On Sunday morning, just two days after his college team, the University of Massachusetts, was eliminated by Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament, the St. Louis Blues have signed defenseman Matthew Kessel to a two-year entry-level contract that will go into effect in the upcoming 2022-23 season. Kessel will report to the Blues’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, later this week on an amateur tryout. He will then remain with the team for the rest of this season.
The 21-year-old blueliner was born in Phoenix, Arizona, but grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and was drafted by the Blues in the fifth round (150th overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Kessel has three brothers, Mitch, who played football at Cincinnati, Peter, who plays hockey for Holy Cross, and Will, who played hockey for, and captained the Western Michigan Broncos.
Kessel played in 114 games in the United States Hockey League from 2017-19 for the Fargo Force, Chicago Steel, and Sioux Falls Stampede. He helped lead the Stampede to a Clark Cup championship in 2019 and finished his USHL career with 22 points. (Two goals and 20 assists.)
Kessel has spent the last three years at the University of Massachusetts. As a freshman, Kessel was one of six players to appear in all 34 games for the Minutemen and was the top-scoring freshman defenseman in college hockey with seven goals.
As a sophomore, Kessel was one of eight players to play in all 29 games and recorded 23 points (10 goals & 13 assists) in those 29 games while earning All-USCHO recognition and was also named a Hockey East Third-Team All-Star. He also led all defensemen in college hockey in goals, goals per game, and power-play goals and was named to the All-Tournament team at the 2021 NCAA Frozen Four where UMass won their first-ever National Championship, defeating St. Cloud State 5-0.
In this season, Kessel played in all 37 games and had 17 points (six goals and 11 assists.) He was also named as a Hockey East Third Team All-Star for the second straight year. He also served as an assistant captain for the Minutemen this season.
With the signing of his entry-level contract, Kessel ends his collegiate career with 23 goals and 28 assists for 51 points in 100 career games.
Kessel almost never went to Massachusetts. He originally committed to the University of Miami-Ohio to play under coach Enrico Blasi but in March 2019, Miami fired Blasi, and Kessel de-committed but was still determined to play college hockey and a few months later, a Finnish defenseman on the Minutemen got homesick and left the program and the search began for a replacement.
UMass assistant coach Ben Barr had coached Matthew’s older brother, Will at Western Michigan and that connection was enough for Barr to pick up the phone and give Kessel a call asking him to come to play for the Minutemen.
“As soon as we had a conversation with Matt, we felt like he was one of our guys who would fit in here. He didn’t blink for a second.”
Kessel also has a unique story about how he found out that he had been drafted by the Blues. He was on a golf course in Amherst and his phone started blowing up with texts from family and friends but Matthew had no idea why everyone was contacting him all at once, so he decided to look it up and found out that he had been selected by the Blues in the fifth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
He said that;
“It was very exciting,” and “Definitely something I’ll never forget.”Daily Collegian.com
Now after just three seasons of college hockey, the 6’2″ 205 lb defenseman is ready to make the jump to the pros.
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