Heading into last year’s preseason, our expectations for Matt Finn were sky high. He had just come off of a near point-per-game season with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, and in the process, captained said team all the way to the Memorial Cup Final. They lost that game, but in the process, he climbed up our charts, making a three position jump from fifth to second on our annual rankings.
Which makes it all the more surreal that we’re opening up this year’s rankings with a twentieth placed Matt Finn.
To call last season a catastrophe for the 21-year-old Toronto native would be an understatement. Right from the start, things got off on the wrong foot for him – or should I say, the wrong knee. Before first had even been dropped, Finn suffered an injury in practice that sidelined him for the first six games of the season.
That’s not a particularly great position for a professional rookie to be in; most players need those first few games of the year to adjust after a long offseason, but in the case of a player who is completely new to playing against men, it’s useful to get your introduction while the opponents are shaking off the cobwebs. Instead, Finn’s debut came two weeks late while still in the midst of recovery, and it showed. despite his offensive skillset, Finn’s first healthy scratch came before his first point, an assist on November 15th. Before he could get a second, he banged himself up again, was scratched twice, and eventually, was sent to the Orlando Solar Bears.
Finn showed some signs of improvement while in the ECHL, putting up a goal an assist over eight games. He was called up in January but remained out of the lineup for a bit, though he eventually squeaked back into the lineup and finally saw the scoresheet again with a goal on January 24th. Things got worse before they got better, though, as he would get re-injured in the middle of February and miss twenty-one more games.
Between thirty-six combined games last year, Finn ended up with just two goals and three assists. He saw no ice time in Toronto’s five-game series against Grand Rapids.
The Year Ahead
Quite honestly, the best thing that Finn can do for himself right now is pretend that last season never happened. It’s very obvious that injuries played a role in him both being in sub-par physical shape, and in him being unable to make up ground in the depth chart throughout the year. Toronto’s defence, at all levels, established their roles relatively quickly and largely avoided the injury bug, meaning that Finn was left in the dust by the time he started skating at full health.
With that said, the climate has changed in the city. The departures of Cody Franson, Tim Erixon, Korbinian Holzer, Eric Brewer, Andrew MacWilliam, and Kevin Marshall have left the organization, freeing up spots on both the Leafs and the Marlies. Scott Harrington will likely get a large chunk of the minutes that were previously reserved for TJ Brennan, but with Petter Granberg likely to miss the start of the season due to his Achilles tear that he suffered in June, there’s plenty of opportunity for Finn to claw his way back into a strong position.
If he’s in good shape and has the mental fortitude to move on from last year’s struggles, there’s no reason he can’t go back to being on an NHL trajectory. His skating, while not elite, is still solid. His puck instincts are good, and he has an effective shot when he gets the opportunity to use it. While he isn’t exactly a special teams wizard, he’s capable of playing powerplay or penalty kill minutes. A scout’s eye would have you believe there is no reason that he can’t bounce back from this.
By the time mid-season rankings come along, expect Finn to either make the biggest jump up the ladder out of anybody in the present top twenty, or fall of our charts entirely. There isn’t much room for a middle ground.