Interview: Matias Maccelli Making His Mark in the USHL

Cover photo: Stephen Gassman

Matias Maccelli is playing in his second season with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. The 2000 born Finnish forward joined the Fighting Saints in January and played 36 games with the club last season, scoring 21 points. He added one assist in five playoff games.

When asked why he decided to leave Finland for USHL, Maccelli said: “I felt that I can improve more as a player in the USHL. I also wanted to challenge myself by playing in a stronger league and learn to play in the small rink. I’m also possibly interested to play in the NCAA in the future.”

The jump from the Finnish U20 league to the USHL wasn’t quite what he had thought.

“The jump was bigger than I had expected. The game is much faster and there’s very little time and space compared to the Finnish U20 league.”

This season, Maccelli currently leads the Fighting Saints both in goals (8) and points (17) through 15 games. The roster is much different from the past season, but Maccelli and the team as a whole are off to a good start.

“I had the opportunity to train under Hannu Rautala in the summer, which is why I felt I was ready for the season. This year we have almost a completely new roster, so we’ve been practicing our own game a lot at the start of the season. After a bit slow start, the game of my line has started to go well. We are among the top teams in the league and it’s good to carry on from there.”

Maccelli added: “I’m one of the players who were with team already last season, so I think I have a big role and a lot of responsibility in our team. I have gotten to play a lot both at even strength and on the power play. I try to do my best to help our team win night after night.”

October 6, 2018 vs CR-112
Photo: Stephen Gassman

Maccelli’s skill level and skating ability already stood out significantly while playing for TPS’ junior teams. He was a top point producer, too. He spent most of the 2016-17 season with the U18 team, scoring 46 points in 32 games. Before joining Dubuque last season, he put up 15 points and 15 assists in 34 games in the U20 league.

The winger describes himself as a forward with good puck skills. “I like to have the puck and create scoring chances for my teammates. My best attributes are my vision, skating and puck handling.”

When asked which areas of his game require work, he said he has room to get stronger and improve his defensive game. He also has set two clear goals for this season: to become a more complete player and improve his skills in all aspects of the game.

Maccelli will be eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. He was listed as a ‘C’ skater in NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list, indicating that he’s a candidate to be selected in the 4th, 5th or 6th round.

Have you felt extra pressure because of the upcoming NHL Draft?

“I have not felt any extra pressure and I try not to think about it too much. I play and practice every day as well as I can.”

Maccelli says the best memories of his career have been national team events and other trips abroad when he was younger. Moreover, he mentions the Calgary Flames star forward Johnny Gaudreau as his favorite player.

It’s easy to see why, since Maccelli and “Johnny Hockey” have many similar attributes. And much like Gaudreau, Maccelli has also been a highly productive player over his career thus far. Gaudreau also played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the 2010-11 season and won the USHL Championship. He tallied 72 points in 60 games.

The Dubuque Fighting Saints have a very competitive team this year, too, and Maccelli is one of the leaders as they aim at their sixth USHL championship.

Edited on November 14, 17:25