SUNRISE, Fla. — Before he became one of the Boston Bruins’ top prospects, defenseman Matt Lashoff spurned the opportunity to go to Boston University for the life of a player in the major junior Ontario Hockey League with Kitchener.
There, he developed into the player that the Bruins used a first-round draft pick on in 2005 under head coach Pete DeBoer, who’s now in his first year as head coach of the Florida Panthers.
Should the Bruins need him in the line-up tonight, Lashoff will get his first chance to compete against his former mentor’s club.
“Pete was great. He was a great coach for me; one of the best I’ve had,” Lashoff told thebruinsblog.net. “He was very strict, but very fair. I think if you ask a lot of people around the league, a lot of people that have had him, that’s pretty much the consensus on him. He keeps you in check but the systems, and the work ethic that he brings out of everybody, and the way that me makes you want to play and want to love the game and want to do the things that he asks you to bring to the table, are insurmountable.”
Lashoff, who capped his career at Kitchener with 7-40-47 totals in 56 games before he turned pro at the end of the 2005-06 season, is one of a handful of NHL players who skated for DeBoer in junior, including Philadelphia star Mike Richards, Buffalo speedster Derek Roy and Tampa Bay blueliner Steve Eminger. Lashoff points to Richards, a rugged, hard-nosed battler with skill, as the perfect example of a “DeBoer-type” player. And the Bruins rookie strived to be as much that type of player as he could – with DeBoer trying to squeeze it out of him at all times.
“I was a really young kind coming in when I came in. I had some problems … I never had a coach that coached the way he did. I never had a coach that would be really up front with you and tell you exactly what he thought at any time of the day. I thought that was great for me because I was coming out and I was a little bit of a free-wheel sort of thing,” Lashoff explained.
“I think he made me a stronger player just because of the things I was able to handle after him. In the defensive game as well, he was a great teacher. The way he brought it out of you by battling every day and making sure you didn’t let anything affect you. And I think that’s even helped me up here with the way things have gone (since turning pro). It’s been tough but I think that kind of stuff prepared you.”
When asked about coaching Lashoff today after the Panthers’ morning skate at the BankAtlantic Center, DeBoer had only glowing things to say.
“He was always a talented kid. I thought he really was a sponge as far as learning to play the position once we got him,” the Florida bench boss said. “Where he grew up, his roots, he didn’t have a lot of hockey – he was up in upstate New York. I think the foundation of actually playing the position, he kind of got by on his skill level. And when we got him he was still pretty raw. But every day he come to work, wanting to get better, and you see the results.”
The results should keep on coming, and Lashoff might get many opportunities in the years ahead to battle against DeBoer’s teams. The blueliner will always think back to those grueling practices in Kitchener as he continues on his NHL path.
“I remember, some days you didn’t want to go. But it just made you so much better,” Lashoff recalled.” Thinking back at it now, you hated it some days but it really did … it made you so much better. And it was such a pro-style way to attack the game at such a young age. And I think it helps you out.”