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Matteo Costantini: A Three Game Deep Dive

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2020 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Breaking down a few games of Costantini’s first few games in the BCHL

When the Sabres selected Matteo Costantini in the fifth round of the 2020 draft I was a bit surprised. I put him as an honorable mention in my May edition of my draft rankings at #135 due to his point totals and someone at a rink I was at said I should watch out for this kid, but I ended up cutting him because there just is not a good track record of players coming out from the OJHL and being successful in recent history.

The league hasn’t produced many NHL draft picks in the past 10 years and of those who were drafted in their actual draft year only Devin Shore has played more than 100 NHL games. This list starts in 2010 because that’s when I began to obsessively cover the draft, and does exclude perhaps the best OJHL prospect in Zach Hyman.

Almost all of the OJHL forwards drafted have the trend that in the DY+2 year when they enter the NCAA it defines their projection going forward. If they can get to right around a PPG player in the NCAA they have tracked well.

I decided to do a deep-dive with Matteo Costantini by tracking three games in the preseason BCHL Okanagan Cup tournament. I focused in on two mid-October games against the West Kelowna Warriors who were in second place at the time and one game against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks which was the most recent game Matteo had played.

Contextual Data Points

Below is some data points at the time I completed tracking him about a week and a half ago

At the time Matteo had 15 points in 10 games and is currently sitting at 20 points in 13 games.

The first game against West Kelowna went off the rails in the second period when Kelowna lost their star goalie Johnny Derrick and Charles-Alexis Legault (2021 eligible defensemen) due to injury after they controlled play in the first period. Compounding to the short bench was the fact that Kelowna then took four minor penalties and two misconducts that left Kelowna spending almost half the period on the penalty kill. The game went from 1-0 for Kelowna in the first to being down 5-1 going into the third.

In the second game against Kelowna there was not a rash of penalties for Kelowna like there was in the first game, however Kelowna still played without Derrick and Legault for the game. Costantini and the Vees held a small advantage in the shot attempts department and the high-medium danger shots department against Kelowna, but got far superior goaltending in their eventual 6-0 win.

The third game saw a 2-4 loss to Salmon Arm where Matteo’s line struggled compared to the other lines, and also saw the majority of goals scored against their line 5v5. Costantini normally centers the top line alongside Quinn Hutson and Jackson Niedermayer, but in this game with Niedermayer out the Vees alternated who played alongside those two. To put it in perspective: Costantini’s line was 14-12 in 5v5 shot attempts and a 3-3 tie in high-medium danger shot attempts, but the rest of the team had a 41-9 advantage in shot attempts and a 17-1 advantage in high-medium danger shot attempts

Tracking Costantini

Taking a page out of Will Scouch’s (scouching.ca and @scouching on Twitter) book I tracked Matteo’s impact on the game through his impact on his shots (overall and from high-medium danger areas), passing (overall and to high-medium danger areas), and offensive transitions and defensive transitions during 5v5 play. If you’d like a comparable player for what these numbers equate to he just tweeted about William Eklund and his tracking in transition here:

Wanna know something neat? Tracked my second game of William Eklund, an SHL player getting ice time.

He's involved in 39.6% of Djurgårdens' offensive transitions, and he's maintained control on 83.8% of those transitions. 31/37. He's rocking 58.8 of those transitions per 60.

— Will Scouch (@Scouching) November 17, 2020

To summarize the data: Costantini is not a transporter of the puck 5v5. He had both a low number of attempts of offensive transitions and a low success rate of controlled offensive transitions at 52%. He isn’t very involved in the offensive transition of the puck up the ice, and he defers to Quinn Hutson to run the team in the offensive zone. He is often not in puck support in the defensive zone. Matteo plays as the high 3F in the defensive zone transition in which he plays a sort of rover role hoping the forecheckers can create an errant pass for him to intercept. If the puck gets passed him he back-checks and is somewhat successful at stick lifting from behind to create a turnover.

