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Panthers' Matheson not rushing to play in NHL

Thursday, 07.17.2014 / 11:07 AM ET / News
By Alain Poupart  - NHL.com Correspondent
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Panthers\' Matheson not rushing to play in NHL

During a scrimmage that closed the Florida Panthers' development camp last week, Aaron Ekblad, the first pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, scored a goal with a big slap shot.

Come September, he'll be trying to earn a spot on the Panthers roster.

Fellow defenseman Michael Matheson, the Panthers' first-round pick in 2012 (No. 23), had a strong outing in the same game, although he didn't score. He won't be in training camp with the Panthers two months from now, though, because he'll be preparing for his junior season at Boston College.

For Matheson, waiting one more season is simply part of the process.

"I have to go back there and work hard and make sure I develop my game so that I can get it to this level," Matheson said. "I just felt that I could develop more at BC and that I have some more developing to do there."

Matheson is taking the same route as Panthers 2010 first-round pick Nick Bjugstad, who signed with Florida after completing his junior season at the University of Minnesota and is coming off a rookie season in which he led the team with 38 points in 76 games.

"It worked out really well for Nick Bjugstad going back for a third year," Matheson said, "and I think following in his footsteps will do me some good."

Matheson has made steady progress at BC and last season helped the Eagles reach the Frozen Four. Matheson led all BC defensemen with 21 points in 38 games and had a plus-18 rating.

When he returns to campus in the fall he'll be team captain.

"It's a huge honor," he said. "It wasn't the deciding factor [in deciding to return] by any means because it happened after I decided. But it's kind of icing on the cake, for sure. To be able to not only go to BC for another year but to be the captain there is a huge honor."

Skating always has been the biggest asset for the 6-foot-2, 180-pound defenseman, but he arrived at this year's development camp a stronger player than what the Panthers saw the previous two summers.

"He's getting stronger and stronger," Panthers manager of player development Bryan McCabe said. "He's blowing away some of the tests out there. He's one of the stronger guys in the room. He's a quick guy. He's a student of the game, for sure. He asks questions. He thinks it. He sleeps it. He eats it. We're looking for a big year out of him at BC this year."

Matheson is among the top young defensemen in the organization, a list that includes fellow first-round picks Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson and Ekblad.

For his part, Matheson just wants to keep getting better.

Even after getting another taste of NHL life in his third development camp, he has no second thoughts about his decision to remain in college.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Matheson said. "The summer isn't over yet so I still have a lot of work to do and a lot of time to get that work in. I still am really, really happy with the decision I made, and again that kind of went into the decision of not rushing up here and taking my time and just staying down there and working on my game."

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 52 31 15 6 143 115 68
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 PIT 51 26 18 7 132 130 59
8 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
9 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 53 24 23 6 148 165 54
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 49 16 21 11 37
J. Huberdeau 52 10 27 10 37
A. Barkov 42 16 19 13 35
J. Jokinen 52 10 25 12 35
V. Trocheck 52 17 16 4 33
R. Smith 52 16 15 11 31
B. Pirri 48 10 13 -4 23
A. Ekblad 48 10 12 21 22
B. Campbell 52 4 16 17 20
N. Bjugstad 37 9 8 -3 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 23 13 5 .930 2.13
A. Montoya 8 2 1 .931 1.93

 
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