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A Sizable Advantage

Power forward Matt Martin has worked hard to improve his skating, fills important role on Islanders ranking 7th in League in hits

Wednesday, 12.08.2010 / 9:10 AM / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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A Sizable Advantage
When you watch a hockey game and admire the athletes who pour their blood, sweat and tears into the game, you often think about the road it took them to get where they are, playing in the best league in the world. For some players, their skating is what got them noticed, while others it was their ability to score goals. But for some players, like Islanders power forward Matt Martin, it was his ability to use his size to his advantage. Martin's been able to translate his size into becoming an agitator who has the confidence to fight and also powering through defensemen to score the dirty goals around the net. Those tools are exactly what got the winger noticed.

"In a hockey game, if we beat the other team’s top players, or all players for that matter, eventually it wears them down. We're expected to go out there, create some energy and bring some big hits. Matt is excellent at that. He’s probably the best on the team in that area.”

Michael Sauer #38 of the New York Rangers fights with Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on December 2, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
And that’s exactly what Islanders management has always liked about Martin.

“He’s not afraid of confrontation and engaging with anyone when the time comes, but the one thing that I like about Martin’s hits are that he’s not really taking himself out of position to make them,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “There are a lot of times where it’s stick on puck, where he’s taking the body. He has good separation and he’s able to get the puck back with his hits.”

This season, Martin has recorded the most hits on the Islanders roster with 81 in 17 games. With that statistic, he ranks seventh amongst all players in the National Hockey League.

“That’s one of my biggest attributes as a player, is my physical play,” Martin said. “I get in on the forecheck, bang some bodies and try and create turnovers, let the defensemen know I’m there and create room for my linemates. I just try to go out there and make an impact any way I can.”

Well, that’s exactly the type of player Martin has always been. In his first two years with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, Martin’s job was to protect current Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos.

Like all young prospects, when Martin was selected by the Islanders in the fifth round (148 overall) of the 2008 Entry Draft, he came to rookie camp with excitement and an eagerness to impress the coaches, get the opportunity to go to Training Camp and make the team.

But that first year, the Islanders sent him back to Sarnia.

“Heading into my first camp, my skating ability was one of the biggest concerns the organization had for me,” Martin said. “It was something I really needed to improve on and I knew that myself.”

After getting a taste of playing with the big club in Training Camp, Martin went on to complete his third season with the Sting during the 2008-09 season and recorded career best numbers in goals (35), assists (30), points (65), +/- ranking (+6), power play goals (17) and shorthanded goals (1).

The following year, Martin came back to Mini Camp with the mindset that he would make the roster and he made his professional debut with the Islanders AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

While Martin knew this wasn’t his ultimate goal, he worked hard every day to improve and get his skating up to the level he would need to play in the National Hockey League. Martin spent numerous hours working on his skating technique with Sound Tigers assistant coach Matt Bertani as they practiced skating, studied video of his performance in games and filmed him skating in practice.

His hard work paid off as he was recalled on emergency loan Oct. 25 and has played in 17 games for the Islanders this season. He was also recalled by the Islanders for five games last season where he recorded 2 assists and 26 penalty minutes.

“I’ve worked hard on improving my skating and I’m grateful for everything Matt Bertani has done for me,” Martin said. “He’s helped me a lot. And Bernie (Cassell, the Islanders Skill Development Coach), this year, has also been a huge influence.”

But Martin isn’t the only one who has taken notice in his game. Capuano, who has coached the power forward at different points over the past two seasons, said he's noticed Martin's growth.

“For Matty as a power forward, improving upon his skating does a lot because when he’s one-on-one with a defenseman he has the power to get to the net and use his edges and use his body,” Capuano continued. “That’s what he has to do at the size that he’s at. But it has helped a little bit of everything. His mobility, his agility, his stride, his skating and you can see it in his change of direction and his acceleration as well. But for him to play at this level his skating had to improve and it has.”

His dedication to improvement also says a lot about his character.

“His skating has improved because Matty (Martin) is the kind of guy that if someone says his skating needs to get better, he is going to work on it,” Capuano said. “He has concentrated a lot on his skating, his stride and his body posture. It’s a tribute to him that as hard as he worked, it’s really improved.”

Having someone that brings so much positive energy and effort into every game has made Martin a fan favorite, and someone his teammates look forward to playing alongside. Last season, Gillies played with Martin on the Sound Tigers and made the big club out of camp. He couldn’t say more positive things about his linemate.

“You know what to expect from Matty every night,” Gillies said. “Every shift, he’s going to give it his all, kind of like me and Zenon (Konopka). We might not be the most skilled guys in the league, but we’re going to give you an honest, hard effort every single game. He’s one of my favorite rookies that I’ve ever played with and I’ve played 12 years in the minors.”

Whether it’s 12 years or one year in the AHL, Gillies and Martin have made this transition together and together they take every opportunity to use their intimidating size against the opposition each night.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 63 41 17 5 171 139 87
2 NYR 62 39 17 6 196 153 84
3 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 64 30 35 4 65
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 64 14 27 22 41
B. Nelson 64 17 19 7 36
F. Nielsen 64 11 25 12 36
A. Lee 58 20 13 13 33
J. Bailey 52 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 54 7 23 16 30
N. Leddy 64 8 18 15 26
T. Hamonic 54 4 21 15 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 33 13 0 .911 2.46
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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