeyHouse.net. You can follow Steven on twitter,@StevenEllisNHL.
Photo credit: Alex D’Addese Photography