CALGARY — Brandishing a lethal shot, Calgary Flames rookie right-winger Matt Coronato got off to an impressive start Sunday.
Coronato scored a hat trick and added an assist as Calgary opened pre-season play with a 10-0 thumping of the Vancouver Canucks.
“Some guys can shoot the puck," said Flames coach Ryan Huska. "I remember Brett Hull, he could hit it from anywhere — in front of him, behind him, anywhere.
"So some guys have a gift that they just know how to hit a puck and I think he's one of them."
Hull, who opened his NHL career with the Flames, makes for quite a flattering comparison for Coronato given he finished with 741 career goals.
“I'm just trying to find open space when I don't want have the puck, always moving without it,” said Coronato. “There were a bunch of great plays by other guys set up a bunch tonight. For me, I'm always trying to move and get open in spots where I can shoot.”
The Flames' first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2021 draft made his NHL debut in Calgary's final game of the season last year. It was a couple weeks after the 20-year-old turned pro and signed his entry-level contract following the completion of his second NCAA season at Harvard.
“If you were to look at his second goal today, it just luckily popped to him, but it was off of his stick in a hurry so goaltenders don't get a chance to get set,” Huska explained. “When you can shoot it hard like he can, that makes a goal scorer, for sure.”
Jonathan Huberdeau also praised Coronato's shot.
“His shot is one of the best shots I've seen,” said Huberdeau, who had a pair of goals. “He's a great player. I knew it from last year. Had a great summer and rewarded with a hatty tonight."
Nazem Kadri, Jordan Oesterle, Noah Hanifin, Connor Zary and Ben Jones also scored for Calgary in Huska's first game as head coach, replacing the fired Darryl Sutter. Adam Ruzicka and Dillon Dube each chipped in three assists.
The Flames dressed a far more veteran-laden lineup than the visitors and it showed in the number of mistakes made by the visitors.
“A lot of giveaways, obviously the power-play goals, then you're chasing the game, but the guys were trying,” said Canucks coach Rick Tocchet. “I know people don't want to hear it, but it is a learning experience.
"These guys are young guys and you gotta teach them, keep teaching them.”
A good sign for Calgary was the two-goal effort from Huberdeau, who didn't have one multi-goal game last year.
The 30-year-old is entering the first of an eight-year, US$84 million contract extension he signed in 2022 shortly after he was acquired in a trade with Florida that sent Matthew Tkachuk to the Panthers.
Huberdeau's first year in Calgary was a disappointment as his point total plummeted to 55 (15 goals, 40 assists) after a career-high 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) in 2021-22, when he finished tied for second in league scoring.
Both of Huberdeau's goals came as a result of pretty offensive plays.
He made it 3-0 at 8:43 of the first when he got the puck in the slot, toe-dragged around defenceman Noah Juulsen, then whipped a shot into the top corner.
His second came off a beautiful cross-ice setup from Kadri on a 2-on-1 at 9:39 of the second period.
Jacob Markstrom got the start in goal for Calgary and stopped all 20 shots he faced in two periods of action.
Markstorm is another player looking to have a bounceback season. His save percentage fell to .892 last season, after being a Vezina Trophy finalist with a .922 mark the previous year.
Arturs Silovs got the start in net for Vancouver. The Canucks' No. 1 American Hockey League goaltender last season gave up seven goals on 18 shots before being replaced halfway through the second period by Zach Sawchenko.
After not facing a shot in the second, Sawchenko gave up three goals on eight shots in the third.
Zary and Jones's markers less than five minutes into third made it 9-0, prompting chants of, “We want 10,” from the home crowd.
The fans got their wish at 12:23 when Coronato made it 10-0 on the power play.
Flames defenceman Dennis Gilbert left the game and did not return when he was sent heavily into the end boards on a hit by Nils Hoglander. He had to be helped off the ice.
Canucks: Travel to Edmonton to take on the Oilers on Wednesday.
Flames: Play a split-squad doubleheader against Seattle on Monday with a game in each city.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2023.
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press