When you’re a first round draft pick, expectations can be exceedingly high. The challenge of meeting such expectations can be even more daunting when you’re adjusting not only to a higher level of play, but also to a new culture that has established itself as a winner. Such has been the case for Boston College freshman defenseman, Michael Matheson.
The Pointe Claire, QC native has played in 24 games to date, registering 16 points (five goals, 11 assists). His 16 points and +15 leads all Eagles defensemen. Matheson missed the recent series versus Maine on Jan. 25th-26th due to injury.
Matheson has made quite an impact with Boston College since arriving at Chestnut Hill this past fall. He has been one of the Eagles’ top rearguards and a mainstay on their power-play. Of the five goals he has tallied so far, three have come with the man advantage.
Like virtually all freshmen, the jump to the collegiate level was a difficult one for the young defenseman. But as Matheson explains, both head coach Jerry York and the elder statesmen on the team’s blueline have helped make his adjustment easier.
“It’s been great being a part of this group”, said Matheson. “Coach York has brought us along and mentored us really well. I think Pat (Wey), Isaac (MacLeod) and Patch (Alber) have all been really good for me and the other younger guys on the team. They’re all great role models and I try to follow their lead. The biggest thing that I’ve learned from playing with those guys is they just drill this mentality into us younger guys that we’re all one and we do it as a group and do everything possible to succeed. It’s just special group to be a part of.”
At 6’2”, Matheson already possesses an NHL-sized body and shot that will become more evident as he continues to develop physically. Like many Boston College defensemen, both past and present, Matheson is an excellent skater who moves exceedingly well with the puck. One of the hardest lessons that he is still learning at Boston College is limiting his penalties. Matheson currently leads the team with 56 penalty minutes with most of those minutes being the result of either laziness or simply being too aggressive.
Just prior to the Christmas break, the Eagles lost Patch Alber to a season-ending injury. That, coupled with the team’s other injuries on defense has forced Matheson and the other Boston College freshmen defensemen to take on bigger roles. Matheson was already logging upwards of 20-25 minutes of ice time per game, but now he was also seeing increased time in situations such as the penalty kill.
While Matheson is known as an offensive defenseman, he is working towards becoming a more complete defenseman.
“I’m definitely more of an offensive defenseman”, agreed Matheson. “But I’m also working towards becoming more of a two-way guy. Here at Boston College, we’re all taught to be good two-way defensemen and it’s something that the coaches really stress. I want to become a more complete and reliable player as well as simplify my game. I feel that I’ll be able to accomplish that here at BC.”
Matheson was a first round pick, 23rd overall, of the Florida Panthers last summer. And while he wasn’t absolutely sure at the time that he would be selected by the Panthers, Matheson knew that the team was certainly very interested in him.
“I actually met with them the morning of the draft and they kind of hinted towards taking me if I was still available”, related Matheson. “So I was still there and they took me. It was just very exciting to go to a team that really wants you. For the short time that I’ve been a part of their organization so far, it’s been incredible. I think they have some similarities to Boston College because both are very humbling environments that they want their players to develop in.”
Matheson sees one great similarity between the Florida Panthers and Boston College.
“The biggest thing that I learned from being at Florida’s camp over the summer is the same thing that I’ve been learning about here at BC – having that mentality of just getting better every single day, playing as part of a group and just being one as a group”, said Matheson. “I think the camp really stressed that thought process and stressed that it should be applied to my every-day life here at BC.”
While Matheson still needs time to develop, mature and fine tune his skill set, if what he has shown at Boston College so far is any indication, his future as a member of the Florida Panthers looks very bright and promising.
Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF