Photo Credit: Candice Ward / Calgary Hitmen
Scouting Report written by Matthew Somma
Matthew Savoie is one of the 2022 draft’s most exciting players and he’ll show you why every night. You’d be hard pressed to find a player that can change the game as much as Savoie can in the offensive zone due to his pace and creativity, and he’s the only player that has been able to challenge Shane Wright for the first overall spot. With Savoie’s WHL-leading 41 points in 25 games and Shane Wright’s underwhelming start to the season, you can start to see why people are wondering if Wright is the best talent in this class or if it will end up being Savoie.
Savoie’s USHL production in his D-1 year was impressive but not strong considering the hype surrounding him. His production in the WHL has been stellar this season, and it’s not just thanks to Savoie playing on one of the CHL’s best teams. Savoie has been able to carry the play on his line and make his teammates look better in the process. Very few U18 skaters are as creative and dynamic as Savoie is, and I believe that there’s still another level that he could reach in his game before the season is over.
Savoie feels like your typical first overall pick. He has all of the skill, upside, creativity, and game breaking talent that comes with most first overall picks, but his size and Shane Wright’s NHL-ready style of play have kept him out of the discussion for first overall.
D.O.B – January 1, 2004
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –179 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right
Savoie’s Style of Play
Savoie is a creative player that seeks the best possible way to create offense and get the puck into the back of the net. He’ll analyze all possible options and make the best possible play within a split second, creating offense before most defenders get a chance to react. Savoie’s hockey sense and skill with the puck make him the most dangerous player on the ice at any given moment. He’ll exploit the tiniest mistake in the defense’s coverage and make the defense pay, creating high danger scoring chances in the process. Everything Savoie does is calculated and you’ll rarely see him make a mistake or put himself out of position in the offensive zone, making him one of the smartest players available in this draft class.
Savoie is like a gnat in the offensive zone. He’s always buzzing around, and no matter how many times you swat at him, he won’t go away. You can’t stop Savoie from making plays in the offensive zone, you can only hope to contain him. He’ll pester you on the forecheck, create turnovers, attack the puck, and constantly keep his feet moving. Part of what makes Savoie so much fun to watch is that it seems as if he’s never content with standing around. He has to move around and keep changing the angles and lanes for the defense, slowly wearing them down until they make a mistake and he can strike.
I see Savoie being more of a playmaking threat rather than a scoring threat at the NHL level because of how good of a passer he is. Savoie has the potential to be a 60, maybe even 70+ point player and a first line center in the NHL for a long time. He’ll do some of his best work along the wall, making cross ice and seam passes look effortless. A lot of Savoie’s skills can be attributed to his elite hockey sense and vision, too. Savoie sees the ice better than anyone I’ve watched this season, with the ability to know where his teammates will be and where the defense won’t be. He has the ability to execute those perfect passes as well, meaning that all his teammates have to do is score off of a perfect set up.
Savoie’s ability to thread passes through multiple defenders is something that will carry him to NHL success.
Savoie relies on quick bursts of speed and elite puck handling to get around defenders. He’ll slow the game down and then take two steps while deking and manage to get around a defender, creating a scoring chance out of nothing. If you give Savoie even the slightest bit of room to work with, he’s going to make you pay for it. I don’t see any cause for concern when it comes to Savoie’s skating. I’d say that it’s good to great, although I do think he needs to lengthen his strides a bit. He can take little baby steps and won’t get a lot of power early on, so it almost looks like he’s a Scooby Doo character running from the villain when he starts to get going in transition. Savoie has clean edges and can make skating look effortless once he gets up to speed, though. Some time with a skating coach should iron out the issues that I’m seeing with his first few steps. Other than that, I’d say that Savoie’s skating is close to NHL ready if it’s not already there.
One of Savoie’s best traits is his ability to lead defensemen with his eyes and body language. His eyes will sell the shot, he’ll face the goalie, and once he draws additional pressure, he will fire off a perfectly placed pass to a wide open teammate for a goal. Very few U18 skaters can manipulate defending players as well as Savoie can. He’ll have an entire defense sold on a shot or a pass and will fool them nine times out of ten. I’d describe Savoie as a puppeteer in the offensive zone due to his high levels of deception. He’ll control a defense and it’s fascinating to watch.
