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Prep Watch: Off to the races

Toronto Marlboros center Matia Marcantuoni accepts the MVP award from Don Cherry at the Greater Toronto League All-Star Game.

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Toronto Marlboros center Matia Marcantuoni accepts the MVP award from Don Cherry at the Greater Toronto League All-Star Game.

It’s fun to think of Prep Watch as an exclusive club, but who knew those members actually network?

When informed he would be the focus of this week’s edition, Toronto Marlboros center Matia (Mah-Tee-uh) Marcantuoni noted he had already played with a fellow Prep Watch star, Luca Ciampini.

The odd thing, of course, is while Marcantuoni calls Ontario home, Ciampini plays in Quebec for Les Patriotes de Chateauguay.

“We played together in the summer for the East Coast Selects team,” Marcantuoni said. “We were on the same line.”

And based on the pedigree of both players, don’t be surprised to see the pair reunited on some national teams in the future. For Marcantuoni, there’s no question the motivation is there.

“He’s really serious about his future hockey career,” said Marlboros coach Dan Brown. “He’s very committed.”

Marcantuoni, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound speedster, joined the vaunted Marlboros because of the tradition of coaching excellence the program has, producing players such as John Tavares, Rick Nash and Jason Spezza. Plus, it didn’t hurt they were one of the best teams in the league at the time. And with Marcantuoni’s wheels, the team has continued to thrive; currently ranked second in the OHL Cup’s power rankings.

“In terms of skating,” Brown said, “he’s one of the best in his age group, with his speed, balance and power.”

And Marcantuoni uses that speed to get his way on the ice as a finisher and a distributor.

“I would characterize him as both,” Brown said. “His playmaking ability continues to improve and he’s always been a goal-scorer.”

When asked about his strengths, the youngster agreed with his coach.

“Skating for sure,” Marcantuoni said. “And puck possession; creating time and space for my teammates out there.”

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The Marlboros center will be a hot commodity when the Ontario League’s draft comes up this summer, where he’ll likely be a top-five pick, but for elite players such as the 1994-born Marcantuoni, there is always the college option to consider as well.

“As of now,” he said, “I’m pretty undecided.”

But at least Marcantuoni has had a chance to do some research. Thanks to tournament play, he and his Marlboros teammates took in one of the best rivalries in all of hockey during a recent trip to the U.S.

“We saw Michigan State play Michigan,” he recalled. “Then we saw them play each other again at Joe Louis Arena on the Sunday. That was probably the best.”

Wherever Marcantuoni ends up, his Toronto coach is sure the kid will make an impact that begins with his character.

“Matia is a real gentleman, very polite,” Brown said. “He’s a good student, very coachable.”

He’s also ahead of the curve in terms of development. Along with being named MVP of the Greater Toronto League All-Star Game (where he met Don Cherry), Marcantuoni has also played above his age group with the St. Michael’s Buzzers, a Jr. A team in the city. In his first two games with the Buzzers, he had two goals and a shootout winner.

If he can help his team win that OHL Cup this season, he’ll really be going light speed.

Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every second Thursday throughout the season.

For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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