1920062_P16_TGBS_014.jpg (Shawn Muir / OJHL Images)

His passing metrics are worrisome. He only attempted 19 total passes 5v5 and his completion percentage was subpar for a forward. I’d look for forwards to be at a minimum at around 70% in the pass completion percentage. He struggles to find teammates under pressure and doesn’t problem solve well in either zone when he has the puck on his stick. When watching him play it’s equivalent to watching a check-down quarterback: if his first read isn’t there he’s going to find the safe pass or dump it in. Rarely will he create by keeping the puck on his stick to find a new passing lane.

While I only tracked minimal stats on the PP; it is where Costantini makes his living. He’s the drop-back transition player who plays on the first line power play. They utilize his vertical speed to enter the zone and drop it back to one of their PP quarterbacks. He plays on the left half-wall where he looks to release his heavy wrist shot. While most of his assists that were tracked were secondary assists from faceoff wins, rebounds on the PP, or a pass back to the point and a rebound...his one very good primary assist did come from the half-wall to Hutson out front for a nice tap-in on the PP. As you can see by the stats: they threw out the first power play every chance they had. His PP unit had 70% of the shots that were taken on the PP and through the first two games that equated to 30 team shots in total of which Costantini took eight of them equating into a goal and an assist.

Eye Test Scouting

By far his biggest strength is his shot. He possesses a heavy, quick wrist shot that can beat goalies clean from distance. He’s a pretty good North/South skater and when he gets momentum and space coming over the offensive blue line he can beat defenders wide with his speed.

He isn’t the engine on the line 5v5 despite his point totals suggesting he is. Quinn Hutson is often the forward that play runs through with Matteo being a trigger-man and Niedermayer being the grinder/net presence on the line.

He had two failed transitions on the blue line that equated to two direct goals. One on a defensive transition where he failed to corral a bouncing puck and then took an errant swipe and missed leading to a breakaway goal after not playing the body of the oncoming forward. Another on a failed offensive transition where he was poke checked on the blue line that directly lead to a odd-man rush the other way for a goal.

Defensively he had some major lapses that were cause for concern. He could find himself out of position, or hovering too high in the defensive zone that opened up passing lanes. When play breaks down around him he failed to adapt to the circumstance which led to some prime scoring chances.

He doesn’t strike me as a center as he transitions through his development without some major changes to the way he plays the game 5v5.

Projection

To be optimistic: he’s raw. His shot and his skating are there, but the finer parts of his game are a long ways away. I tend to shy away from players like Costantini because of my priorities of what I want to see from an NHL prospect. I value players that do the little things right and who drive play, AND have shown an ability to be a playmaker or a finisher. Matteo is a player with some raw tools but lacking in the finer details that drives play and creates chances 5v5. He’s a passenger on a very good line in the BCHL, and nothing drove that point home more than the last game I tracked.

Watching the recent Sabres Embbeded that featured the 2020 draft we got a glimpse of what Kevyn Adams sees in Costantini. He liked his shot, he developed under Adams for almost the entirety of the time Adams oversaw the Harbor Center, and likes that he’ll be able to skate and develop in Buffalo in the offseason. While the conversation surrounding Quinn in the video was somewhat concerning (uhhh Kevyn...when you say “a bunch of picks” what kind of picks are we talking about here?); it was refreshing to hear that he’s looking for an elite trait in a player as the draft goes on. While I wouldn’t put Matteo’s shot as elite; his wrist shot is certainly above average for a draft eligible forward.

Jumping to the BCHL from the OJHL is a step-up in competition. Jumping to the NCAA and specifically to Ottawa’s College Development Program (aka: North Dakota) will be a big leap. As he progresses this year what I’d hope to see is a more involved player in transition and in the offensive zone 5v5, a commitment to being a net-front presence in the defensive zone instead of floating up high, and the ability to problem solve better under pressure.

Offensively he reminds me of a Patrik Berglund from 2015-18. If you can get the puck on his stick in the offensive zone he has the ability to beat the goalie with his shot, but you need to surround him with players that will be able to do so.

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