TORONTO– Maple Leaf prospect Matt Finn had high expectations for what he planned to accomplish in his third year with the Guelph Storm.
However, a severe bout of mononucleosis early in the campaign and a season-ending knee injury crushed any hope of him meeting his goals.
“It’s tough,” Finn said when looking back at last season. “A little bit of adversity, but in the end I think it will be good for me. Injuries happen and you need to overcome them. Work through them.”
After being selected by the Leafs 35th overall at the 2012 draft in June, Finn spent the summer training in Toronto alongside other prospects and considered himself to be in game shape when the OHL season started in October.
He produced four goals and nine points in his first nine games and the year looked promising as he was amongst league leaders in scoring for defenceman. But even with solid numbers in the stats column and Guelph winning games, he knew something wasn’t right.
“My conditioning was terrible and I had no strength,” said Finn. “I had good summer training so I knew something was off.”
Finn continued to play into the month of November before finally being diagnosed with mononucleosis, which led to him taking off three weeks to get over the illness.
“I had mono probably the whole month of October and didn’t find out until the second week of November,” said Finn.
Finn thought he was over the worst and returned to the Storm lineup on Nov. 30th. But after playing 15 more games below his true abilities, it turned out that he was far from being in the clear with his health.
“I came back played a week and knew something was still going on and it came back harder than the first time,” said Finn. “I was never really over (mono). I knew we were at a time in the season we were pushing (up the standings) and I wanted to help the team.
“I tried to play and felt ok the first couple games but it caught up quickly.”
Taking no chances the second time around, Finn was shut down from January 14th to March 1st so that he could properly recover, which he finally did.
When Finn returned to the Storm lineup in March, the club was battling for top spot in the Western Conference and the defenceman was ready to help the team take the next step as the post-season approached.
However, his run of misfortune wasn’t over.
Five games were all Finn got to play before having his left knee taken out in a game on March 9th. The hit, thrown by Buffalo Sabre prospect Justin Kea, tore the MCL and partially tore the ACL, which ultimately ended his season.
While his knee luckily didn’t need surgery, he was forced him to watch from the stands as his club bowed out of the OHL playoffs in the first round.
“If we went to the second round I would have been able to play,” said Finn.
Finn did six weeks of rehab with Leaf trainer Mark FitzGerald to repair his knee and is optimistic moving forward. He took part in prospect camp this past July and also suited up with the Under-20 Canadian team in August.
“The leg feels great,” said Finn. “I’m going to play with a brace to keep it stable for the year but I’m back up to speed.”
This weekend the 20-year-old will take part in the annual Leaf rookie tournament being held in London, Ont. He hopes to show the organization that all of last season’s setbacks are behind him and that his leg has no lingering issues. The Leafs will also get a better look as he will be paired on the blue line with fellow 2012 pick Morgan Rielly.
“I want to show I’m recovered and taking the next step, show (the Leafs) I am working hard,” said Finn. “I want to make the best impression possible.”
Finn finished last season with 11 goals and 31 points in 41 games with the Storm.