A productive scorer in junior and the minors, right-winger Christian Matte has chiefly been an NHL farmhand since turning pro in 1996-97. Blessed with quick hands and anticipation, he struggled to get open when faced with the superior big league checking.
Born in Hull, Quebec, Matte starred in the QAAA with the Abitibi Forestiers in 1991-92. He then moved on to the QMJHL's Granby Bisons where he hit the 50-goal mark in two of his three seasons and was taken 153rd overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1993. The young talent was also placed on the league's second all-star team in 1994.
During his first full year as a pro, Matte represented a solid addition to the Cornwall Aces of the AHL. The Colorado Avalanche retained his rights after the Quebec franchise relocated. Beginning in 1996-97, he was an offensive leader on the Hershey Bears of the AHL while seeing a few games of action with Colorado. Matte scored eight goals in 1997 while helping the Bears win the Calder Cup and led the AHL in scoring three years later when he was placed on the league's first all-star team.
In July 2000, Matte felt he had a better chance at playing in the NHL when he signed with the expansion Minnesota Wild. He ended up spending most of the season in the IHL with the Cleveland Lumberjacks and led the league with 38 goals. Matte entered the 2001-02 season hoping to make an impression on the Buffalo Sabres' brass after signing as a free agent.