BRYAN WILSON – 12.24.2023
Matt Coronato is always learning.
Whether playing high-level hockey, or studying at a prestigious Ivy League school, the 21-year-old has taken the various lessons he’s learned during his hockey career and is bringing everything together with the Wranglers this season.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can every day,” said Coronato. “A big thing for me is getting more comfortable as time goes on with the number of games and making sure I’m ready to play my best every night.”
Coronato – selected 13th overall by the Flames in 2021 – has 11 games of NHL experience this season and scored his first NHL tally off an absolute laser-beam shot under the bar in just his third-career NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct.14.
The product of Greenlawn, NY credits his elite shooting prowess to the two years he spent in junior, working vigorously on his shot.
“Worked on it a lot,” he said. “My shot, I give a lot of credit to the Chicago Steel (USHL) where I played junior. We literally had practices where we would only work on shooting, work on changing the angles, getting the shot off faster, things like that. I can’t even count the number of times we worked on it. They thought skill development was very important and they did a great job with it and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to play there for two years.”
Now in his first season of professional hockey in 2023-24, Coronato has faced inherently new challenges, as do all young players at the professional ranks – both on the ice and off it.
However, Coronato knows a thing or two about making necessary adjustments on the fly and overcoming learning curves, having played his college hockey at Harvard for two seasons, where he put up 36 points in 34 games in both years.
As one can expect, attending Harvard in any capacity isn’t easy, but the opportunities to learn are available in abundance, and Coronato embraced the challenge, head on.
“School has always been important for my family, so when I had the opportunity to go to Harvard, it’s something I couldn’t pass up,” Coronato explained. “But it’s hard. It’s a lot of work, and we all kind of helped each other and we had a great group of guys there that could study together. I think it’s a good learning experience for life to be able to play hockey at a high level while also taking care of your schoolwork, it’s good for your time management, among other things.”
On the ice, Coronato credits his development as a player to the coaching staff at Harvard, who prepared him for handling a high-intensity hockey environment which – at the NCAA level – is uniquely competitive.
“College hockey is hard,” Coronato explained. “It’s very physical and there’s not a lot of games, so guys are giving it their absolute all, every night. Guys really want to win – I know you want to win everywhere – but in college there’s just that little bit extra run through the wall each night, so it’s tough. Ted Donato and his staff do a great job with developing their players and getting them prepared for the next level.”’
As he continues to progress through his first pro season, Coronato is now shifting his focus to becoming a more well-rounded player in the AHL.
In 18 games this season, Coronato sits second in scoring on the Wranglers with 20 points (8g,12a) with a plus-7 rating, and while he’s happy with his production so far, he has been putting more of an emphasis on playing a full 200-foot game of late.
“I want to do anything I can to help the team win, I definitely want to be productive offensively, but whatever I can do to chip in and help the team win, that’s my focus,” Coronato explained.
“Playing good defence and the full 200-foot game is just as important as scoring, it’s how you win games, especially at this level.
“So, it’s something for me that, right now, I’m putting a lot of focus on. Whether it’s watching clips or just really dialling in on it in games, it’s something I want to keep improving on and I think I’ll be able to.
“When a player can figure that part of the game out, that’s when they can really be at their best.”