If Matt Stoddard’s career had gone the way scouts projected, he’d already be a scoring-line forward in the QMJHL.
Instead, the Porters Lake native is facing a make-or-break situation this month as he attends Halifax Mooseheads training camp in a last-chance bid to keep his career alive.
Stoddard, drafted 35th overall in 2006, has spent the past three seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs, producing only 22 points in 128 games. His role, however, was limited.
“I didn’t feel like I got the opportunity I deserved,” he said. “That’s why I’m grateful to be here because I get a second chance at something I thought I lost in Saint John.”
The 19-year-old enters an ideal situation with the Mooseheads. They need offence â€” desperately â€” and that’s Stoddard’s forte. He had 35 goals and 50 assists for 85 points in 63 games during his midget days with the Cole Harbour McCains.
“That’s something I’ve done since I was four years old, so I’m hoping I can do that for them here,” he said.
His confidence was at an all-time low when the Sea Dogs cut him midway through last season. But he made the best of it by reporting to the junior A Bridgewater Lumberjacks. He played on a scoring line and had 17 points in 17 games.
“As much as I didn’t want to play junior A, I had a good time and it really taught me you can’t take anything for granted and you have to push yourself to be better,” he said.
Stoddard, who was once knocked for being a lightweight, bulked up in a serious way in the off-season after the Sea Dogs granted him a conditional tryout with the Herd. The six-footer is sporting a muscular 192-pound physique at camp.
At age 19, he needs to show he can be productive to crack the roster. The rebuilding club is unlikely to keep a veteran around to toil on the third and fourth lines.
“I know I can bring something to the table,” Stoddard said. “I’m trying to take the ball and run with it.”