Matt Filipe needed time to adjust to playing in the USHL after leaving school hockey like a lot of first-year players.
It’s safe to say the 6-foot-2, 203-pound forward has caught on, though. Filipe has registered points in nine of his last ten games and has six goals and six assists during that span for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders.
“The guys in the league are a lot faster and stronger than anyone I’ve played against,” said Filipe, who is from Massachusetts. “It was tough at the beginning of the season, but I’m starting to get comfortable in the league. Just keep making strides and keep developing in this league is what I’m looking forward to the remainder of the year.”
Filipe’s development has been noticeable in just a short time this season. He struggled early on figuring out how to generate consistent points in the USHL. He’s coming a long way as his numbers have shown. He’s used his size to be a nuisance around the net and been able to cash in with attempts from the slot, backdoor chances and rebounds. He has 11 goals and eight assists in 23 games and has a 22.9 shooting percentage on 48 shots on net.
NHL teams are recognizing what Filipe has been doing, and it’s improving his draft stock for June.
“He’s a good player,” one Western Conference scout said. “His game has started to come on. I like his skating and probably his whole skill set. He’s starting to put up some good numbers.”
Roughriders coach Mark Carlson also raved about Filipe as a person and player.
“We always liked his size, his skating,” Carlson said. “I thought he had a skill level. The thing that has really impressed me is the person that he is. He’s a great teammate. He’s great in the room. He cares about winning and cares about learning.”
The defensive side of the game is one area Carlson said he and his staff have been working on with Filipe. He’s liked the progress Filipe has made in that area.
Filipe thought his game could improve in a lot of different places.
“Not really working on one area, but all areas I have to work on,” Filipe said. “Getting more shots on net, focusing on D, neutral zone and transition and all the little things, puck battles and stick battles.”
Filipe will continue his development at Northeastern University. He’s unsure whether he’ll play there next season or the following year. Whenever he does, he’ll be following in his father Paul’s footsteps. Paul played at Northeastern and has been inducted into its hall of fame.
Filipe is looking forward to playing in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 12 in Omaha, NE, but he wasn’t putting pressure on himself.
“If you play good in those type of games, it’s a good thing,” Filipe said. “If have an off night, it’s not the end of the world. I want to show some scouts and guys what I’m made of. I guess it’ll be a good event and a really good shot to showcase myself.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.