October 29, 2021

The Pipeline: A Conversation with Matthew Savoie

Get to know the future superstars of the NHL long before they reach that stage. The Pipeline Show is the premier podcast covering Major Junior, the NCAA, Jr. A and international tournaments like the U20 and U18 WJC, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and more.

The Pipeline Show host Guy Flaming catches up with Winnipeg ICE forward Matthew Savoie, No. 6 in FCHockey’s Preliminary ranking for the 2022 NHL Draft.

Guy Flaming: Pleasure to get a chance to speak with you. Your team playing extremely well…9-0 out of the gate this year. You’re among the top scorers in the league. I have to think that everything is going pretty much according to script for you guys.

Matthew Savoie: Oh, yeah, I think the start of the season has been really well for us. Every game we’re just trying to keep building and getting better. There’s obviously areas that we can improve on, but for the most part, I think I think we’ve had a pretty successful start to the season.

GF: You’re outscoring everybody and it’s not even close. The ICE, as we’re speaking right now 58 goals, and nobody else even has 35 yet. Is that the biggest difference in your opinion, is just the way you guys are filling the net?

MS: I think lines 1-4 can score. We’ve got a lot we got a lot of depth on our team. And the way we defend well I think creates a lot of offense for us. It all starts in the d-zone, sticking our system, and we work the puck from there and our transition game has been really well.

GF: Alright, Matt. What we like to do in this part of the show is let my audience get to know somebody draft eligible like you are, so there’ll be a lot of casual NHL fans — might not be WHL fans, might not watch the ICE, and might not really be all that familiar with you — so for the benefit of those people. Let’s get some background. We just mentioned and established you’re from Edmonton. Have you always been a forward, Matt?

MS: Yeah. I’ve always been a centerman. Played wing a couple times in the last few years, but mainly a centerman. And yeah, always been a forward.

GF: When you were a kid, I imagine you started playing really young as most Canadians do. But with an older brother in Carter Savoie, who has been on the show here in the past…Edmonton Oilers prospect. He’s ripping it up at Denver right now again for the second year in a row. But as a little brother, and I have an older brother too, and when I was a kid, I just wanted to do whatever my older brother was doing. Take me back when you’re three or four-years-old, you’re watching him play. Is that part of how you got involved in hockey?

MS: Oh, absolutely. My dad was also a big part of it. He put us both in the hockey when we were really young and taught us how to skate. So I think growing up mean Carter always supported each other, going to games and cheering each other on. So yeah, it’s, it’s really, really nice to see him having success there in Denver, and I’m always supporting him.

GF: And I know at one point you were supposed to be going to Denver as well. We know all the situation about exceptional status with Hockey Canada and all that not going your way. But was it a an easy or a difficult decision to move away from the college commitment with the Pioneers and playing in the WHL?

MS: Yeah, I was definitely torn between the two options. I think they’re both great options. It really depends what type of player you are and what you’re looking for. I thought for me personally, the Western (Hockey) League was a better route and I thought Winnipeg was a great fit for me.

GF: Not getting the exceptional status…I have to think I think it’d be natural to be pretty disappointed with that. The way things have worked out, is that just a motivator for you? Do you kind of use that and put a chip on your shoulder a bit?

MS: Yeah, for sure. I think I didn’t look too deep into it and kind of shrugged it off. But I think it definitely motivated me to show people what I can do and I think I think I’ve done a good job of that and I’m really looking forward to playing my first full Western (Hockey) League season this year.

GF: Now will take me back to those first 22 games a couple of years ago before COVID came in and what that big step was like for you know. No goals that year. Seven points. But people have to remember you were really young that season as well. How’d you feel it went?

MS: Yeah, I thought that was more of a development season for me, flopping back between the Rink U18 team in the Western League. I thought practicing with the Western League full-time was really good. And I thought I learned a lot that year that that’s going to help me so this year.

GF: Interesting situation last year for you and a few others who went to the USHL because nobody knew for sure if the WHL was even going to play last year. It seems like on paper it worked out pretty well for you. You had a nice comfortable landing spot in Dubuque with the Fighting Saints and strong team and you had more than a point-per-game there. I know you had previously had a relationship with Dubuque if you were going to continue going the college route, so a familiarity there. What was last year like for you, Matt?

MS: Yeah, last year being COVID is definitely a weird year with a lot of things up in the air, but I thought it was a really good chance for me to go work on my game in the US in a little bit of a different environment. I was always familiar with Dubuque, you know, being committed Denver a couple years ago. That was always the plan to go play in the USHL for the Fighting Saints. So it was good to get down there and meet the guys, and they welcome me really well and I thought I learned a lot down there.

GF: What do you take away from last year, and how much of this year success can you attribute to last year and getting to play 34 games with the the Fighting Saints as opposed to 20-24? If you’d still been around to play in the Sub Hub in Regina?

MS: I always think playing more games for development is always a positive, you know. You can dip your toes in at the start and then get into a rhythm. I think I learned a lot down there. I thought my coaching staff was really good. You know, whether it was skill work after practice or just just whatever they were teaching me. I thought my teammates also really helped me out really well. We have a bit of an older team so they kind of took me under their wing and showed me the ropes.

GF: Matt, the NHL Draft is coming up this summer. Obviously, it’s a big season for you. Everybody has you as a first rounder, and most people have you as a top-10 pick? Do you spend much time thinking about the draft, or it because you know there’s no question you’re going to get drafted — it’s just a matter of when — does that take some of that pressure off of you?

MS: For me, personally, I think I just try and block out most of the exterior noise, try and focus on my own game and our team’s success. I think that’s the biggest part for me. And it’s nice having a guy like Conor Geekie on the team as well, because we’re both kind of going through the same thing. It’s nice to have a guy to talk to you about that and he talked to me. So yeah, I think I just try and focus on my game and how we’re playing.

GF: Not a rivalry, but is there friendly competition between the two of you this year? Who’s gonna get drafted first, or, you know, just putting up points at different rates? You guys could both shoot the lights out competing with each other, and it’s only going to benefit the team. But is there some healthy competition?

MS: I think in practice, we definitely push each other. I wouldn’t say more competition, I’d say were more support each other. We want to see each other succeed. And I think we wish we wish all the best for each other.

GF: Matt, we touched on Carter a little bit before. He’s off to a great start at Denver. I guess maybe, maybe not competition when you’re a kid either. But brothers can push each other to be better as well, that’s fair to say?

MS: Yeah, absolutely. We were always, you know, messing around on the outdoor rink or was playing road hockey or stuff like that. I think we both learned a lot from each other growing up. We’re two different people and I’ve learned a lot from him, you know, him being two years older, just seeing what he’s going through and how he does it and, and stuff like that, you know, challenging each other in different areas of the game, and whether it’s shooting pucks or whatever. I think he he’s been a really big, big supporter.

GF: Different people. but how different are you as players, or are you Are there more similarities between the two of you as players?

MS: I’m not sure. I think I think we’re pretty pretty similar. But but we have some differences of players, you know? He likes to shoot the puck and so do I and I think we can both make plays.

GF: The WHL website lists you at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds. How up-to-date is that?

MS: At camp this year I measured in at 5-10, 176, I believe.

GF: Being an Edmonton-area kid where the Oilers your team growing up, or were you cheering for somebody else?

MS: Always an Oilers fan. I grew up loving the Oilers and they were always my favorite team.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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