The Panthers' patience has really paid off with Michael Matheson, a first-round pick who played three years at Boston College and spent another in the AHL before playing 81 games for Florida this past season. It was surprising how well he adjusted to the NHL as a rookie, averaging 21:03 per game -- third among Florida blueliners behind only Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle. Even though Matheson scored just 17 points, he's known for his high hockey IQ and ability to move the puck. He's also improved tremendously on the defensive side of the puck, often playing on the first penalty-killing unit. The second season is always tougher for young players, but Matheson is a virtual lock for a top-four role, which should lead to an increase in offensive production.
Matheson has recorded two points, both of which were goals, in his last 24 games. The pair of snipes actually came back in the same game on Jan. 31 against Ottawa. Of course, Matheson is a young defenseman acclimating to the rigors of life at the NHL level, so there's bound to be peaks and valleys, but his extended cold streak is nonetheless still frustrating. Then again, the 2012 first-rounder never was a huge scorer from the back end in junior or with Boston College, so his 15 points in 58 games in South Florida really aren't all that bad based on his track record (career-high 25 points for BC).
Matheson has had a fine rookie season thus far, contributing three goals and nine assists in 40 games. The 22-year-old has done well for himself in the infancy of his NHL career, as he's averaged over 20 minutes of ice time (20:26) while firing a significant amount of rubber on net (95 shots). Matheson is currently skating on the team's second defense pairing with Aaron Ekblad and also occasionally receives time on the second power-play unit, as well.
Matheson collected an assist in Monday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Bruins. The rookie rearguard snapped a nine-game point drought with the assist, and he's now up to eight points in 25 games this season. Matheson has averaged a hearty amount of ice time (19:38) this season and skated in a career-high 24:13 on Monday to fill the hole left by Keith Yandle, who departed early on with a lower-body injury. If Yandle is forced to miss time, Matheson -- a first-round pick from 2012 -- would likely see an uptick in ice time, so those in deeper leagues may want to pencil him onto their watch list.
Matheson will not play Saturday afternoon, when the Panthers visit the Sabres, Joe Yerdon of NHL.com reports. It appears that Matheson will simply be a healthy scratch, with Steven Kampfer taking his place in the lineup. Matheson has been terrific offensively, posting two goals and four points in the first seven games.
Matheson scored a goal in Thursday's loss to Washington, giving him three points in four games to open the season. Two of those points are goals and he's taken a dozen shots on net, so Matheson's first full NHL season is off to quite a promising start. The 22-year-old isn't seeing much power-play time, and a promotion on that front could send his value higher, though it's worth noting that he managed just 20 points in 54 AHL games last year.
Rank Among Leaders
Last 7 Games
|3 Year Avg||42||4||5||9||-1||0||0||0||0||0||38.7|