Weight: 170 pounds
Date of birth: June 3, 1999
Hometown: Kingston, Ontario
OHL Draft: Undrafted free agent
A season ago, Soo Greyhounds netminder Matthew Villalta played midget hockey for the Greater Kingston Midget AAA squad. The Native of Kingston, Ontario, went undrafted at the 2016 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection and walked onto the Greyhounds development camp as a free agent invite.
And the rest as they say, is history.
Villalta made an impression at the Greyhounds development camp and received an invitation to attend their main camp. Almost from the get-go he has been pushing incumbent Joseph Raaymakers for starts. Villalta has appeared in 22 games, coming in to replace Raaymakers on five of those occasions.
Villalta has a very impressive 16-1-0-0 record with goals against average of 2.64 and a save percentage of .908. His single loss is the fewest in the OHL of any goaltender that has appeared in 20 or more games. His only loss was a 5-2 loss against the Windsor Spitfires – his first game of the season – and has since reeled off sixteen straight wins. His most recent was last night when he replaced Raaymakers after the first period with the Guelph Storm holding a 3-0 lead and turning it into a 7-5 victory.
Villalta’s goals against average and save percentage are tops among rookie goaltenders appearing in ten or more games. He is sixth in the OHL in goals against average and tenth in save percentage (minimum ten games played). By comparison, his partner in the Soo has a 21-12-2-1 record with a 3.36 goals against average and .892 save percentage.
Villalta didn’t take the easy path to the OHL. By no means am I making this comparison between goaltenders, but as an undrafted goalie, it’s the same path taken by London Knights goaltender Tyler Parsons, with one key difference – Parsons did it the year prior to his draft season.
On NHL, Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings, Villalta was ranked fourteenth among North American goaltenders and fourth among OHL goaltenders behind Michael DiPietro (Windsor) Kyle Keyser (Oshawa) and Kaden Fulcher (Hamilton).
Like all goaltenders his age, it’s all in the ongoing development and fine tuning his technique. He’s a calm goaltender who gets square to the shooter quickly, but needs to make himself bigger when in the butterfly position – a technique that can be adjusted. He controls his rebounds well at times, but there are times they go back in to the dangerous area – again a technique that can be adjusted.
He’s good in close and on second chances, but needs to be stronger on covering up loose pucks. He plays his angles well and gets out to the top of the paint to take away those angle. He needs to get stronger on the short side and hold his posts. He has above average mobility in the crease and can move from side to side well but in my viewings, is weaker moving from his left to his right. His glove hand is solid. He has shown an ability to show five-hole and close it quickly, but needs to be quicker to get back on his feet.
Villalta’s flaws can be corrected as he continues to work on his technique, and he’s willing, by all accounts, to put in the necessary work. I’ve made no secret that I think he can move forward and carry the load for the Greyhounds heading towards, and into the playoffs. In my opinion, he’s a high risk, high reward goaltender.
When he walked onto the Greyhounds camp, GM Kyle Raftis said “he has a high ceiling.”
Statistics of Matthew Villalta, a hockey player from Kingston, ONT born Jun 3 1999 who was active from 2016 to 2017.