Top 25 Under 25, no. 14: The Matt Puempel Edition
When the Ottawa Senators selected Stefan Noesen with the 21st overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minneapolis, there might have been a slight sense of disquiet among the Puempel clan. As he admitted in a post-game interview, the Senators had given him the impression they would select him, should he still be available. Still, twenty-first pick came and went with a Texas native donning Senators’ gear.
With the Senators passing on him with the pick they acquired from Nashville, Puempel may have been envisioning a selection by the Maple Leafs, who were selecting 22nd and 25th overall. A native of Essex, Ontario, Puempel has always been a fan of the Leafs. Essex is just outside of Windsor. It would have been geographically sensible for him to be a Red Wings fan. Do you think he ever wonders “what if”? I’m digressing. The Leafs did not pick Puempel- selecting Tyler Biggs, and the Ottawa Senators traded up with the 35th overall selection and Chris Campoli the 48th pick in the draft to take Detroit’s 24th. Puempel found himself on the other side of the Quasi-Battle of Ontario.
Matt Puempel has spent the last three seasons in the OHL, all of them with the Peterborough Petes, before graduating to the Binghamton Senators, for whom he played his first game last weekend. In his first season, the Petes were a playoff team. They were far from it last year. In one of the worst campaigns across the CHL, the Petes lost 2.25 games for every 1 they came away from with two points. Alas, their 43-point performance and .316 winning percentage was masked by the total ineptitude of the Barrie Colts- they won a single game for every 4 times they took to the ice. Ugly. Puempel’s numbers were not dragged down by his team’s lack of success. Rather, he came away from his second season with another 30-goal year, and contributed to over a third of the Petes’ scoring plays with 69 points on a team that scored 195 goals. The Peterborough Petes’ Puempel (alliteration!) had his season held back by a hip injury, which required surgery. Puempel was thus not on the ice for an important portion of the season, and his draft ranking suffered as a result.
Injury troubles have come back again, this time in the way of the second concussion of Puempel’s young career. There’s fairly little documentation of the first and this one was far more severe. His return to gameplay for the first time since January 5th was this past weekend in Bingo. Two concussions at this age is worrisome enough, his development can wait while he recuperates. Puempel’s season has been stunted by a suspension for a check to the head of an opponent, as well as some earlier injuries. The latest, the concussion, kept him out of the lineup for the better part of 2012.
If Puempel can get back on track after his injury troubles, he projects to be a top-six scoring winger. With some draft reports suggesting he was the “purest goal scorer” of the lot, there is a fair amount expected of Puempel. Moreover, he was considered to be one of the top prospects heading into the season, before the hip injury. The guy has a seriously awesome release, and footspeed enough to go with it.
Peumpel does not have too much company in the world of high-end prospects on the left wing for the Senators. The most immediate priority on the depth chart comes in the way of Jakob Silfverberg, but Puempel likely falls in line behind, a shade ahead of Shane Prince and certainly projecting as a different kind of (better) player than the rest (Darren Kramer, Max McCormick, Jeff Costello, Brad Peltz).