The performance of Arizona State’s freshman class was a major storyline throughout the 2020-21 season. In the midst of a deeply frustrating campaign for the team at large, the Sun Devils’ first year players provided a glimmer of hope, and no first-year player made a bigger impact than right winger Matthew Kopperud.
The Denver native immediately established himself as a prolific scorer, potting 12 goals in his first 16 NCAA games and leading all of college hockey in goals for a short stretch. Although he faded at the tail end of the season, Kopperud still finished the year as ASU’s leading scorer with 13 goals and 19 points.
Kopperud’s freshman performance provided a mere glimpse of what could be in store for him. Despite playing on the third line for most of the season, he was able to score at a near point-per-game rate, and he accounted for seven of the team’s 14 power play goals on the year. Kopperud will have the opportunity to assume a larger role this coming season, and his numbers are liable to improve with more ice time.
While Kopperud has the potential to be a dominant scorer at the college level, he will need to work on his consistency in order to get there. It is not unusual for young players to be streaky, but Kopperud took things to an entirely new level as a freshman.
He got off to a torrid start at the beginning of the year, which included four multi-goal games, before falling into a long scoring slump that he failed to break out of until the final game of the season. It may take time for the consistency to show up, but a 20-goal sophomore season is very possible if he makes even minor progress.
In many ways, the 2021-22 season will be a changing of the guard for Arizona State. With players like Johnny Walker entering their final year of eligibility, the team’s underclassmen will have to take a step forward in order to ensure that the team stays competitive in the coming years. Kopperud is likely to succeed Walker as the team’s top scoring option after this season, and if he makes the necessary improvements, he can be every bit as effective in that role.