One thing I’ve noticed about Savoie when watching him this season is he’s a very confident shooter. He won’t hesitate to shoot when the opportunity presents itself, and his shot can be lethal from the circles and closer. Savoie’s shot is quick and there’s a good bit of power behind it, making him a bit of a dual threat in terms of playmaking and goal scoring. I wouldn’t say that he has the hardest shot in this draft, nor is he the best sniper, but Savoie has as close to an NHL shot as it comes at this age. When he doesn’t have the puck on his stick, Savoie keeps his feet moving and gets into a shooting lane. His ability to analyze the play and move into an open area of ice is one of the many reasons why he has 14 goals so far this season.
I love that Savoie isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, but I would like to see him take smarter shots. I feel that he can be guilty of trying to do too much with his shots, such as trying to pick a corner or thread the needle under the goalie’s arm instead of shooting for a rebound or a different area. As a result, a lot of Savoie’s shots either get swallowed up with little difficulty or miss the net entirely, something that can kill offense for his team once he reaches a higher level. Being willing to shoot isn’t a bad thing, but Savoie will have to understand that it’s not always beneficial to force a shot. That said, I’ve seen improvements this season on his decision making while shooting and that should bode well for his NHL success.
Savoie’s defensive game is about what you’d expect for an undersized forward. He can get beat one on one due to his lack of reach, but his elite skating ability can allow him to get back and make some impressive defensive plays in transition. I would like to see Savoie display more aggression on the puck in the defensive zone, too. I know that he can be a nuisance on the forecheck, so if he can translate that to the defensive side of the puck, he’ll be a thorn in the side of opponents for a long time. Savoie makes the occasional smart play with his stick, however, making a poke check or stick lift to break up an offensive rush. Otherwise, Savoie is pretty average in the defensive zone.
Matthew Savoie has star potential at the NHL level, especially if he can continue on the developmental track that he is currently on. I’ve talked about deceptiveness and Savoie’s ability to manipulate defenses, and that will lead him to NHL success. Savoie has the potential to dazzle audiences on a nightly basis with his outstanding hockey sense, pace, and puck handling skills. Savoie could easily put up 50 assists in a season on a regular basis in his prime given how well he sees the ice and how easily he can find teammates with his passes. I’d argue that 70+ point seasons are well within the realm of possibility for Savoie if he can continue along this path.
After watching Savoie closely for a while now, I feel that it’s safe to say that he has a high probability of NHL success. Savoie will be able to keep pace on any line and slow down or speed up his game to adjust to the play style of his linemates. His timing on passes and positioning makes him one of the stronger offensive players in this draft class and a potent scorer and playmaker whenever he’s on the ice.
Some of my biggest questions with Savoie’s game involve how he’ll adjust to the NHL. Savoie hasn’t faced the strongest competition at times this season, and I feel that he can be a little inconsistent against the better WHL teams. Typically, those are the teams that give him less space to work with, so I’m curious to see how Savoie is able to adapt. He won’t be given a lot of time or space to work with in the NHL, so he’ll have to rely on his quick decision making and hockey sense in order to create high danger chances.
Another question I have is whether or not Savoie can take his game from great to elite. There’s no argument in my mind that Savoie has looked great for the vast majority of the season. I’ve seen flashes of elite play, but not on a consistent enough basis for me to believe that he could be a top ten, maybe even top five, center in the NHL. Right now, Savoie is playing like a potential top ten pick with the potential to put up 50, perhaps even 60 points at the NHL level. I’ve seen a much higher gear to his game where he looks flat out dominant and a player capable of becoming a 70, even 80-point player at the NHL level. That’s when he looks like a true second overall pick that could contend for the first overall spot. Right now, however, I’m waiting on Savoie to play at an elite level consistently.
Obviously, teams will worry about Savoie’s size and average defensive play. I don’t see it as an issue moving forward. Savoie is a deceptive skater and can avoid physical contact in all three zones, and his defensive play isn’t bad for a player his size. A player’s size doesn’t determine a player’s skill level, so passing on Savoie would be a huge mistake. Teams passing on a potential franchise cornerstone would be a bold strategy, and not one I’d recommend. Top centers, especially right handed ones, don’t come around every day.
At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to how Savoie is developed and how he handles the transition to the pros. I believe that he can play in the NHL as early as next season given his dynamic nature in the offensive zone and adequate defensive zone play. Savoie should be able to thrive in the modern NHL thanks to his speed and creativity.
The Inaugural and totally real Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson “Most Electrifying Player” Award goes to Matthew Savoie for his exciting play. Savoie’s game is all about drive, it’s about power. He stays hungry and he devours the competition. I’m not sure about Samoan in his veins, but I do know this: he’s a damn good prospect and someone I’d be clamoring to draft if I were a team with a lottery pick.
December 13, 2021
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Matthew Somma. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @Mattsomma12.
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