Kai Matthew will only be 16 when the Blackfalds Bulldogs hit the ice for the first time in AJHL action this September.
The potential is strong with the Edmonton native who committed to the University of Denver when he was 13 and in Grade 8.
Matthew is also a selection of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers from the 2020 Bantam Draft (5th round, 107th overall).
“I had offers from a lot of AJ teams, and there were options in the WHL, but going the NCAA route will give me more development and more time to prepare for making the next step when I’m older,” says Matthew, most recently a forward for the Northern Alberta Prep Xtreme (NAX).
“A lot of guys previously at Northern Alberta have gone to the AJ, so I know it’s a good league, it’s fast, and it’s going to be tough next year, but I think I can handle myself.”
Hockey also runs in the family, with older brother Elijah previously having played for the Knights of Columbus Pats U18 AAA team in the AMHL, and sister Layla is currently a member of the Edmonton Female Athletic Club’s Bantam Elite Pandas.
Standing at 5’11 and a shred over 160 pounds, Kai Matthew is used to being part of a tight-knit group with the Northern Alberta Xtreme.
Days consist of hockey all morning and then education in the afternoon, all with the same group of guys.
He’ll also come into a Bulldogs dressing room having crossed paths with new teammates Wyatt Wilson, Jayden Joly and Tristan Zarsky.
“I think I’m a fast, pretty skilled forward who can be relied on in both offensive and defensive zones. My best attributes are my skating and speed, and one area I’d like to improve is my shot selection,” he says.
“In terms of my favourite players or who I might model my game after, I pick and choose from guys like Connor McDavid, Nathan McKinnon and Matt Barzal.”
A multi-sport athlete, Matthew quit basketball in recent years to focus on hockey, primary due to his height, or lack thereof. Track, lacrosse, soccer and flag football are also in his repertoire, and that’s not to mention he’s a “pretty good” singer.
Matthew played the Cowardly Lion in an elementary school production of The Wizard of Oz, but admits his teammates won’t catch him crooning ‘If I Were King of the Forest’ in the locker room.
“I do have a good sense of humour though,” he says. “I’m just all about caring for others and having respect for people, on and off the ice.”
The former South Side Athletic Club Lion (and Bulldog for one game) recorded one goal and four assists in six games with the NAX U18 squad last fall before COVID-19 wiped out the season.
The year prior, Matthew tallied 17 goals and 21 helpers for 38 points in 25 games with NAX’s U15 team, and then three points in five games with the academy’s Elite 15s club.
“I think we’re going to be a good team. Usually a team that’s new comes in and they aren’t very good for the first couple years, but I think we’ll be good,” Matthew says. “We’ve got a really good coaching staff and we’re going to have some really good players.”
If you missed it, catch our Black History Month feature with Kai Matthew HERE, and watch for more upcoming editions of New Dogs on the Block.