2004 Prospects: Q&A with Matt McIlvane

By Holly Gunning

Matt McIlvane is an alternate captain and the third leading scorer on the USHL Chicago Steel. The 6’0” 200-pound center is a huge contributer both offensively and defensively to the Steel’s first place rank in their division. You won’t find him on the perimeter of the play as he goes hard to the net and to the corners. He has 22 goals and 24 assists in 54 games and is +6 on the season.

Last season McIlvane played for the NAHL Chicago Freeze and made the league’s All-Rookie Team. The native of Naperville, Illinois lives with his parents and is finishing up high school. He will play for Ohio State University in the fall.

Chicago Steel Head Coach and GM Wil Nichol commented on McIlvane’s game.

“He plays so hard and he’s got good skill. Very mature for his age and when you have all of those assets you’re going to have success.

“He blocked three shots tonight on the penalty kill and had chances in the offensive zone. He’s a typical pro type player, he’s big, he’s strong. He should be able to make the jump.”

Ranked only 155th on the CSB mid-term rankings of North American skaters, his stock will be on the rise between now and June. Coach Nichol commented on his increasing buzz.

“Obviously there’s a lot of NHL scouts here just tonight to watch him. Central Scouting was here tonight. One of the coaches in our league a couple games ago called me and said he’s the best pro prospect in the league. I’m probably hardest on my players of anybody, so if someone calls me and tells me that, then that must mean his stock is going up.”

Hockey’s Future spoke to McIlvane following the Steel’s 0-3 loss to the Waterloo Blackhawks this past week.

HF: How do you think your season is going so far?
MM: I think on the whole it’s going real well. I can’t really ask for much more. Obviously we didn’t give our best effort tonight, but we’re in first place. I think we’re eight points ahead of the team behind us now and really this whole season giving it all we have.

HF: How would you compare how you’re doing personally to last year?
MM: Point-wise it’s about the same, but I feel like I’ve become a better player because of this league. As you might know, I played in the NAHL last year and I think that this league is just so competitive. Every night you have to bring it or else you’re going to walk away with a loss. It’s just something that I’ve had to learn and I think I’ve matured some.

HF: What have you had to change about your game in this league?
MM: I think it’s a lot of preparation. You have to really make sure you’re ready to go every night or like I said before, you’re going to end up with a loss. You have to make sure everyone on your team has that same mindset, that you’re going to go out there and give it all you have and compete.

HF: Can you describe your game for those who haven’t seen you play?
MM: I’d say that I’m a prototypical power forward. I go to the net hard and try to finish checks, and I’m a guy who is going to compete every night, try to give it my best. I can finish a little bit around the net. I like to make plays and be a leader on the bench.

HF: What would you say your role on the team is?
MM: I’d say it’s to be one of the guys that people look up to, more than just wearing the A, you know. I think it’s a lot of pressure, but something that comes along with being an assistant captain. If I’m not going to work hard, then rookies will look at me and say well why do I have to work hard. I’d say mostly I’m a leader and try to be an impact player every night.

HF: Which special teams do you normally play on?
MM: I usually do penalty kill and power play. I love doing penalty kill, and power play actually. It’s a privilege that coach puts me out there and I just try to work hard.

HF: Why do you like the penalty kill?
MM: I like blocking shots, actually (laughing). I get a little rush out of blocking one.

HF: Did you ever think about being a goalie?
MM: I played it in roller hockey for a little bit, but nothing serious. No, I like blocking shots because it gets guys up on the bench. I think that blocking shots is definitely one of my strengths.

HF: Have you ever gotten hurt blocking a shot?
MM: Broken finger, it wasn’t really that bad.

HF: Who are your usual linemates?
MM: My usual linemates are Dan Charleston and Justin Lewandowski, that’s what it’s been lately. I can’t say enough about them. Justin competes every night and Danny’s the kind of guy who is going to finish everything that I put near him. I can’t say enough about them.

HF: How exactly do the three of you work together?
MM: I think I’m the guy who is going to go in there first in the corner and forecheck, do a little crash and bang. Justin’s going to pick it up and we’ll work it down low a little bit and try to find Danny up high for a goal.

HF: What do you think you need to improve on?
MM: Every scout that has talked to me has said consistency. That’s what everyone is looking for. It’s not enough just to bring it some nights. You have to give it everything you have every time you’re out there. It’s something that I try to pride myself on and I think you can never be good enough at it.

HF: Would you say tonight was one of your better games, or just average?
MM: I’d say it was an average game. I tried to do the little things well. But I didn’t get the pucks out of the zone and probably could have backchecked harder a couple times. I’d say it was average, definitely not one of my best.

HF: You’re going to Ohio State next year, why did you choose that school?
MM: I’m really excited about that. I went there and I fell in love with the school. It’s unbelievable, the environment, the coaches are awesome. I really got along with them well and it seemed like I was going to fit into the program well. The arena is amazing and it just felt like the right place for me when I went there.

HF: How many other schools did you look at?
MM: I looked at I think five other schools. It felt like it was the place for me. And they obviously offered me money, which I liked. My parents liked that as well. More than the money though, it was the feel that I got.

HF: Do you have any idea what you might study?
MM: I think I’m going to try to be a biology major, because I want to be a chiropractor.

HF: Have you ever had any major injuries that you’ve had to overcome?
MM: No, I’ve been fortunate, knock on wood. Nothing serious.

HF: Is there anyone in your family who has gone far in hockey or are you a trailblazer?
MM: I’m pretty much the first guy in my family to play hockey.

HF: Can you talk about goaltender Adam D’Alba (also 2004 eligible)?
MM: He’s one of my best friends, actually. He’s a competitor. Every night he gives it his best. He’s got the size and he’s got tenacity. He’s just a good goalie. He stops the puck, what more can you ask for, I mean he’s good.

HF: Are you looking forward to the draft being over with?
MM: The draft? I haven’t really given that a whole lot of thought. My family advisor is going to try to get some inside information about whether I’m going to go early or not, because if not I might just opt in after my first year at school. The only thing I’m trying to worry about right now is winning a championship. That’s what this whole season is based around and that’s what I want to do, and what we want to do as a team.

HF: Is there anything people would be surprised to know about you?
MM: I work at a special needs camp in the summer with mentally handicapped kids. Stay overnight, just help them out. It’s a lot of fun. That’s about it. I’m a pretty good student. Typical teenager, trying to finish up high school.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without the written permission of the editorial staff.