D’Agostini a key cog in the Bulldogs success as a rookie

By Josh Collopy

Matt D’Agostini has made a mark in the AHL as a rookie this year the direct way — continually put his name on the score sheet. The Hamilton Bulldogs won the Calder Cup on in June 7, and D’Agostini played a key role in their championship. D’Agostini tallied two goals and five points during the Calder Cup Finals, which was good enough to tie him for fourth on the team.

D’Agostini’s success in the finals was only a continuation of the tremendous season he had up to this point. D’Agostini finished the 2007 playoffs tied for third in team scoring with 13 points on four goals in 22 games played.

Coming into this, his rookie season, many people doubted that he would even be assigned to the Bulldogs; he still had one year of junior eligibility left and had only played two junior seasons. Even being one of the smallest players in rookie and training camp with the Montreal Canadiens at only 6’0 and weighing 185 pounds, D’Agostini was able to impress the Canadiens staff and was awarded a spot with the Bulldogs.

D’Agostini made the most of the playing time he got, scoring eight goals on his way to 18 points before an arm injury sidelined him nearly the entire month of January. He attributed his transition to the AHL and early success to his teammates. “Playing with great players all the time makes the transition easy” D’Agostini said.

To his surprise, when he returned to the lineup on Jan. 26 following the injury, he found himself riding the wing on the team’s top line. D’Agostini used his new line to have his two most productive months of the season. Registering 11 goals on his way to 24 points, D’Agostini tallied nearly half his season point total over the two-month stretch of February and March.

D’Agostini would attribute his immediate success on his return to the lineup to the work he did with Luc Leblanc, the Athletic Therapist of the Bulldogs. “I was just trying to come back as a better player,” D’Agostini said. D’Agostini would go on to record 49 points on 21 goals in 63 games played during the regular season. 

The smallish D’Agostini has to rely on his speed and anticipation to put up the numbers he has. D’Agostini plays a very technically sound, smart brand of hockey. He understands what his assignment is before he steps out on the ice; this allows him to continually find himself in the right spot at the right time on the ice.

D’Agostini uses his speed and quickness to find open areas of the ice which allows him to create scoring chances. When asked if he expected to have the offensive season that he had, D’Agostini said he was not sure what to expect coming into the season. “I didn’t know if I was going to play a lot — right from the start coach Lever put me with great players and I think I blossomed as a player because of that — I certainly didn’t expect to get 20-something goals,” D’Agostini said.

On March 16 at Syracuse, he tied a team record scoring four goals in the game including the game winner in overtime. When asked how it felt to score four goals in a game, D’Agostini replied “that was something else — some of [the guys] were joking that a couple of them didn’t even hit the back of the net, they just kind of trickled in. Yeah, the bounces were just going for me that day.”

With his lack of size, D’Agostini is not able to knock many people off the puck along the boards, however he makes up for it by beating them to the puck. And with his excellent passing ability he is able to find teammates crashing the net.

Bulldogs Head Coach Don Lever has also found a home for D’Agostini on the Bulldogs first power-play unit and has used him on the penalty kill. Ten of D’Agostini’s 21 goals in the regular season came via specials teams, seven coming on the power play and three coming shorthanded.

Growing up in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, D’Agostini always dreamed of playing professional hockey someday. Things did not come easy for him though, as he went undrafted during the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection his draft year. D’Agostini knew that not being drafted into the OHL would be an obstacle to overcome, however, he did not let it get him down for long.

“Not getting drafted gives you a look at where your career’s headed,” D’Agostini said. He had to turn his focus to the future; D’Agostini said that he “listened to his parents and was going to stick to his game plan — and keep playing hockey.”

D’Agostini’s perseverance was later rewarded as he was invited to training camp with the Guelph Storm prior to the 2004-05 season as an undrafted free agent. D’Agostini did not waste his opportunity securing a spot on the Storm roster. He would go on to post an excellent rookie season registering 46 points on 24 goals in 59 games played; his excellent rookie season would see him selected to the OHL All Rookie Second Team.

His play as a rookie with the Storm did not go unnoticed as the Canadiens selected him 190th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

D’Agostini improved on his rookie OHL campaign in his sophomore season scoring 79 points on 25 goals in 66 games played. He also put together a great playoff run scoring eight goals on his way to 28 points in 15 games. The Canadiens signed him to an entry-level contract on July 10, 2007.

D’Agostini has shown great poise for a rookie in the AHL and has proven that given the chance to play he has the offensive potential to make it in the NHL someday. D’Agostini should see his ice time increase even more next season as several of the top Bulldogs forwards will more than likely be moving on to the NHL ranks. Having spent a good portion of the season playing on the team’s top line and top power-play unit, D’Agostini should be primed for another Calder Cup run next year with the Bulldogs. If D’Agostini is able to build up his strength, he should find a spot with the big club in the near future. 

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.