COLUMBUS — As thrilled as Denton Mateychuk was to be the 12th pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2022 NHL Draft, he understands his journey to the NHL is in its early stages.
He was five days shy of his 18th birthday when his name was called on July 7, so the defenseman will return to Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League for at least the 2022-23 season.
“I want to be ready to make the jump (to the NHL) and time will tell when that is, whether it’s next year, whatever it is,” he said. “I’m going to keep working until I get to that moment.
“It’s something that I always dreamed of. Probably back a few years, I didn’t think it was going to be real and then eventually it turns into a goal. Just hearing your name on draft night gets you thinking about all the past things you’ve done to get to where you are now but it’s really just the beginning.”
Mateychuk was the second defenseman drafted by the Blue Jackets after David Jiricek, the No. 6 selection.
“We always talk about ‘best available,’ and those were the guys that we thought were the best guys at the time,” Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “That’s the philosophy … and I think we got two really good defensemen. You can never have too many of them.”
While Jiricek will be given a chance to debut in the NHL this season, there is no need to rush Mateychuk, who had 64 points (13 goals, 51 assists) in 65 WHL games last season and was ranked 14th in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.
Mateychuk is known for his skating and passing but his size (5-foot-11, 188 pounds) raises questions whether he can manage the rigors of his position.
“I heard quite a bit of that throughout the year,” Mateychuk said. “It’s out of your control pretty much. You just do whatever you can do on the ice and that’s what I did. I think what I bring to the table are my hockey sense and my skating. I think I’m a really good first -pass guy, breaking out pucks.
“Growing up I watched Kris Letang, Charlie McAvoy, Josh Morrissey from the Jets. I like watching Cale Makar now because he’s an awesome player. He’s one of those guys who is doing everything on the ice. It’s kind of similar to my game.”
Mateychuk comes from an athletic family and credits his mother, Keela, a former figure skater, for his skating ability.
Older brother Maddux plays baseball at Campbellsville University (Kentucky) and younger brothers Kasen and Crosby, and younger sister Brylee plays hockey in his hometown of Dominion City, Manitoba.
Kasen was a Blue Jackets fan long before they drafted his brother.
“He was the Blue Jackets every single time (in video games) so I had quite a few losses to them,” Mateychuk said.