December 18, 2021

The Pipeline: A conversation with Mathew Ward

Mathew Ward measures just 5-foot-8 and 157 pounds.

But don’t let that stature fool you.

The product of Kamloops, BC plays a big game and does not shy away from the physical part of the game.

“I think when you just look at me, people see I’m small, but I think I play bigger than how I look,” Ward told Guy Flaming during their interview on The Pipeline Show. “I’m not scared to get in the corners, cause I think I’m a competitive guy, obviously with some skill. I’m a good playmaker, but also I’m not just a straight playmaker, I think I have some touch around the net and can score goals as well.”

Ward was selected in the first round (No. 14) of the WHL Bantam Draft in 2019 after leading the Delta Hockey Academy with 64 points (19 goals, 45 assists) in only 30 games. 

Last year in the COVID shortened season, Ward produced at almost a point-per-game pace, registering 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 23 games. His performance was enough to take the WHL Most Assists by Rookie crown. 

Ward has followed up his successful Rookie WHL campaign, notching 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) in 29 games this season so far. He is a pass-first type of player, but given the opportunity can do some damage with his shot. 

Ward is currently ranked No. 54 in FCHockey’s Winter ranking for the 2022 NHL Draft.

Guy Flaming: How have you felt about the season, just for yourself on a personal basis?

Mathew Ward: I don’t really try to think about too much personally. I know it’s a team game, but like I say to a lot of people, I can’t really do what I do individually without my teammates. So, I think overall we’ve had a good year, but we still have a lot better to do.

Guy Flaming: Seven points in, I think, your last six games, so the offense is certainly continuing on with yourself. And you’ve always been an offensive guy, so that’s not a surprise at all. What’s been the biggest difference you’ve seen from yourself from the shortened season we saw back in the spring and I know that was your first taste of the WHL. It’s not all that long ago. Can you feel or notice development in yourself?

Mathew Ward: Yeah I think so. I think a lot of it is just confidence to make certain plays as well. Once you’ve been in the league for a full year, well I guess covid year, you get confidence. And when you’ve had coaches, like I’ve had in recent years, they instill a lot of confidence in me and just basically told me to go out and do what I do. And so for that I’m thankful and I think I’ve been doing as much as I can so far.

Guy Flaming: Is the draft something you spent a lot of time thinking about, Mathew?

Mathew Ward: No, I try and just worry about my team stuff. I mean when it’s everyone’s draft year, it’s tough not to think about it. The best thing you can do is worry about your team game and your individual accomplishments will come along the way. 

Guy Flaming: I know when it comes to rankings and things a lot of players will tell me they try not to think about that stuff at all, but there are other guys who tell me they want to know where people have them ranked because they use that as motivation. What about for you?

Mathew Ward: Yeah, obviously I do like to use that as motivation. Even in the WHL draft people had me, you know wherever they had me, and then you end up going higher. I don’t know, it’s just a personal thing that some people use. I use that a little bit, but at the end of the day I just want to play my game and people will notice if it’s good enough. 

Guy Flaming: I know Central Scouting with their early season rankings had you as a C rated player, which I think they call fifth to seventh round. No scout that I’ve talked to thinks you’re gonna be around anywhere near that late in the draft. I think most people are pegging you somewhere in the second round. Something like that. When you see a ranking like that from Central Scouting, do you get upset or does that add fuel to the fire? How do you react when you see something like that?

Mathew Ward: Well I think you gotta respect it. I mean that’s their job. They’re not just throwing a list together. They have done it for a few years, but at the end of the day I know what kind of player I am and I know what I can bring to the table. I don’t really like commenting on where I think I should go. I do have confidence in myself. 

Guy Flaming: Do you find as a smaller guy you kinda have to play bigger, just to show the opposition that you’re not gonna get pushed around, you’re not gonna get taken advantage of. So, do you find you’re a little bit chippier than maybe a guy with your skill set, but three inches taller?

Mathew Ward: Yeah for sure, I think when you’re a smaller guy you have to bring something to the table and for me that’s competitiveness and physicality. I’m not scared to go in the corner with a big guy even though he’s got fifty-some pounds on me, I’ll still throw a hit or forecheck hard. The work ethic and the competitiveness is something I try to bring to the table every night to make up for my size. 

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