2008-09: Matthew Peca played for the Ottawa Valley Titans in the OEMHL Midget AAA league. He was selected by the Windsor Spitfires in the 8th round (141st overall) of the OHL Priority Draft.
2009-10: Peca spurned the OHL to play with the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Tier 1 Central Junior Hockey League (CJHL) (and maintain his NCAA eligibility). He was named Rookie of the Year in the CJHL after scoring 21 goals with 26 assists in 60 games for the Lumber Kings. Peca added 3 goals with 3 assists in 15 games in the post-season. Peca committed to playing college hockey at Quinnipiac University in 2011-12.
2010-11: Peca was the most dominant forward in Canadian Tier 1 Junior Hockey, leading the Pembroke Lumber Kings to the CJHL and RBC Cup championships. In 50 regular season games, Peca scored 26 goals with 46 assists and scored 10 power play goals and 3 game-winners. In the playoffs, he scored 11 goals with 10 assists in 14 games. Peca represented Canada East in the World U-19 Challenge and scored 2 goals with 2 assists in five games. Following the season, Peca was the subject of a tug-of-war of sorts between the OHL – where first Kingston and then Kitchener traded for his OHL rights – and the QMJHL, where Patrick Roy’s Quebec Ramparts hoped to sign him. Peca, instead, enrolled at Quinnipiac and will begin his college career in 2011-12. Peca was selected by the Lightning in the 7th round (201st overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.
2011-12: Peca was the second-leading scorer for Quinnipiac University as a freshman. Playing on the Bobcats’ top line with twin brothers Kellen Jones (EDM) and Connor Jones he scored 8 goals with 31 assists and was an even plus-minus with 12 penalty minutes. Quinnipiac won 20 games and finished fifth in ECAC Hockey but failed to receive an NCAA tournament bid after falling to Colgate in the ECAC quarterfinals.
2012-13: Once again spending much of the season on a line with the Jones twins, Peca was the second-leading scorer for Quinnipiac in his sophomore season. In 39 games he scored 15 goals with 15 assists and was +13 with 36 penalty minutes. The Bobcats won the ECAC Hockey regular season title and finished third in the conference tournament – losing to Brown in the semifinals then defeating Yale, 3-0 , in the third-place game. The Bulldogs returned the favor in the Frozen Four national championship game; defeating Quinnipiac 4-0, after the Bobcats had beaten Canisius and Union to capture the East Regional championship and topped St. Cloud State, 4-1, in the Frozen Four semifinals.
Peca, not to be confused with former NHLer Michael Peca (no direct relation), played in the same junior league as Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and plays with some of the same characteristics. A diminutive, undersized forward, Peca constantly flies around the rink and is effective on both ends of the ice. He is very good at using his speed both to create offensive opportunities and to avoid potentially dangerous situations. While his size is a concern, he was highly sought after by teams in major junior hockey due to his high skill level and scoring acumen. He should continue to develop as he grows and matures.
Peca is a high-energy player who plays at a very high pace. He will constantly be challenged to prove he can compete against the bigger and faster opponents at the pro level. Peca is more talented than most seventh-round picks and could be a steal if he continues to produce as he moves up the hockey ladder. While Tampa fans will likely see similarities to Martin St. Louis, there are many players of similar stature who have put up big numbers in junior hockey but never flourished past the lower levels of minor pro hockey or in Europe.