How long will Matthew Coronato stay in college?

Ryan Pike
2 years ago
Folks, in the current National Hockey League ecosystem, with its salary cap and younger than ever stars, it’s vitally important for clubs to get value out of their first round selections. And quickly, if possible.
The Calgary Flames have been pretty good at getting their first round picks signed quickly and then getting NHL games from them. But with 2021 pick Matthew Coronato headed to Harvard – he’s wicked smart – it’s easy to wonder how long he’ll be in school and when we can expect to see him wearing the Flaming C.
To figure out what expectations should be, we dug into the last five years of first rounds, dating back to the 2016 NHL Draft.

College boys

Here’s a snapshot of the first round picks from 2016 to 2020 who went to college after being drafted, sorted by number of years they played in college after being drafted.
Dylan Holloway202014th (EDM)Wisconsin1*
Alex Turcotte20195th (LAK)Michigan1
Trevor Zegras20199th (ANA)Boston Univ.1
Brady Tkachuk20184th (OTT)Boston Univ.1
Quinn Hughes20187th (VAN)Michigan1*
Oliver Wahlstrom201811th (NYI)Boston College1
Joel Farabee201814th (PHI)Boston Univ.1
Casey Mittelstadt20178th (BUF)Minnesota1
Clayton Keller20167th (ARI)Boston Univ.1
Tyson Jost201610th (COL)North Dakota1
Charlie McAvoy201614th (BOS)Boston Univ.1*
Luke Kunin201615th (MIN)Wisconsin1*
Kieffer Bellows201619th (NYI)Boston Univ.1
Dennis Cholowski201620th (DET)St. Cloud State1*
Tage Thompson201626th (STL)Connecticut1*
Jake Sanderson20205th (OTT)North Dakota2
Brendan Brisson202029th (VGK)Michigan2
Matthew Boldy201912th (MIN)Boston College2
Spencer Knight201913th (FLA)Boston College2
Cameron York201914th (PHI)Michigan2
Cole Caufield201915th (MTL)Wisconsin2
Alex Newhook201916th (COL)Boston College2
K’Andre Miller201822nd (NYR)Wisconsin2
Cale Makar20174th (COL)Massachusetts2
Josh Norris201719th (SJS)Michigan2
Ryan Poehling201725th (MTL)St. Cloud State2*
Jake Oettinger201726th (DAL)Boston Univ.2*
Shane Bowers201728th (OTT)Boston Univ.2
Trent Frederic201629th (BOS)Wisconsin2
John Beecher201930th (BOS)Michigan3
Ryan Johnson201931st (BUF)Minnesota3
Jay O’Brien201819th (PHI)Providence College
Boston Univ.
Jacob Bernard-Docker201826th (OTT)North Dakota3
Dante Fabbro201617th (NSH)Boston Univ.3
Riley Tufte201625th (DAL)Minnesota-Duluth3
Some notes:
  • Players with an asterisk by their Seasons indicates that player was drafted after their freshman year of college.
  • Kieffer Bellows played a year with Boston University, then signed his entry level deal and joined the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks for another season.
  • Jay O’Brien played an injury-filled season with Providence College, then went to the BCHL for a season due to the NCAA’s weird transfer rules before joining Boston University.
Looking at the collection of college-bound first round picks, the general trend is that most players spent one or two seasons in college after arriving. Only a few of them stayed three seasons, and nobody went for the four full seasons.
Part of the reason that college-bound first rounders sign fairly quickly is simple: money. First round selections are typically given (a) the rookie maximum salary, presently $925,000 but also (b) performance bonuses. And first round selections tend to be given a pretty good amount of what are known as Category A bonuses, which give them extra pay if they hit certain thresholds for goals, assists, and points, as well as for finishing in the top handful of players in a few statistical categories. Many first round picks are good enough after a year or two of development in college that they can step into an NHL lineup, play significant minutes, make a significant impact and get significant money really quickly. Weighed against a third year of the college grind, a lot of players decide to head to the pros.
For the curious, 2020’s 13th overall pick Seth Jarvis got $500,000 of performance bonuses (per season) in his entry level deal, so that’s probably a good idea of what’s awaiting Coronato.
Every player is a unique individual with their own hopes, dreams and desires, but at the end of the day players drafted into the NHL have usually dreamt of playing their first NHL game since they were wee lads. And combine that with the opportunity to make serious bank very quickly, it’s no small wonder why so many of them opt out of college after their sophomore season.
In short: it’s reasonable to expect Matthew Coronato to sign with the Flames following Harvard’s inevitable appearance in the 2023 NCAA Championship tournament.

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