The college free agent market has become a sort of secondary entry draft for NHL franchises. One of the products of that market for the Boston Bruins is goaltender Matt Dalton, who has been holding his own during the club’s Third Annual Development Camp this week in Wilmington, Mass.
“It’s been going good. The first little while I think it took a little bit to get your timing and everything like that on the ice,” Dalton said today after a couple on-ice sessions at Ristuccia Arena. “But I feel good out there now. Just working with (goaltending coach) Bob (Essensa) a bit, on some technical stuff — just trying to get better at some technical stuff — but it’s going good.”
While camp is going good, Dalton’s career as a whole is going great. In 31 games as a sophomore, the 23-year-old compiled a 19-11-1 record with a 2.19 goals-against average for the Beavers. He then led the Beavers to their first-ever Frozen Four, which was also the first national semifinal berth for a team from College Hockey America.
“The group of guys we had and everything, you go through so much together. And to get there is just an amazing thing,” Dalton recalled. “You look at some of the best programs in college hockey, some of them it’s been 10, 15, 20 years since they’ve been to the Frozen Four. It’s a pretty amazing thing and it never really sunk in until a month or two after.”
Bemidji’s season ended in the semifinal at the hands of Miami University, but things kept moving the right direction for Dalton. He soon inked an entry-level contract with the Bruins, who convinced him to forego his last two seasons of eligibility. Dalton said it was tough weighing the opportunity to turn pro against leaving his teammates and temporarily giving up on his education.
“At the same time, my whole goal my whole life was to play in the NHL,” he explained. “So when it came time, I had to take it. I could always go back and finish up school.”
Dalton doesn’t put himself into any goaltending categories as far as style or form. He reads the play and reacts and uses his 6-foot-1, 189-pound frame the best he can. That’s a big reason he might find comfort in the Bruins’ organization, where Vezina Trophy-winner Tim Thomas has been a subscriber to the anything-to-stop-the-puck theory forever and has finetuned his technique around the philosophy.
“He’s a guy I really look up to,” said Dalton about Thomas. “I think he’s a good role model for the guys.”