The Winnipeg ICE was first on the clock at the WHL Bantam Draft back on May 2, 2019, in Red Deer, Alberta.
Picking first overall is something that the ICE organization has gotten used to as of late. In the 2016 season, the then Kootenay Ice chose Peyton Krebs first overall. He’s now expected to be a high pick at this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
The last team that received two first overall picks in a four-year span was the Medicine Hat Tigers. They had the first overall pick at the 1998 and 1999 drafts.
With this year’s first-overall pick, the ICE chose St. Albert Alberta native, Matthew Savoie. He spent last season with the Northern Alberta X-Treme Prep team.
“It was definitely super exciting to hear my name picked first. I went down to Winnipeg before the draft and checked it all out and it’s super nice,” said Savoie. “I’m super pumped to go first overall to such a great organization.”
“The atmosphere in the city was great and the people that run things were first-class,” he added. “The facility was unreal. Everything is just top tier; it’s really exciting to be a part of.”
That’s when the puck really got rolling for Savoie. On June 13, Matthew signed his first WHL Standard Player Agreement with the organization. The signing allowed the ICE organization to breathe a little bit.
Savoie had already committed to the University of Denver where he was expected to suit up for the Pioneers going forward, but that’s not the case anymore.
“Both were great options but I felt for me personally with the ICE, it was a great opportunity for me to keep developing and progressing in my hockey career,” added Savoie. “It was another special moment for me to sign my first contract with the team.”
Jake Heisinger is the Director of Scouting and Hockey Operations for the organization, and signing Matthew to a contract was a priority for the club.
“It was an exciting day for our franchise, the City of Winnipeg, the league, and Matt and his family,” said Heisinger. “Everyone knows how talented Matt is and what he’s done. He’s only 15-years-old, but he’s already accomplished a lot.”
“He’s a very, very talented player and he’s a guy that we think has the potential to come in right away and make noise,” he added. “We think he’s going to be exciting for our fans to watch and the entire league. We’re thrilled that Matt and his entire family chose the ICE for his development path.”
Savoie racked up 83 total points this past season with the Northern Alberta X-treme in just 36 games. Prior to that season, Matthew suited up for the Northern Alberta Bantam Prep team and put up numbers that you won’t see often. In 30 games, he put up 97 points (28G) and he added six more points in four playoff games.
Matthew also played for Team Alberta at the Canada Winter Games this past winter and he did what he usually does, score. He scored six goals and added seven assists in six games. The 13 points helped Alberta win a bronze medal at the event. In their final game, Savoie recorded a hat-trick before the second period ended and he had two assists as well.
Despite all of his crazy numbers to date, Savoie won’t be a full-time WHL player next season. The 15-year-old was denied exceptional status by Hockey Canada. That means he’s only eligible to play five games next season for the ICE.
He will likely join the Northern Alberta Midget team for one season before making the jump. That will allow him to develop against older players before becoming a full-time junior player and he’s okay with that.
“I took getting denied as a motivator for me. It’s just a wake up call that I have to keep pushing to get to the next level,” said Savoie. “It’s motivated me to put in more time and effort, that’s how I took it.”
When it comes to what other people are thinking about him, it’s nothing but positive things. He’s already been compared to Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon.
“It gives me a lot of motivation when you’re compared to guys like that,” said Savoie. “It’s pretty cool at such a young age to be compared to guys like Crosby and MacKinnon. I’m excited about it, but I have to keep working and getting better.”
Savoie is expected to play all five of the games he’s eligible for next season and his first game will be a special one, just like it is for anyone playing their first ever game in the league.
“I’m excited to get out on the ice with the team and play with them,” said Savoie. “It’s going to be a really fun time.”