If the illustration posted by the Calgary Flames Twitter account welcoming Matthew Coronato to the C of Red is numerically accurate, the freshly signed prospect is as bold as his play on the ice.
In it, he was wearing No. 19 — the number he wore for the Harvard Crimson, which also happens to be the digits of Matthew Tkachuk. And maybe that's fitting, considering the massive hole on the right wing that was left behind when Tkachuk forced his exit from the Flames last summer.
The 20-year-old Coronato is a high-motor, offensively gifted bulldog on the ice. The Flames can use more of that on the right side. Tkachuk was a left-shooting transplant to the right flank under Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, but put together a monster 42-goal, 104-point season a year ago. That same effort didn't work for natural lefty Jonathan Huberdeau, who has spent more than a decade on the left side of the ice. Only Tyler Toffoli and rookie Walker Duehr currently patrol the right side with a right shot. And while players like Dillon Dube and Blake Coleman have had some success over there, too,
Coronato is so intriguing, the question of whether he'd sign with the Calgary Flames and end his college career after his sophomore season was as much if not more interesting than the team's long-shot chances of getting into the NHL playoffs.
Until those chances completely dissolve, you may not see Coronato play. Sutter isn't one to plop in a prospect — even a first-rounder — without some observational time up in the press box and plenty of practice time down below. See Jakob Pelletier's debut, and the cup of coffee Matthew Phillips had this season. And Duehr has been scratched in four of the last 10 games despite now having a pair of goals and five points in the past six games he's been in.
Signing was just a first step in Coronato's NHL journey.
"I always intended on signing with the Flames," Coronato said in an interview on Sportsnet 960 on Sunday. "I feel like I made sure that I told people that and I think people in the Flames organization knew that was the way I felt.
"I’m happy the day has come.”
It was a tough ending with Harvard, losing 8-1 to Ohio State in the regional semifinal of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. He finished with 20 goals and 36 points in 34 games for the Crimson, but the Flames' first-round pick from 2021 is thrilled and grateful to be so close to making his NHL debut now.
"I just want to be a player that works hard and does whatever it takes to help the team win," said Coronato, whose entry-level deal is worth $925,000 but also the maximum bonuses allowed.
He'll arrive in Calgary on Monday and is expected to be available for Tuesday's pre-game skate at the Saddledome ahead of the Calgary Flames' game against the Los Angeles Kings. When he actually suits up, however, is a game everyone in Calgary is going to be playing for a while. Other more experienced youngsters are still having a hard time sticking in the lineup right now with so much on the line in every game. The Flames could win all eight of their remaining games and still need help to get in, with both the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators more likely to snag the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
"I think it's just going to be a great experience," said Coronato, who was likely promised at least one game to burn the first year of his path to free agency, which would make him a restricted free agent in 2025.
"I think there's a lot of guys there that I can definitely learn a lot from. There's a lot of guys that you watch when you're a little younger as a kid and look up to, so it's going to be awesome to meet the guys and really kind of just pick their brains."