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Villalta opens eyes heading into draft

by Brad Coccimiglio (Sootoday.com)

As the NHL draft approaches, there is always talk about goaltenders being late-bloomers

For Soo Greyhounds netminder Matthew Villalta, a growth spurt and a keen eye led to the Godfrey, Ont. product opening some eyes in his first season of major junior hockey.

“This year was a lot of fun for me,” Villalta said. “The guys were great. From my teammates to the coaching staff to the management, they treated me and the rest of the guys really well. They definitely made my first year in Sault. Ste. Marie really fun. I really enjoyed it.”

After a rookie season that saw him post a 25-3-0-0 record and a 2.41 goals against average, the pro scouts have taken notice.

“When you see the raw tools that are there, it’s something that’s hard to teach,” said Greyhounds General Manager Kyle Raftis. “When he adds some strength and power to his game, that could jump to another level.

“He’s someone who doesn’t get discouraged at all,” Raftis added. “He’s one of those guys that works extremely hard in practice. The players see that and play really hard in front of him.”

Having interviewed with numerous teams, the 18-year-old netminder said he isn’t sure if he’ll be selected this weekend “but if I do get drafted, it will be a dream come true.”

“My focus right now is on Sault Ste. Marie and the upcoming season,” Villalta added. “I want to get stronger this summer and prepare myself for the upcoming season.”

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