Matthew Hobbs has a tough job.
The newly-minted captain of the P.E.I. Rocket has the difficult task of helping a young club learn how to win.
After 25 games, the club finds itself at the bottom of the QMJHL standings with a record of 6-16-2-1. The Rocket has also allowed a league-high 121 goals.
Their top defenceman has played 23 of those games, scoring two goals and seven assists to go alongside a minus-18 rating.
The mounting losses are hard to swallow for the 20-year-old Hobbs, who is also attempting to impress scouts in his final year of junior hockey.
“In my last year, I’m trying to prove to scouts what I can do,” he admitted. “It’s hard whenever you’re losing games like this, because I’m always on the ice.”
Some games it seems like number 8 never leaves the ice.
The 5-foot-11, 204-pound Hobbs gets tapped on the shoulder for powerplays, penalty kills, and will double-shift if a game is close.
That shows the value and stability a defenceman like Hobbs brings to an organization, said assistant coach Corrado Micalef.
“He’s the guy that we use against the best lines on the other team,” said Micalef. “Some nights he logs really a lot of minutes. If he can breathe, often we say, you OK? And he gets back out there. He plays a lot of hockey for us and really carries the bulk of the load on the back end.”
Hobbs, a native of Shawville, Que., has been with the organization since he was a seventh-round pick in 2008. Since that time, he has quietly developed into a quiet leader and a “go-to guy.”
“He’s a good complete defenceman,” said Micalef. “He’s a good example for the kids, to just see the complete package. The guy works hard and competes and does a good job. You don’t have to be a screamer to be an effective captain. He just tries to show the way, lead by example, and just encourage the younger players.”
The Rocket’s 2011 first-round draft choice Ryan Graves is testament to Hobbs’ strength as a mentor.
The 6-foot-4, 207-pound blueliner said the captain has stayed late after practices to help him work on his skating technique.
“I kind of look up to him as a role model,” said Graves, 16. “He’s had experience in the league and he’s a phenomenal defenceman. He’s a great leader, and is great in the dressing room. If we start to get running around and jumpy, he’s the guy that will calm us down.”
Hobbs knows he still has a lot to prove to scouts in order to make the jump to professional hockey. Last year, Hobbs was extended an invite from the Ottawa Senators to attend rookie camp.
“It was unreal,” he said. “That was a great experience, probably the best experience of my life so far.”
Despite following up that camp with a career-high 16 goals and 24 assists, he did not receive a second invite prior to this season.
“They still know what I can do,” he said. “I haven’t been in any contact with anybody, but hopefully I’m impressing someone.”
The 20-year-old missed two games early this season with a deep bruise in his hip, but he’s returned fired up and raring to lead the way forward for the Rocket.
“Even though we’re at the bottom, that still doesn’t mean anything in this league,” he said. “You see games that get up high scores, or low scores. You never know what could happen. We’re never out.”