Chambers: NHL prospects are suffering. Just ask Avalanche draftee Matthew Stienburg

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it a tough year for potential NHL players – the newly drafted players and those eligible in 2021 and beyond.

Some high school, junior, and college leagues have started playing. Others have not. And some of them have their seasons canceled.

It is difficult to develop into a professional hockey player without playing high-level hockey games.

The six Ivy League teams playing in the Eastern College Athletic Conference ended 2020-21, bringing me to Cornell’s sophomore center Matthew Stienburg, Avalanche’s third round draft pick of 2019 from Nathan MacKinnon’s hometown Halifax, Nova Scotia .

Long before the Ivy League teams officially closed the season on Nov. 12, Stienburg sought another place to play while maintaining his NCAA eligibility and taking Cornell online courses. He settled on the West Kelowna Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League (junior-A).

Then he broke his leg. Ten games in what the BCHL considered an elaborate training camp, Stienburg blocked a shot, fell to the ice, hurt and eventually skated to the bench on one leg. He knew he was hurt, but he didn’t know he was hurt.

The next service from Stienburg started with a face-off. “Once I pushed it off, it gave up,” he said of the fibula in his left leg. “It was moved.”

That was November 7. He underwent surgery in Ottawa, Ontario last week, where he is now recovering at his aunt and uncle’s home. Stienburg was in talks with his Cornell teammates on November 12 when the Ivy League announced it was canceling the season.

While ready for the season, he was hoping to root on the Big Red, which was in third place in March with a 23-2-4 record when the remainder of the 2019/20 NCAA was canceled due to the coronavirus. All current Ivy League players can choose to take a redshirt year.

“I think if there is a year to get injured, this is it, given the conditions of all the other leagues that aren’t playing,” said Stienburg. ‘I think I’m lucky that way. But it is never fun going through a rehabilitation process. “

20-year-old Stienburg said the Avalanche has been helpful and supportive on his journey while maintaining the necessary distance required by the NCAA. The Avs chose Stienburg with the 63rd squad last year, so they have a big investment in a smart player who will likely have an Ivy League education before signing professionally.

“My number 1 goal and dream is to play for Colorado, but I recognize the value of an Ivy League education,” he said.

His recovery takes about six months, after which he and everyone else hope the COVID crisis is under control.

“It’s clearly been a rollercoaster for everyone and I think a little more for myself – the journey, the injury, the uncertainty – but it’s been a tough year for everyone and I’m sure a lot of people have more. then a broken leg, ”said Stienburg.

“I am clearly happy that I can now go home for the holidays and spend some time with my family.”

That is currently the silver lining for 2020.