Let it be known that Matthew Savoie is better at Call of Duty than his bigger brother. Modern Warfare 2 is his game of choice. NHL 22? That swings the other way.
But the only game that really matters? Mini sticks. And that’s where Carter had the advantage growing up.
“I used to get pretty physical in the basement,” the younger Savoie said with a smile. “He’s a little bit older, a little bit more developed. It pains me to say that he’s a little bit better.”
The real game Matthew Savoie wants to have the edge in, though, is on the ice in the NHL. Carter Savoie, a sophomore with the University of Denver, was drafted in the fourth round by the Edmonton Oilers in 2020 after a tremendous two-year AJHL campaign. Matthew, though, likely won’t have to wait as long on draft day. He’s projected as high as top five, as low as just near the bottom of the top 10.
Having an older brother to lean on in a draft year is something that Matthew doesn’t take for granted.
“Our relationship is obviously really special. We’ve been best friends since we were kids and spent so much time together growing up,” Matthew said. “To have a guy like that go through the process, he knows what it takes and has given good insight into how it all works. It’s great.”
The hype surrounding Savoie has been around for nearly half a decade, and he’s just 18. Savoie’s minor hockey career was so good that he applied for exceptional status in 2019 after putting an absolute beating on the U-18 Canadian Sport School Hockey League, made up of some of the best youth hockey programs in Western Canada. Savoie was ultimately denied the opportunity to become the first WHLer granted exceptional status did get into 22 games with the Winnipeg ICE as an underaged player.
Matthew’s route to the NHL has been much different than Carter’s. The elder brother was selected by the ICE, but elected to go the NCAA route. Matthew viewed the CHL as the better option for his development.
“I wanted to play against the best competition early, I didn’t want to have to wait to go to college and go play Junior A or find another place to play,” Matthew Savoie said, although acknowledging COVID-19 forced him to look elsewhere first. “I thought (going to the WHL) was the best chance to play against the best competition and I jumped at it. I thought Winnipeg was a great fit.”
COVID-19 prevented Savoie from getting a proper WHL rookie season last year, instead taking his talents down south to record 38 points in 34 regular season games in the USHL with Dubuque, good enough to make the all-rookie team. That was vital, because while the WHL did eventually return, the ICE played just 24 games. Playing those extra games in such a year was good for his development.
“With the uncertainty of how many games the Western League was going to play, I just wanted to get some guaranteed games in and get my development back on track, back on the ice and skating with a good junior team,” Savoie said.
Savoie eventually returned to Winnipeg, where he has an incredible 32 goals and 84 points in 61 games. The only U-18 skater with more points this season is 2023 draft phenom Connor Bedard, who has 87. Savoie’s 84 points ties projected No. 1 pick Shane Wright for the lead among first-year eligible CHL prospects.
Playmaking has always been a highlight of his game. But Savoie’s 32 goals in 61 games put him third on Winnipeg behind Flyers prospect Connor McClennon (40) and potential second-round pick Mikey Milne. Savoie sits fifth in goals among U-18 WHL scorers, with Bedard once again leading the way with 45.
The ICE haven’t needed Savoie to put pucks in the net at a frequent pace. But with the way he’s playing now, there’s no question he could realistically hit 50 next year if he doesn’t make the NHL immediately. “WHL teams better hope he doesn’t return,” a scout said. “He’s going to lay an absolute beating.”
Savoie is a centerman in a draft that already contains Wright and Logan Cooley. At 5-foot-9, Savoie is a bit undersized, and that’s part of why he hasn’t been talked about more in top three conversations like he was last year as part of the initial “big three” with Wright and Finland’s Brad Lambert. But the numbers are there.
The term “elite” is thrown around too much for junior hockey players, but compared to the rest of the class, very few see the ice and can set up plays as well as Savoie. A high-end skater, Savoie led the CHL Top Prospects Game skills sessions in four drills: 30-meter forward with puck, weave agility with puck, transition agility and reaction with puck drills.
“I’m a relentless player, I like to play the game fast. I like to always have my feet moving,” Savoie said.
What’s his potential? Many scouts believe he can be an 80-90 point player in the NHL. Some believe he’s the best pure offensive threat in the entire draft. His skating is far above most kids in the class, his shot is dangerous, and he’s creative and is equally good as a scorer and a set-up man. There’s a bit of Brayden Point in Savoie’s game, although some scouts wish his defensive game was a bit more effective. But he won’t be paid to put pucks in the net; he’s an offensive dynamo, period.
The ICE are hoping for a long playoff run, and Savoie will be a big part of that rush. Savoie also has a shot at making Canada’s World Junior Championship team in August and should be a key contributor to the 2023 team, wherever that tournament ends up getting held.
Between all that, his lifelong dream of getting drafted will become true. And while most prospects will tell you they’re not thinking about it, Savoie definitely is. And he’s ready.
“It’s a nervous time and it’s also an exciting time,” Savoie said. “I’m trying to just make the most of it and have fun with it.”