Jim Benning and Judd Brackett focused mainly on defence at the 2018 draft, bolstering their blue line prospects with three of their six picks. In the seventh round, however, they took a shot at a goaltender, adding to their prospect depth behind Thatcher Demko and Michael DiPietro.
Matthew Thiessen was ranked fourth by Central Scouting among North American goaltenders, and was ranked 119th overall by McKeen’s Hockey and 141st by Future Considerations. The Canucks drafted Thiessen with the 192nd pick.
Not to be mistaken for Relient K frontman Matt Thiessen, the hockey-playing Matthew Thiessen has much shorter hair. He also has decent size for a goaltender at 6’2”.
Thiessen played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, a Junior A league, and is committed to playing for the University of Maine, which has produced a few NHL goaltenders. Scott Darling and Ben Bishop are Maine alumni and, going back a little further, so is Garth Snow. Thiessen will spend another year in the MJHL before heading to college, so the Canucks will have several years to evaluate him as he develops.
As a rookie in the MJHL, Thiessen had a stunning season. His .923 save percentage was third in the league behind two older goaltenders and his 2.06 goals against average was first. In the playoffs, he was even better, posting a ridiculous .944 save percentage to lead all goaltenders.
Thiessen had four shutouts in the playoffs as he led the Steinbach Pistons to the MJHL Championship.
Thiessen is a butterfly goaltender with surprisingly refined technique for a teenager. Future Considerations describes him as a “by-the-book puck stopper,” who is “fluid in his movements.” They note that his technique on the posts leaves no room for pucks to beat him short side and applaud his rebound control.
One of his few flaws they point out is playing the puck out of his net. It seems like he’s spent a lot more time working on his puck-stopping technique than his puck-handling.
“He’s technically sound,” said Steinbach head coach Paul Dyck, “but I love his demeanour, he’s a calming influence, and despite the fact he’s 17 years old, he exudes confidence.”
“He’s a worker,” he added. “He’s put in the time.”
While Thiessen lost out on the goaltender of the year award to the older Troy Martyniuk, he was named to the First All-Star Team ahead of Martyniuk. That’s an impressive feat for a 17-year-old, as Thiessen just turned 18 earlier this month.
With his technique, size, and athletic ability, you have to wonder if he would have been more highly-ranked if he played in a more visible league. The MJHL isn’t renowned for producing NHL prospects, so it’s certainly possible that Thiessen was under-scouted.