Perhaps forgotten in all the hype surrounding NHL Central Scouting’s top-rated North American goaltender for the 2011 Entry Draft — John Gibson of the U.S. National Team Development Program — was the play of his backup, Matt McNeely.
But unlike his partner at the USNTDP, McNeely was a tad more flashy and daring. That style proved effective — most of the time. It was good enough to get McNeely the No. 4 spot among North American goaltenders on Central Scouting’s list.
“I was pretty fortunate to get the opportunity to play for the NTDP and I made the most of my opportunities that they gave me,” McNeely told NHL.com.
In 27 games, McNeely, who was hampered by a nagging ankle injury for parts of the season, finished 9-12-1 with a 3.84 goals-against average and .891 save percentage. He was unbeaten in six international appearances, going 4-0-0 with a 3.62 GAA and .883 save percentage. He’ll spend next season with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of United States Hockey League prior to entering the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the fall of 2012.
“I originally was going to play at Duluth next season, but I talked to the coaches and we decided it would be more beneficial for me to play a year in the USHL and then go to Duluth the following season,” McNeely said. “The USHL is very competitive, having played in it for two years with the NTDP. We all struggled as 17-year-olds, but got more mature and stronger and came back even better this year. With two years under my belt, I’m confident going in there and making a difference for Cedar Rapids.”
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