Matthew Quigley is in his third season with the Portland Winterhawks and has developed into a reliable, shutdown defenseman for the Winterhawks who also is a jack-of-all-trades.
The Chestermere, Alberta native is a player associate coach Kyle Gustafson relies on as a “key part of our team.”
“He has been good,” Kyle said. “Has good skill and reads; he is seasoned. Quigley has been in the league for some time now. I think he knows his way in and out of the league. He is a real reliable guy.”
Gustafson, who coaches the defensemen, said, “For me, running our defense; I know what I’m going to get most nights. I don’t want to say he’s slotted as a fifth guy on our depth chart, but this last stretch we used him and Johnny [Ludvig] a lot together against other teams’ top lines. Sometimes when you are a shutdown defenseman it is hard to get into a rhythm because you are constantly waiting for the other team to come over the boards.”
Quigley’s 2018-2019 season did not get off to the start he was used to or expecting.
“It has been a good season. It is my third year here and we have a younger team. We have a lot of younger guys than we did last year. Definitely a bit different in the dressing room from last year, but it is fun. It is nice to be one of the older guys teaching rather than learning.”
Quigley also suffered an injury early in the season, “I haven’t really had any too bad of injuries, but had a little one there to start the season,” Matthew said. “I took the time to recover, came back, and I felt great.”
Quigley played for the Lethbridge Hurricanes Midget program and has fond memories, “I went down there and billeted for the year. The program was great. I got every opportunity in the world there. My teammates were amazing. I lived with one of my fellow teammates, and his dad actually played for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He was one of the leading scorers when he played; a lot to bring and talk about the next level. He had a lot of insight into what it is like being a rookie in the dub and that type of stuff. I really enjoyed learning from him. One of my defensive coaches was Brad Lukowich. He played a number of seasons in the NHL and won I think two Stanley Cups. He played for Kamloops in the WHL. It was really nice to learn from him too and get a bit of insight before I came here.
The 19-year-old defenseman did not hear his name called in the WHL Bantam Draft, but never let the potential setback phase him.
During his first year of Midget hockey, the Winterhawks added Quigley to their protected list. The experience is one he will never forget, “I just remember being so excited. Chicago [Blackhawks] was my favorite team growing up; having the same logo, my basement was painted those colors. I had the Hawk head painted on my wall before I even got here. So it was really fitting to get picked here and coming here.”
The process started when he was with the Lethbridge Midget program, “I played the first half and talked with the scout from Alberta from Portland. Just after the Mac’s Tournament I ended up talking to them and decided to sign my contract. I came to Portland my first year as a signed player and battled my way through training camp. I ended up sticking and have been here ever since.”
Being listed on a team’s protected list is a moment most players will be able to describe in great detail. Quigley is no exception, “I remember I was playing in Calgary against the Royals and Eric Doyle, the former Director of Player Personnel who worked here, came up to me after the game and introduced himself saying, ‘Hey, I’m with Portland and we listed you. We actually listed you a couple of weeks ago, we tried calling your house, but no one answered.’”
Why was there no answer in at the Quigley house? “We don’t use our home phone very much,” Matthew said.
Doyle continued telling Quigley, “You have been on our list a week or two now, but wanted to let you know in person.”
The story concludes with Quigley describing informing his mom, “My mom was out of town actually. I was staying with a friend that weekend. My whole team was super happy for me. It was a great moment in my career. I called my mom and she was in tears she was so excited. That was my goal from the very start, to get there was awesome. The work just starts when you get listed, it just begins. It was an awesome opportunity, and I’m forever grateful for them giving me that opportunity after not getting drafted in the bantam draft.”
Arriving in Portland
Gustafson recalled watching Quigley in Calgary, “It was one of our scouts that was really pushing hard for us. He saw a little bit of a late developer. I remember four or five years ago we were in Calgary. I happened to watch him with Jamie [Kompon] at the time. We watched a midget game and saw he was our style of defense; really good feet, offensive abilities, a good player who would fit our system. It shows that he has been that. It was a good job by our scouts identifying that. He is a guy who comes to work tougher every day.”
When Quigley made the team in 2016-2017, he was not an every-day player in the lineup. Matthew played in 49 of 72 games his rookie season.
“When he first came in it was a strength issue, it wasn’t so much an ability or skill wise or hockey sense like that,” Gustafson recounted. “He just needed to mature and develop physically.”
Kyle recalls recent history, “with Josh Hanson, playing behind some good defensemen when he was with the team. Whether it was [Matt] Dumba, [Seth] Jones, or [Tyler] Wotherspoon, or [Derrick] Pouliot. Quigley is in a little bit of the same boat with Caleb Jones, [Henri] Jokiharju, and [Dennis] Cholowski, just kind of that secondary guy. He still played quite a bit; he was a primary guy for us in our lineup. I think he embraces this opportunity that this is his time, and he’s done a great job.”
Mentoring in Portland
“Obviously Portland is so good at developing defensemen over the years,” Quigley said. “Even when I was here [Caleb] Jones, [Keoni] Texeira, and Henri [Jokiharju]. Playing with Henri those two years was unbelievable. You couldn’t ask for a better D partner to introduce me to this league. Watching those guys, Cholowski and [Brendan] De Jong, all those guys, they are next level players. To get that opportunity to get taught and learn from them was definitely a big moment in my career.”
Portland has three 17-year-old defensemen on roster, and two 18-year-olds. The opportunity to pay-it-forward is one Quigley is fully embracing, “It is awesome seeing those guys, because you remember, ‘I was that guy.’ Being in and out of the lineup isn’t the funnest, but it happens. Just the guys here, they do so well with it.”
Matthew continued about the resiliency of the younger players, “They push through and they work so hard to get in the lineup every night. It is really fun to be on the other side now; help them out. Saying, ‘Hey, it is alright you didn’t get in tonight; you will get in tomorrow.’ Giving them a little tap because every guy needs that. I remember I needed it when I was in-and-out, and I got it from the older guys. So passing that down is huge for me.”
The season ahead in Portland
“With him being 19-years-old we want to make sure he is putting his mark on this team too, not just waiting in the wings,” Gustafson said. “We are always on him to be a little bit more assertive.”
“I want to play a good two-way game,” Quigley responded when asked about what he wants to achieve this season. “Take care of my zone and when I get the chance, jump up and try to create offensively as much as I can. Just play a good game and hopefully a mistake free game.”
He hopes to continue to refine “the little things, my boxouts, good first pass, and go from there.”
The penalty kill is an area where Quigley is relied upon heavily. “It is awesome to play those minutes,” he mentioned. “It is a huge part of the game today, and really, a power play goal can change the game; win a game in this league. Our PK is huge, and has been really good this year I think. It is very nice to be part of that.”
Gustafson said, “Defensively, this has been a good role for him, he has been assertive. Matt has been challenged with a good opportunity to play against other teams’ top lines. Being hard on guys in his own zone, being assertive getting up in the play because he has those tools. Be assertive and have some motion in the offensive zone to create some offense. It is a little bit more of the same, we just want a little bit more from him; not that is a bad thing. He has some great qualities.”
Perhaps the ultimate compliment about Quigley, “He is kind of like our Swiss Army knife,” per Gustafson.