Of all the players you might have thought would be step up to mentor Calgary Flames newcomer Matthew Coronato upon his arrival to the Saddledome, fellow rookie Jakob Pelletier probably wasn’t at the top of the list.
But that’s what happened. The recently turned 22-year-old Pelletier was attached at the hip with his new 20-year-old linemate on the ice. Then off the ice.
“He was unbelievable with helping me through drills, helping me with really everything. We went to lunch together. He picked me up on his way here,” Coronato said during an intermission interview with Sportsnet at the Dome on Tuesday as the Calgary Flames beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“He’s been a real leader for such a young guy here.”
Together, the two of them — a left-handed playmaker and right-handed sharpshooter — could find themselves in top-six roles for the next evolution of the Flames.
Pelletier said it was natural for him to be a guide. His debut this season wasn’t all that long ago, and he’s only got 23 more NHL games tan Coronato on his resume. So, he knows all the feelings that come with the leap into the big league.
“He’s close to my age, right?” Pelletier said in an interview on the Calgary Flame website. “I remember my first practice with the team. I was kind of scared and stressed out because I wasn’t sure what the drills were going to be like. I just wanted to help.
“We were on the same line with Rosey (Adam Ruzicka) and I just wanted to help explain some of the drills and help make him more comfortable out there.
“He’s a smart guy, so it was pretty easy for me to explain.”
Coronato, a Harvard sophomore who will finish his semester online, is part of an exciting crop of prospects for a Calgary Flames franchise that has avoided the word rebuild like James Reimer avoids Pride jerseys.
He may have to wait a bit before his solo warmup lap comes, but his first practice line with Ruzicka and Pelletier could, as early as next season, become the kind of dynamic fourth line fans here have been dying to see. The year after that, maybe it’s their third line. Certainly, there is some higher-end talent in development right now with Coronato, Pelletier, Connor Zary and defenceman Jeremie Poirier.
In no particular order, goalie Dustin Wolf would round out the top five prospects. That doesn’t include the red-hot Walker Duehr, either.
Imagine a roster of forwards with some combination of Elias Lindholm, Nazem Kadri and Mikael Backlund down the middle with wingers Jonathan Huberdeau, Tyler Toffoli, Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane, Blake Coleman and Duehr filling out the top nine.
A fourth line of young but savvy 200-foot players Pelletier and Coronato on either side of a big, powerful and super skilled centre in Ruzicka could find itself plenty of mismatches if all three consistently bring the kind of play they’re capable of.
If the quest for the NHL playoffs falls short this year, that’s the silver lining. At some point in the next couple of weeks, we may see that very line out there, looking to make an impression for whatever GM/head coach combination may follow.
For now, Coronato is going to struggle to find the right words for what he’s experiencing daily just living out part of his childhood dream.
“I can’t really describe it,” Coronato said in his first media appearance just days after the 2021 first-rounder ended his college career by inking a contract with the Flames. “I’ve been saying ‘exciting’ a lot. It’s the word that keeps coming to mind. Everything’s really exciting. I’m just grateful to be here right now. It’s an unbelievable opportunity. Just really happy.”