Q&A with Shawn Matthias

By Stephen J. Holodinsky

While attending the Florida Panthers rookie camp in Kitchener, Ontario, HF had the chance to sit down with 19-year-old OHL center Shawn Matthias, traded to the Panthers earlier this year.

HF: How are you enjoying rookie camp so far?

SM: It’s been good training so far, it’s been a lot of fun. Great guys in the dressing room. they treat us real well here and Kitchener has been great

HF: You attended the Red Wings rookie camp in Traverse City, Michigan last season. How has this camp differed from that one in terms of skills coached and drills done?

SM: I’m not sure how much different it really is, it’s kind of similar in sense of competition. We play against every team this week and they all want to win. I think last year with Detroit both rinks were pretty solid. It’s pretty hard hitting out there but it’s been pretty similar. It’s been a good experience both games.

HF: As a ‘rookie camp veteran’ but one with a different team what has your comfort level been like in Kitchener?

SM: I’m still a young guy, we don’t have any ’89 forwards up front, the youngest guys are all ‘88’s. Last year I was kind of nervous and the nerves kind of got to me and I didn’t play my best. This year I kind of know what to expect a little more and I’ve gone out there and hit a bit more and play more of a role.

HF: You experienced a breakout season with the Belleville Bulls this past year. What have been the differences in your game from 2005-06 to 2006-07?

SM: I think it was just confidence, I just went out there and I knew what I wanted to do out there. I wanted to be a go-to guy. It started coming in my second year in the second half of the year, it rose my stock in the draft, I wanted to come out last year and prove to everyone that I deserved to be a second-round pick in the NHL, show them that I wasn’t a fluke. Certainly when I got traded to Florida I had more to prove. I’ve got a lot bigger shoes to fill and I’m ready for it.

HF: How have the practices here differed from a practice this past year in Belleville?

SM: The players are a lot better; you don’t have 16-year-old guys who have never played at a high-tempo practice. Here you are playing with some of the guys who are some of them pros, some of them from the CHL, some of them from school. They all know what to expect, it’s a lot more intense.

HF: You play on an Olympic-sized ice sheet in Belleville. How has that helped or hindered in you preparing for this camp?

SM: The ice surface up there is really big and the neutral zone is really small. I’m a big guy who can bang and crash and I think small ice is good for me in some sense but you get used to it. Playing in Belleville you get used to that big ice. The first little while you’re out there in Kitchener (Memorial Auditorium), it’s a little bit different but you get used to it and start to find the open ice.

HF: What do you think you need to work on in order to make it in the pros?

SM: Everything has got to get a little quicker, my hands have got to get a little quicker, I’ve got to make decisions a little faster, not stickhandling the puck for that extra five seconds just get it on my stick and then get it off, just timing and everything. Everything goes by a lot quicker.

HF: How did it feel being the main piece going the other way in the Todd Bertuzzi deal?

SM: It was pretty funny, I was watching it in the room with all the guys on Trade Center on TSN and I got there a bit early so I had my phone off. Didn’t get any calls so when I heard there was a prospect traded all the guys started giving me a hard time, maybe it was me. About five minutes from going on the ice when they said it was me it was a bit of a shock I had to sit down for a while and go talk to my coach. It was kind of funny the guys gave me a hard time after that. I think it was my worst practice all year.

HF: Did the Panthers look in on you while you were in Belleville after the trade?

SM: Yeah, I met a few of the scouts. During the playoffs I was pretty sure they were there for two or three games. For sure, I don’t really worry about it. The first game after the trade I met some of the scouts.

HF: Did you follow Bertuzzi at all in the playoffs?

SM: Yeah, I wanted to see how he was doing; I’ve actually been a pretty big fan of his all of my life. I have a big poster of him in my room, so it’s kind of weird being in the same category as him in a trade, kind of surreal.

HF: Did you feel like you’d ‘dodged a bullet’ when Detroit elected not to re-sign Bertuzzi for the 2007-08 season?

SM: Not really, I’m not really too worried about what they do now or how Bertuzzi does. I’m kind of worried about myself and the Florida Panthers and making a good impression with them. If he had re-signed with them that’s his benefit. I don’t really care how he does, he’s with Anaheim now and he got a pretty nice contract there so hopefully I can do something for Florida and show them they got a good player out of that trade.

HF: What goals have you set out for yourself this year?

SM: Well, first off I’d like to make the Florida Panthers. I think going to this training camp is a good way of showing how I am ready for it, maybe not making it full time but getting some exhibition games and getting a taste of what it’s like. If I have to go back to Belleville, have a dominating year, put up more points than I did last year and win a Mem Cup.

HF: Who would you say your game resembles the most and how?

SM: I’m not sure, I’d like to play like Mike Modano and shoot the puck like him. There are other guys like Jarome Iginla, how he’s a leader and how he competes and other guys like that. Hopefully I can kind of make a name for myself.

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