2005 Prospects: Q&A with Matt Lashoff

By Jason Ahrens

Matt Lashoff is a defenseman playing with the Kitchener Rangers who is projected to be a first round pick in the next NHL Entry Draft. Lashoff is a smooth skater with good size at 6’2 and 198 pounds. The 18-year-old plays an all-around game and his skating is his best asset. He is a key defender on a team that had the third best record in the OHL this season and that stands to lose only four to six players to graduation. Lashoff is one of six Rangers likely to be taken in the 2005 Entry Draft.

Lashoff is used on the second units on the power play and penalty kill and takes a regular shift at even strength. He is often used in the late stages of the game if Kitchener is trying to draw even with their goaltender pulled. He is not overly physical but plays a sound positional game and will take his man out.

The Rangers defeated the Erie Otters in six games in the conference quarterfinals, then swept the Owen Sound Attack in four straight games. They are currently locked in an intense, physical series with the London Knights. Hockey’s Future caught up with Lashoff after the second game, won by the Rangers 3-1, which tied the series up at one win apiece.

HF: Can you tell me a bit about the game tonight, it looked like it was a war out there.

ML: Yeah definitely, we developed quite the rivalry with London over the last couple of years, especially with the powerhouse team that they have, and it is always good to come through, and you always know that it is going to be a battle, whether we are in our barn or theirs. We came to play tonight.

HF: Your penalty kill got a lot of work tonight, which must be a bit frustrating.

ML: Yeah definitely, coming into the series we knew that was something we were going to have to work on, they almost beat Windsor by their power play itself, so we knew that it was something we were going to have to sharpen up on. The guys have been doing a great job, working hard and going down to block shots, it is all a team effort here.

HF: Tell me a bit about your playoff experience so far, you guys had a rough start against Erie before bouncing back. What happened there?

ML: You know, looking back in hindsight, it almost helped us out a little to have some adversity at the start of the playoffs. For the guys on the team, you can’t ask for much more than that, to battle back from a 2-0 deficit. It gave us a lot of momentum going into the Owen Sound series, we took it to them, we knew that they were playing really well all year, so we knew we were going to have to come out with some jump and really bang up their defensemen. They were only playing about four D-men, so we knew we had to go after them hard. So looking back in hindsight, it was probably a good thing that we went down, as it was a good lesson for us as a team.

HF: You missed a lot of time at the beginning of the season, suffering from mono, how tough was that to come back from?

ML: Mono is a lot different than any other injury. It is a type of thing that you can’t really do much with, you just have to sit at home and wait it out, you can’t really do other things to keep your body in shape. Tt’s a bit different mentally that way to try to get back at it. I was out a little bit longer because of my spleen, I had to wait for that to get down in size, but looking back, as soon as I was given the OK to work out, I was back on the ice and I tried to put myself in the best situation to get back as fast I could and it worked out well for me.

HF: Were you in the mix at all for the American team for the World Junior tournament?

ML: Yeah I attended the summer camp in Grand Forks. I actually had the mono out there, I was playing with it for a week, I didn’t know what it was, I just didn’t feel myself and when it came down to the wire, I felt that I should have been on the team, but you know they made their decision and you have to back it. They felt that they had the team that was going to bring it to them, and you can’t second guess their decision.

HF: This is your draft year and the NHL recently cancelled the draft in its usual format, how disappointed were you when that happened?

ML: During the season it is not something that you really worry about, you have your team goals, try to finish high in the standings, go deep in the playoffs, win the Memorial Cup and that is the team goal right now. The only thing in the year that really aggravates you is that can’t watch NHL hockey on TV on your downtime. I think in the summer, when things relax a bit, I will be thinking more about it, but right now we are having a blast and we are on a good playoff run here.

HF: Can you tell me a bit about your road to the OHL? You are from Albany, New York, which is not exactly known as a hockey town, but here you are, a potential first round pick for the NHL draft and playing great in the OHL.

ML: I was all over the place on the way up here. Albany like you said, it’s not a hockey town, we had the River Rats, but I don’t even know if they would draw 600 fans sometimes. I came into hockey by playing on ponds when I was younger with my father and stuff like that and just had a blast with it growing up. I played in Connecticut with the Connecticut Yankees for a little, I played for the US National Team and that was an experience on its own. I was supposed to go to Boston University, I had a scholarship there, but I just decided that the OHL to come up here to Kitchener with the coaches that they have, that they were going to give me the best shot and experience and prepare me the best for the NHL.

HF: Was that an agonizing decision to make?

ML: Oh yeah, I won’t lie to you, I didn’t sleep for a couple of days trying to make that decision. It was one of the biggest decisions I have had to make in my life, and at such a young age, to make it when I was 15 years old, looking back I don’t know if that is the best way, that kind of commitment to go to school that early, but you live and learn, I couldn’t say that I made the wrong decision now. I haven’t looked back and I’m having a blast up here.

HF: The Rangers have mainly used four forwards on the power play, so you haven’t seen a lot of power play action this year except on the second unit. But since you have been used on the second unit, Andre Benoit is graduating, and they have used you late in the game when trailing, can you see yourself being the power play quarterback next year?

ML: Yeah that is a role that I would like to see myself in. Right now the guys are doing a great job, Andre is obviously one of the best offensive defensemen in the league (led the OHL in scoring by defensemen) and Craig Voakes, he has been putting up the points. I would like to see myself put in that position and I’m getting about half of the power play time now and throughout the year I have been killing penalties, I couldn’t ask for much more, I’ve pretty much played in all situations and I’m just having a lot of fun.

HF: As an American, do you have any ideas how the NHL could market the game differently down there to get more people watching, especially given the fallout over the lockout?

ML: I don’t know, they are putting a lot of things out there, trying to change the game, I don’t think that there is too much wrong with the game, once it gets back up I think the fans are going to start coming back out. Technically wise, I think if you want to open things up, I say make the ice surfaces bigger, but I think that is a little out of the question changing the rinks like that. I’d like to see that personally because I like to wheel and deal a little bit. Hockey when it comes back, hopefully you will see a lot more people coming out, there will be a drop off at the start, but people will come around.

HF: One major rule change that we might see at the NHL and OHL level is the return of the tag-up offside, what do you think about that?

ML: Well for me the tag-up offside I would like, because it puts a little more flow in the game, you get a little more wheel room, I think it would open up the game a bit more and make it a lot faster.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.