France’s Ligue Magnus is never popular with Ontario Hockey League grads. This year, there are nearly 60 Canadian born players in the 14 team league but just one played any significant amount of time in the OHL.
Lyall is currently playing for Etoile Noire de Strasbourg in the Ligue Magnus. Matt played five years in the OHL from 2004-05 to 2008-09 with the Guelph Storm and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He was a second round pick by the Storm at the 2004 OHL Priority Selection, 27th overall.
A deadline deal sent him to the Greyhounds in his second year in the league. Lyall found most of his OHL success in Sault Ste. Marie. In 2006-07, he helped the Hounds to a second round showdown with the London Knights in the Robertson Cup playoffs. Unfortunately, the Sault fell to London, but took the Knights to the seven game limit.
The following year, Sault Ste. Marie reached the Western Conference finals. The Hounds met up with the Kitchener Rangers but fell in the series. The Rangers went on to take out the Belleville Bulls in the finals to capture the championship.
Out of the playoffs in his final year, Matt served as team captain for the Greyhounds. Over his OHL career, Lyall played in 278 regular season games, scoring 62 goals and adding 105 assists for 167 points. He played an additional 35 games in the playoffs, contributing another 12 points.
Undrafted to the National Hockey League, Matt put in four years with the University of Guelph Gryphons of the OUA from 2009-10 to 2012-13. He wore the ‘A’ in his final year while scoring nine goals and assisting on 18 for 27 points over 27 games. He led the Gryphons in assists and was second to Andy Bathgate in goals and points. Bathgate was also to start the 2013-14 season in the Ligue Magnus with Briancon but things didn’t quite work out.
At the end of the 2012-13 season, Lyall joined the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL for his first pro hockey action. He appeared in four regular season games with the California club. Matt is signed with Strasbourg for the 2013-14 season.
Etoile Noire de Strasbourg
Strasbourg was promoted to the Ligue Magnus for the 2006-07 season. The franchise’s best year so far at the elite level came in 2010-11. Strasbourg reached the finals before falling to the powerful Dragons de Rouen 3-1 in the best of five final series. This past year, 2012-13, the team placed 11th in the 14 team league, barely squeeking into the post season. After beating sixth seed Amiens in the opening round, Strasbourg fell to Briancon in the next.
The team plays home games at the Patinoire Iceberg in Strasbourg, France. The twin pad arena seats 1,200 but can be expanded to 2,400 for special events. The venue was opened in 2005.
France’s elite league consists of 14 teams, mostly on the eastern edge of the country, bordering Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Each team plays a 26 game schedule with the Coupe de France challenge cup style tournament intermingled. The league currently has 56 Canadian born players, mostly from Quebec and mostly grads of the QMJHL.