By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It hasn’t been easy, but if there’s anything Matt Mistele has shown over his Ontario Hockey League (OHL) career, besides being one of the league’s top snipers, it’s resilience.
Acquired by the Oshawa Generals in a three-way blockbuster trade at the Jan. 9 trade deadline, Mistele, a Whitby native, had been sidelined with a broken bone in his hand for most of January. He made his home debut on Jan. 23 against the North Bay Battalion and delighted the crowd with a pair of goals in his second game back from injury.
The offense has come easily for Mistele this season. The top scorer for the Plymouth Whalers before being dealt to Oshawa, he now has 33 goals and 25 assists on the season.
However, it hasn’t always been that easy.
A big move
Playing with the Whitby Wildcats, Mistele made the move to Plymouth to play with the Whalers when he was only 15.
“I’ve got family in Windsor and Michigan so it made it a bit easier, but I knew my mom was going to miss me and stuff, but I had a lot of good guys on Plymouth,” Mistele says.
In his first year with the club, Mistele saw little ice time during the regular season, playing only 28 games. It was in his second year that Mistele exploded, playing a full 68 game season and racking up 34 goals and 26 assists. Mistele credits now former Whaler’s coach Mike Velluci with his development at that time.
“Velluci is a great coach,” Mistele said. “He really pushed me to be the best player I could be.”
But things hit a snag the following season, when Mistele only managed 18 goals and 37 points.
“Last year kind of wasn’t my year, and I learned a lot from it and became a better player and person,” he says. “I grew up playing hockey and I love the game, so obviously when you’re going through struggles you just keep pushing through it.”
“I think I was just trying to focus too hard on scoring goals. I’ve always been a guy that can score goals and when I don’t try too hard to just score, and I do other things like defense, that leads to me scoring for sure,” he says.
Despite the slump last year, Mistele was chosen in the sixth round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings.
“I knew there was a chance of me being drafted,” Mistele says. “Wherever I went I was going to be happy and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to get drafted to in LA.”
Along with Velluci, Mistele credits several influential players and his previous coach Don Elland for challenging him throughout his time in Plymouth.
“Playing with all the talented players, whether it was Tom Wilson or Vincent Trocheck or Mitch Heard, it pushed you to want to be better every day.”
Back living with his family in Whitby, Mistele says playing in Oshawa is a dream come true and he hopes the move will take him on the path to a Memorial Cup.
“Obviously they were ranked the top team in Canada before we brought in all these guys, so I can that can only add to how great of a team it is,” Mistele says, speaking of other trade deadline acquisitions in Michael McCarron, Dakota Mermis and Brent Pedersen.
“I’m excited more than anything,” he says.
“I couldn’t ask for a better balance at the end of my (OHL) career. I mean, playing in Oshawa is always something that I thought about and I get to live at home with my family and they get to enjoy me playing here and living at home again.”