Matheson Iacopelli’s experience is finally paying off. He dazzled the junior hockey scene as an older player, but struggled in his freshman season at Western Michigan despite being 22 years old. This past season, however, he found his stride and became one of the best scorers in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. His breakout season landed him a two-year entry-level contract this spring with the Chicago Blackhawks and the No. 17 spot on this list.
Birth date: May 15, 1994
Acquired via: 2014 NHL draft, third round (No. 83)
Most recent stop: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Size: 6’3, 206 pounds
Contract: Two-year entry-level contract through 2018-19
Iacopelli’s name is well known in Michigan. He’s played hockey there almost his entire life, and caught the attention of the Hawks’ scouting staff after a 64-point (41 goals, 23 assists) season with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. He succeeded in his second season and earned a scholarship to play at Western Michigan.
But then things didn’t click. Iacopelli only scored one goal and became a forgotten prospect within the Hawks’ system. The same can’t be said after this past season. Iacopelli scored 36 points in 40 games as he helped Western Michigan earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. His 20 goals tied with Nebraska-Omaha’s Austin Ortega for third in the NCHC and his point total ranked ninth in the conference. His goals per game average also ranked 34th in all of college hockey.
Hawks assistant general manager Norm Maciver took notice of his improvement.
“Where he was in year one and where he is this year, he’s certainly leaps and bounds of where he was last year,” Maciver told The Athletic in March.
But he wasn’t done playing after the Broncos season was done. He tallied four points in eight games for the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL after signing a two-year entry-level contract, which begins this fall.
Iacopelli has been credited with a big slap shot and an ability to create space for chances not only for himself, but for his teammates. He doesn’t look like a future top-six forward, but his offensive game could translate well in the NHL, according to SB Nation College Hockey’s Chris Dilks.
“Iacopelli projects as a lower-line power forward at the next level, but could potentially contribute on the power play with his big shot,” Dilks wrote.
The combination of size and scoring upside is too intriguing to ignore, even if he’s a late bloomer with underwhelming skating ability who could totally flame out at the next level.
What’s next in 2017-18?
Iacopelli will likely be back in Rockford for his first full season as a professional. Time certainly isn’t on the 23-year-old’s side compared to other prospects within the system. He’ll need to make a strong impression at the Hawks’ training camp to show he’s worthy of a midseason call-up. If not, expect him to stay with Rockford for this season.