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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
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 x - NYR 73 47 19 7 224 168 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 75 46 22 7 244 194 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 73 39 22 12 212 201 90
7 WSH 74 40 24 10 215 182 90
8 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 71 13 32 7 45
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 73 7 33 -1 40
J. Jagr 69 13 25 -4 38
B. Boyes 72 12 23 10 35
A. Ekblad 73 11 24 10 35
J. Hayes 64 18 13 -4 31
A. Barkov 63 12 17 -2 29
B. Campbell 74 3 21 1 24
B. Pirri 41 20 2 5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 17 11 .922 2.32
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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