The Top 25 Under 25 countdown continues with:
#20: MATISS KIVLENIEKS
20th out of 34 eligible players
Writers’ Vote: 22nd
Readers’ Vote: T-18th
Highest Placement: 6th (1 vote)
Most Common Placement: 13th (6 votes)
Birthdate: August 26, 1996
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia
Weight: 179 lbs
Acquired: Signed on May 25th, 2017 to an Entry-Level Contract
Matiss Kivlenieks had a tough season with only 14 games played in Cleveland and 8 in Kalamazoo (ECHL). Cleveland had more goalies than goalie stalls in the locker room and Kivlenieks seemed the odd man out. With limited opportunities, Matiss wasn’t able to get a lot of traction and finished with a 4-4-1 record to go along with a 3.71 GAA and 0.873 SV%. Our Monsters expert, Elaine Shircliff, had this to say in her mid-summer write-up:
Getting to play with veterans like Berube and Thiessen proved beneficial to Kivlenieks. As the season drew on, Kivlenieks starting tightening up his skills and playing with a bit more confidence. He also started talking with the defense more between plays. This led to a better understanding of what Kivlenieks needed the defense to do for him to succeed. The deeper the season went, the less the defense let the opposition get in Kivlenieks’ crease.
On March 22nd, Berube left the Monsters vs Rochester Americans game with an injury. The next day Kivlenieks was called up to the Monsters. He spent the rest of the season and playoffs backing up Thiessen but did not see any ice time.
Kivlenieks is entering the final year of his ELC and I am not sure I can be generous enough to say that he has a steep mountain to climb. It might be a smooth wall with nary a handhold. The Jackets currently have 4 goalies ahead of him. All of them are young and need opportunities to prove themselves. Kivlenieks may be able to split starts for the Monsters, but that isn’t a given. On the other hand, a solid season could see him re-signed for the Monsters, especially if one of the goalies ahead of him falter or is used as trade bait. Limited opportunities may be an issue again, but Matiss Kivlenieks will need to seize them every time to make an impression.