Coronato’s hockey journey has logged many miles
The road to the 2021 NHL Draft is one of many miles for Matthew Coronato. Both literally and figuratively.
Coronato, a sure-fire first round pick in the 2021 draft, had had more than his fair share of travelling over the past few seasons in order to put himself near the forefront of this year’s class.
“Quite a bit,” Coronato told FCHockey. “When I was younger we were always out on the road for the weekends and that year even during the week for practice. Definitely some extra miles. Really grateful. My dad, and my mom, they both love the game and they’re happy for me. It’s been good.
“I think my family has made a ton of sacrifices. Both my parents, but my dad did a lot of the driving when I was younger…taking off work to drive me that far to tournaments and all that kind of stuff. I think those are huge sacrifices that he was able to make for me and I’m really grateful for that.”
The New York, NY product’s journey took him away from home early.
Coronato, barely a teenager, jumped states to join the New Jersey Colonials U14 program in 2016-17.
“I think the Colonials are a great program,” said Coronato, who finished second in team scoring with 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) in just 21 games.
“At the time, Noel Rubin was the coach of my team. He’s a great coach and a great guy. It was a really special opportunity for me to get to play with him. We had a lot of talent on that team, a lot of guys from all over.
“I wasn’t the only one making the commute. That was a really fun team. We lost in the finals in Nationals. We made a good run. Definitely glad I got the chance to play there and play for him.”
Coronato was a little closer to home as a leading scorer on the Long Island Gulls in 2017-18.
But a season later it was time, yet again, to log some miles.
Coronato left his home, and home state, to join Salisbury School in Connecticut at age 16.
“It was a tough decision,” Coronato said. “I loved my high school at home. It was tough to leave my friends, tough to leave my house. My parents were both really upset I was leaving but knew it was the right thing for me. It was another sacrifice by them to let me go.
“It was a great opportunity for me there to go to Salisbury and play for Coach Andrew Will. He’s a great coach. He taught me a ton on and off the ice. Just the relationships I built there at Salisbury with my teammates, with my classmates I think helped me a lot.
“I’m really grateful I got the chance to play at a great program like that.”
The move would set the stage for another jump.
After finishing fifth in team scoring with 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 30 games in the 2018-10 campaign, Coronato took lessons both on and off the ice to another state.
“I think the thing that sticks out is just maturity,” Coronato said. “I think when I left it was 11th Grade, my junior year. I came out of that year just so much more mature, able to do a lot more things on my own in terms of time management and things like that.
“I just think it helped so much overall as a person to get comfortable doing different things on my own.”
Coronato, who had been the No. 39 pick in the United States Hockey League’s Futures Draft in 2018, made the move to the powerhouse Chicago Steel for the 2019-20 season.
His 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists) in 45 games landed him on the USHL’s All-Rookie Second Team.
“My first year with the Steel there were so many great players, so many older guys, really skilled guys,” Coronato said. “We had a really fun team. I think I was able to take it all in and learn from a lot of guys and watch what they were doing and try to pickup things, and I think that definitely helped me coming back for my second year, helped me be more of a leader and just add parts to my game that guys before me had.
“I think being there for that first year definitely helped me a ton going into my second year.”
It’s a fair assessment.
Coronato paced the USHL in goals with 48, plus/minus at plus-37, was named to the First All-Star Team and was awarded the league’s Forward of the Year honor after amassing 85 points in 51 games.
“I think just doing whatever I can to help the team win is kind of my goal,” Coronato said. “I think scoring goals was definitely a part of that this year, but we had a lot of guys that could make a lot of plays. I got to play with a lot of really, really talented players.
“That’s just going to help anyone’s game.”
It certainly helped Chicago’s game.
The Steel captured the Clark Cup as USHL champions.
“We had a really special group this year…a lot of guys that were really skilled and really talented and everyone really bought into the way we wanted to play and doing things the right way to win hockey games,” Coronato said. “Just looking back, it’s really special to think about just how long the year was, the ups and downs, and what we were able to accomplish as a team.
“I’m so grateful that I got the chance to play for the Chicago Steel. It really is a great place. It’s probably the best place to play junior hockey. Ryan Hardy, Coach Brock (Sheahan) and the whole staff just do an unbelievable job at developing players, developing the team game and everybody individually.
“It’s crazy to think about the development we all went through this year, and for me my two years. Just really special with how they do things. It’s unique and it works and it helps develop players and it helps the team win. Just a great job they do there. I give a ton of credit to them.”
From Illinois, Coronato will journey to Massachusetts.
His next road takes Coronato to Harvard next season.
“I think I definitely want to add some size and strength. I think that’ll be a focus for me,” he said. “Just getting into Harvard, making sure I’m doing whatever I can to help the team win…anything that I can do to help contribute will be what I’m looking to do. But I think a big thing for me will be developing confidence at the next level.
“If I’m able to develop confidence and play my game I’ll be able to find success.”
There’s one final detour before he gets there, though.
The 2021 draft.
Coronato’s journey will take him there as one of the USHL’s top prospects available to be selected.
He slots in at No. 20 in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2021 draft, behind the National Team Development Program’s Luke Hughes (No. 3) and Chaz Lucius (No. 14), and Western Hockey League transplant and Sioux Falls Stampede standout Cole Sillinger (No. 13).
“The attention is starting to go there (to the draft),” Coronato said. “There’s not really much I can do at this point. I’ve played a full season. I think all of us did whatever we could to show our games and at this point I think it’s just waiting for the draft, because there’s not much we can really do at this point.
“I don’t really have any plans as of right now. Definitely not counting down the days. Right now for me, I’m trying to enjoy some time off and just continue to get in the gym and workout and improve on things I can for next year and prepare for next season. But it’s obviously a really exciting time. I’m really excited for it.
“It’ll be definitely a great day.”
And a milemarker on a continuing journey for Coronato.