BUFFALO – Matt Filipe interviewed with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney on Thursday as part of the NHL Combine. He is roommates with Boston University’s Charlie McAvoy, one of the first defensemen expected to be picked later this month.
Filipe is right in the middle of the buildup toward the 2016 NHL Draft. The Lynnfield native is not taking the process for granted.
“You’ve got to take a step back and realize how cool this stuff actually is to be part of,” Filipe said. “You get caught up in the interviews and testing and all that. Sometimes you forget this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing that you do. Overall so far, it’s been great.”
Filipe will conduct his 18th and final interview on Friday. On Saturday, Filipe will undergo fitness testing. The intelligence teams gather from Filipe’s interviews and testing will convince one of them to invest a pick on Filipe when everybody reconvenes in Buffalo on June 24-25 for the draft.
Filipe has good hockey bloodlines. Father Paul Filipe was a Northeastern defenseman. The younger Filipe will be following his father to Huntington Ave., this fall. Filipe will play for coach Jim Madigan, his father’s college teammate.
But Paul Filipe was not drafted. Matt Filipe, the 51st-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, could hear his name called sometime early on June 25 during rounds 2-7. Or, if a team really likes the 6-foot-2, 196-pound left wing, Filipe could be a first-round pick.
Either way, Filipe stands a good chance to be the first Massachusetts player taken in the draft. He would not have had that opportunity had he been born several months earlier. Had that been the case, Filipe would have been eligible to be drafted last year. The 2015 vintage could be known as legendary for Massachusetts because of Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford), Noah Hanifin (Norwood), and Colin White (Hanover), all first-round picks.
But because Filipe was born on Dec. 31, 1997, he has the 2016 class to himself. Filipe would like to continue the tradition that Eichel, a fellow protégé of Woburn strength and conditioning coach Mike Boyle, helped to set.
“Last year, there was a really, really good group of core players that went in the first round,” Filipe said. “To be in that category is pretty special.”
The 18-year-old could have deferred his Northeastern arrival by one season. After his junior year at Malden Catholic, by which time he had committed to Northeastern, Filipe had a decision. He could stay at Malden Catholic for his senior year, then play one season in the USHL to prepare for college hockey. Or he could say goodbye to his friends and go to Cedar Rapids, his USHL team, a year early.
Filipe chose the latter. It wasn’t easy.
“It took time to adjust,” Filipe said of life in Iowa. “Especially being away from my family and going to school in the area, it was a lot different. I got to see them every day. When I went out to Cedar Rapids, I’d only get to see them once a month when they came out to watch me play. Being away from the family was definitely tough. But I adjusted to that pretty quick. The cool thing is there’s 25 other guys in your shoes. They all moved out to Cedar Rapids. Everyone’s moving away from their house for the first time. Being around them makes it a lot easier.”
In retrospect, a year in Cedar Rapids under coach Mark Carlson helped land Filipe in his current positon in the rankings. He learned to play against bigger, faster, and stronger players. He adjusted to the USHL’s defensive style. By year’s end, Filipe had scored 19 goals and 17 assists in 56 games while logging 99 penalty minutes – good numbers for a player who hopes to be an NHL power forward.
“I’ve got good size, so I like to use that to my advantage, whether it’s off the rush or in the corners battling for pucks,” Filipe said. “I spend a lot of time out front tipping pucks, banging in garbage goals, and just being around the net a lot. I play physical in all three zones too.”
The NHL likes its players big. In several weeks, Filipe should not have trouble finding a future NHL employer.