The following article was posted on www.sportsnet.ca on Tuesday, September 18 featuring former Quinnipiac standout Matthew Peca.
By Eric Engels
MONTREAL— I’m not going to lie, I did a double take when I saw the Montreal Canadiens had signed Matthew Peca to a two-year, $2.6 million contract on July 1.
Sure, this was a team that desperately needed to add centres in the off-season. But signing a five-foot-eight, 25-year-old who had 20 games of NHL experience to a one-way, two-year deal seemed like a borderline foolish decision to me.
Three months later I was sitting at the Bell Sports complex in Brossard, Que., watching Peca take his first strides in a Canadiens uniform, when a feeling of déjà vu washed over me.
It was on the eve of the regular season in 2015 that a much deeper Canadiens team put in a waiver claim on 26-year-old Paul Byron; an unexpected move that had most every Canadiens fan rushing to Google just to see who the player was. And the initial reaction to Montreal’s decision was a universal dismissal of Byron’s ability, which was only reinforced when head coach Michel Therrien made him a healthy scratch to start.
No one envisioned Byron could be more than fourth-line contributor with the Canadiens—until they watched him play. Now he’s a middle-six forward who’s hoping to breach the 20-goal mark for a third straight season, playing for a new contract as his three-year pact with the team is set to expire in July.
I can’t say whether or not Peca will have the same type of impact with the Canadiens as Byron has, but I can tell you that my first reaction to watching him skate with the team was that it wouldn’t surprise me if he does. It’s a feeling that’s only grown stronger since watching him scrimmage on Sunday, and one that I think a lot of Canadiens might have when they watch him play his first exhibition game against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre on Wednesday.
I don’t believe people around the NHL will be too surprised to see Peca succeed, either.
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