2015 NHL Draft Prospect Profile – Matt Spencer
Matt Spencer began his journey to the NHL draft in 2013/2014 when he was selected in the 1st round of the OHL draft, 3rd overall by the Peterborough Petes. Spencer was a standout amongst his peers throughout the 2012-2013 minor midget “AAA” season, winning the OMHA’s Player of the Year Award. Spencer’s Oakville Rangers minor midget AAA team was one of the top teams in the province, and Spencer captained that team to an OHL Cup Championship. The 6’2, 195 pound Spencer, appeared in 71 games with the Rangers in his draft year, tallying 17 goals & 39 assists for 56 points, to go along with 76 penalty minutes. Spencer also saw three games of action as an underage call up with the tier 2 Jr. A Oakville Blades. Throughout Spencer’s draft year, he was largely considered one of the best defensive prospects available in the OHL draft, blessed with great size, puck rushing ability and great positional play amongst other things. Spencer thrived against his peers, although where he got into some trouble was his questionable decision making in his own zone, and overall puck distribution which was very inconsistent.
In his rookie season in the OHL, Spencer was immediately given top four minutes by Peterborough Petes coach Jody Hull, deploying Spencer on both the teams power play and penalty killing units, Spencer quickly cemented himself as one of the teams most reliable defenders. Spencer appeared in 64 games for the Petes in 2013-2014, potting just one goal, but was able to record 14 assists for a total of 15 points. Maybe the most impressive thing about Spencer’s rookie season in the OHL, was his plus 5 rating, despite playing top four minutes against other teams top lines. Spencer was able to translate his game from the Minor Midget AAA level to the OHL with relative ease. He continued to inject himself physical, he continued to rush the puck with great success, and he continued to be productive on specialty teams. Spencer’s game reached another level come playoff time for the Petes, appearing in 11 games, Spencer recorded 4 assists, to go along with 19 penalty minutes and a plus 1 rating. The impressive thing about Spencer’s 11 game playoff run as a rookie was the fact he was arguably the Petes most reliable defensemen throughout the Petes 1st round series against the Kingston Frontenacs, who came into the series as huge favorites. While Spencer’s Petes where ultimately swept in round two by the Oshawa Generals, Spencer’s rookie season was my all accounts a very successful one. During the 2013-2014 season, Spencer also was named to Team Ontario’s U-17 squad, where he thrived in a leadership role, as an assistant captain. Spencer was able recorded 1 assist and 6 penalty minutes in 5 games for Team Ontario.
Spencer is blessed with impressive size, and great physical attributes. He is extremely fleet of foot, has an impressive stride, and an ability to transition from forwards to backwards with relative ease. He works his edges well, hos first few strides are effective in allowing him to accelerate quickly. A two-way defenseman, Spencer at this date and time is currently more adept in his defensive zone, with some immense untapped potential in the offensive zone. Spencer has great awareness defensively, he accurately judges when and when not to jump up into the play and when to pinch in the offensive zone or retreat. Spencer shows a willingness to play and in your face, physical game, while staying under control. He’s very good in 1 on 1 situations off the rush, he closes gaps very well and has an ability to force opponents wide, he uses his large frame and active stick to defend at an above average level. Spencer has deceptively good puck control, and makes short passes very crisp and accurately. He could still stand to improve on his stretch passes and overall decision making on the rush, however that area is much improved from his minor midget season. He’s added some weight to a once thin frame, making himself even tougher to play against. Spencer is a very intriguing defensive prospect, his size, skating ability and physicality, mixed with his great on ice awareness and untapped offensive potential, its clear why Spencer was considered one of the best defenders in the ’97 OHL draft class, and why he’s now considered a top 30 pick in this his NHL draft year.
Spencer, appeared for Team Canada at the annual Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament this past summer, where he stood out amongst several other players who are expected to be top picks in this years NHL draft. Expect him to represent Team Canada at the season’s end Under 18 tournament.
I expect to see Spencer go some where between the 18th pick and the 35th pick on the low end. An impressive second half to his season, coupled with a good performance at the Under 18 tournament would only see his stock rise. Spencer is currently rated #22nd on ISS’s November draft list, #27th on future considerations draft list and 20th, and 31st by TSN’s Craig Button.
Written By:Mike Mackley