Our 2021 draft coverage is taking a quick stop in the USHL. I’ll be profiling Chicago Steel left winger Matthew Coronato, a player that was named the USHL’s best forward during the 2020-2021 season. As a quick reminder, I’ll separate each profile into three sections. The first will cover the player’s paper stats and measurables, the second will discuss some attributes that I noticed while watching Coronato play, and the third will summarize the player’s overall skillset and whether or not I believe he is a fit.
Coronato is a 5-foot-10, 183-pound winger according to eliteprospects. It’s rare to see a right-handed player play on his off wing, so there’s a possibility that Coronato will be moved to the right wing so as to not play on his off side. Coronato’s 85 points in 51 games was good for second in league scoring and he finished at nearly a goal-per-game pace with 48 goals. Coronato led the league in goals and +/- this past season and was a consistent riser on most draft boards. Points in the USHL are tough to evaluate, however, because it’s less competitive than a league like the CHL. Still though, it’s hard to argue with 48 goals in 51 games. Coronato is ranked as the ninth best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and is given a rank of 26th overall on Eliteprospects’ Consolidated Ranking. If Coronato was two inches taller, we would likely be hearing about him going in the top 20, perhaps even top 15 of this year’s draft. But since NHL GMs value size over skill, we’re looking at Coronato likely being a mid-to-late 20s pick.
Notes from USHL game against Muskegon
Coronato’s strength on the puck is iffy. There are times when he can hold his own against bigger players, but he can get bullied about half the time and turn the puck over. Adding some weight should help, but in an ideal world, Coronato is your trigger man instead of the puck carrier. He is constantly moving in the offensive zone in order to help create offense. Coronato is able to read the play and react to it, moving to open patches of ice in order to receive a pass or get his stick on a rebound. His speed is his second biggest asset, right behind his fantastic shot. Coronato is one of the fastest skaters on the ice and is a real threat in transition due to his speed and acceleration. There were times in this game where he would overwhelm the opposition due to his speed, and it even led to a primary assist on a goal. While Coronato may be more of a goal scorer than a playmaker, I did appreciate his passing ability in this game. He wasn’t solely focused on a shot like some players his age are guilty of doing. Instead, he assessed all options and then decided to either pass or shoot. I wouldn’t say that he’s a gifted passer, but I believe that his hockey sense and vision on the ice allow for his passing to be above average for his age level.
Coronato’s shot is his best asset and he’s a threat to score from anywhere in the offensive zone. He sports a quick, accurate release that allows for him to surprise most goalies before they can get set. Coronato’s shot finds a way to the back of the net regardless of the distance or angle he is at, too. He didn’t score in the game against Muskegon, but other viewings of Coronato confirm that he is one of the better goal scorers in this draft class. I’d even consider putting him ahead of Oskar Olausson, who I profiled earlier. Coronato is also able to take control of the game and dominate a shift at will, which is something that I didn’t notice in Olausson’s game. He’s more aggressive on the puck, mostly due to his speed, and he’s fantastic in the offensive zone. Honestly, there’s not a ton to dislike about Coronato in the offensive zone other than his size.
Coronato was used on Chicago’s penalty kill and didn’t seem like a liability in this game. I don’t have a ton to say about Coronato’s defense because there weren’t many shifts where he was in the defensive zone. What I saw was a player that didn’t get out of position but one that lacked aggressiveness. Coronato attacks the puck in the offensive zone and can be a pest on the forecheck, but I didn’t get the same sense in the defensive zone. This could be attributed to his size, however.
Coronato is coming from a premier USHL program and is heading to Harvard University in the fall. It’s clear that he is a gifted goal scorer with a fantastic shot and tremendous top speed, making him one of the more dangerous offensive players that could be available when the Hurricanes pick. After watching him play, I still believe that Coronato would be a top-20 pick if he was a few inches taller. I’d even consider putting him in the top 15 if that were the case. All in all, there wasn’t too much in Coronato’s game that stood out as a negative. I didn’t see enough of him in the defensive zone to warrant an opinion on his play, and that’s largely due to the fact that he was mostly deployed in the offensive zone. The fact that Chicago’s coaching staff felt comfortable with putting Coronato on the penalty kill is encouraging as far as his defensive play is concerned.
I believe that Coronato could be a great fit for the Hurricanes. Darren Yorke and his scouting staff have made it clear over the past few years that they don’t mind if a player is undersized. They value skill and upside over a player’s size and won’t hesitate to pick a player like Coronato if he is available. I believe that he has an upside of a strong second line scorer capable of 30+ goals if he does reach his ceiling. He could play alongside the likes of Martin Necas to create a line that could skate circles around almost any other line in the NHL. I’m putting Coronato’s NHL ETA at four years, giving him enough time for at least two or three years in college to go with a year or two at the AHL level.
I am still wary of USHL prospects because the level of competition isn’t as high as it is in most other leagues, but Coronato looks like a very good prospect. His natural goal scoring ability combined with his ability to take over a shift is enticing and worth betting on in the draft. Overall, I would be about as happy if the Canes selected Coronato as I would be if they selected Olausson, and either player would make me very happy.