Bulked-up Coronato anxious to impress at Flames development camp

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Matthew Coronato hasn’t missed arm day.

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That much was clear as soon as the Flames’ prized forward prospect — a first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft — arrived this week for development camp in Calgary.

“The first thing I noticed with Matthew after not seeing him for a few months is the work he’s put in on his upper body,” beamed Flames development coach Ray Edwards. “One of the action items we had for him was to get a bit stronger in the shoulders, arms, wrists, core, those types of things. And I can see he’s already put that work in.”

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Indeed, Coronato looks like a guy who could turn some heads on that hammer-swinging strongman game on the Calgary Stampede midway.

The summer camp itinerary doesn’t include a trip to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth so when the 19-year-old right-winger reports that he’s added about 5 lb. since the end of his collegiate campaign with the Harvard Crimson, it has nothing to do with corndogs, mini-donuts or mac and cheese flavoured ice-cream.

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Instead, he credits the added bulk to a steady diet of bar-bells, bench-press and clean-and-jerks.

“I’ve been working out at home with my trainer. He’s been great,” said Coronato, currently listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 lb., after Tuesday’s on-ice session at 7 Chiefs Sportsplex. “Putting on upper-body weight was one of the biggest things going into the off-season for me. I think it’s going to be big for being hard on pucks, shooting, just everything … ”

The Flames didn’t host a development camp last summer due to pandemic precautions, so this is Coronato’s first spin in Calgary’s silks.

This lamp-lighting specialist from Greenlawn, N.Y., was Harvard’s leading scorer in 2021-22, piling up 18 goals — including three game-winners — and 18 assists in 34 contests. Across the NCAA Div. 1 ranks, he was one of only three freshmen to average upwards of a point-per-game.

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While some wondered if Coronato might be one-and-done with the Crimson, he’ll return to the iconic Ivy League institution for another season and then will reassess whether he’s ready to go pro.

“I think it’s just important for me to keep getting better,” he explained. “The staff there does a great job with developing guys and moving them on. So I think another year there, get bigger and stronger, continue to develop with a lot of my teammates that I like a lot … I just thought it was the best move for me.”

While Coronato’s ETA remains uncertain, the sharpshooting winger has been adamant he won’t be following the footsteps of Harvard alum Adam Fox. Originally drafted by the Flames, the stud defenceman — now a Norris Trophy winner with the New York Rangers — made it known he wouldn’t be willing to sign in Cowtown and his rights were ultimately traded.

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“I’ve said it before — I want to play for the Flames,” Coronato reiterated Tuesday. “I’m not sure exactly when that will be. Really, it’s up to management and what they think. But I want to play for the Flames. It’s important to keep developing, in my eyes, but that’s the end-goal for me, for sure.”

Calgary’s prospect camp continues Wednesday with more drills and skills work, and the get-together will wrap with Thursday’s scrimmage. There’s also been a full slate of off-ice activities — everything from a nutrition class and cooking competition to media/social-media training and a softball game with some former NHL stars.

While the emphasis this week is as much on education as evaluation, the up-and-comers still put pressure on themselves to make a positive impression on team brass and prove that they’ve been dedicated to their individual development plans.

“I just want to show that I’ve made the strides that I was looking for from myself and that they’re looking for from me,” Coronato said. “Trying to be stronger on pucks, a little faster. I do feel like I’ve gotten a little faster over these last couple months. So that’s really the biggest thing is just to show that I’ve been putting in the work.”

Coronato should be back in Alberta next month for a rescheduled edition of the world junior championship. He cracked Team USA’s initial roster in December and is considered a lock to keep his spot.

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