After a tough outing last Friday against Bowling Green, Matt DeBlouw awoke on Saturday morning determined to have a strong showing in the second half the back-to-back series.
That doggedness turned out a career-best four-point performance, leading his club to a 6-1 victory over their CCHA rivals.
"It was a good game," DeBlouw said, shifting the conversation to the Spartans overall play rather than focusing on his personal accomplishment. "We played really hard, were making smart plays. It was a good night for all of us."
DeBlouw, who was drafted by the Flames in the 7th round (186th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft, has made a great first impression through his first eight games with Michigan State University. He is currently tied for the lead in team scoring with three goals and seven points and is second in shots on goal with 24.
"We've only had him a short time but he's really evolving," Spartans head coach Tony Anastos. "He's a very good skater, very fluent skater. He brings a lot of speed to the game. He's shown, so far, good offensive instincts and, for a freshman, he's been very strong physically.
"I've actually been a little bit surprised by his strength and leverage. But he's such a good skater and that gives him good stability on the ice."
DeBlouw's fitness level has always been top notch. At the 2012 NHL Combine, the 19 year-old tested in the top ten among 105 prospects in six categories, including finishing second in peak power in the Wingate stationary bike test - one of the most highly regarded tests at the combine. He put forth another strong showing at the Flames development camp, an experience he characterized as a lesson on the physical requirements at higher levels of hockey.
"Being in Calgary and seeing what the future has to come, I worked a little bit harder after seeing that."
His fitness level and off-season preparation methods has made the jump from the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL to the Spartans a bit smoother but there are some very noticeable differences between the two leagues. Anastos pointed to the pace of the game as the biggest adjustment DeBlouw would have to make, needing to play a much higher tempo during shorter shifts than he was used to in the USHL, and the pivot concurred with that assessment.
"It's a faster game. You have to make decisions a little more quickly. You have a lot less time with the puck than you're used to."
The offensive numbers the Chesterfield, MI native has put up have surprised some who had him tabbed strictly as a defensive forward with limited offensive upside but that kind of assumption is premature in Anastos' mind.
"I can see where people liked his defensive ability but so far, I wouldn't limit him to just saying he's a defensive forward ... I've been impressed so far with his play at both ends of the rink, not just the defensive side."
While DeBlouw is pleased people recognize his defensive prowess, if his game continues to develop like it has throughout the past three years, he'll likely earn a reputation as a jack-of-all-trades, versatile forward.
"The defensive game, it helps my offensive game," he explained. "If I'm spending less time in the defensive zone then I'm spending more time in their end. That creates more opportunities for me."
MSU is currently in a five-way tie for second in the CCHA with a 4-2-2 record, trailing conference-leading Notre Dame by three points in the standings. DeBlouw is tied for fifth in CCHA scoring, four points behind leader Matt Thurber of Northern Michigan.
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