MEN'S HOCKEY: Check-Point
Sophomore Defenseman Michael Matheson Is Ready To Embrace The Moment
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 07:10
From his seat at the 2012 NHL Draft, Rod Matheson watches on as Florida Panthers' general manager Dale Tallon prepares to reveal the team's first-round selection.
The player who is announced has attracted attention as a highly-touted prospect slated to attend Boston College before joining hockey's professional ranks. As the young man makes his way toward the stage for a formal introduction, the NHL brass in attendance envision a defeseman on the precipice of stardom.
Rod also watches the young man don his professional jersey for the first time in front of camera flashes, gleaming with a father’s pride. Unlike the NHL scouts and GMs, he remembers a time not so long ago when this hard-hitting standout was just a little boy playing Bantam hockey back home—a kid who could skate circles around his opponents.
To the hockey world, Michael Matheson was a first-round pick, a franchise player in waiting, and a college star on the horizon.
To Rod, he was first and foremost a son who had grown up in the blink of an eye.
“It creeps up on you in a hurry,” Rod said, “and then it becomes a surreal moment.”
From early on, Michael Matheson was a player whose accelerated talent appeared destined for a higher echelon. The skills he flashed and gaudy statistics he produced at each level of play gave him the appearance of a player well beyond his years in age.
Matheson wasn’t looking to rush his developmental process along, but his raw ability on the ice pushed him to make pivotal decisions— whether it meant pursuing junior league hockey or putting off the pros to attend college.
And this past year hasn’t been any different.
During his first season with the Eagles in 2012, Matheson stormed out of the gates with All-Hockey East Rookie Team Honors and rec- ognition as BC’s most outstanding freshman. The Pointe-Claire, Quebec native’s 25 points as a defenseman and an unshakably mature ap- proach to the game were uncharacteristic for most 18-year-olds.
Yet with every success came growing speculation that the freshman would be packing his bags for Florida and a career in the NHL. The added attention and buzz around hockey about Matheson’s potential was loud enough to toy with his focus.
“You can try really hard not to think of them,” Matheson said, “but they’re always back there.”
Whistle-friendly referees contributed fuel to the fire, as they slammed the brakes on a major facet of his on-ice approach.
Matheson’s hard-hitting style and aggression against the boards drew a high number of penalty calls from the outset. Whereas the bone-rattling hits he delivered to opponents would be celebrated in the NHL, they are penalized in the Hockey East—leaving the enemy sprawled out on the ice following an encounter means automatic box time.
While rookie mistakes contributed to Mathe- son’s high penalty mark, there was a chance that his style of play had already outgrown the collegiate level.
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