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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 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 NYI 52 28 18 6 145 129 62
5 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 52 23 20 9 122 137 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 124 146 48
15 CBJ 55 21 28 6 137 170 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 51 17 21 14 38
J. Jokinen 54 11 27 12 38
J. Huberdeau 54 10 28 12 38
V. Trocheck 54 17 18 3 35
A. Barkov 43 16 19 13 35
R. Smith 54 18 16 12 34
B. Pirri 50 11 13 -4 24
A. Ekblad 50 10 13 20 23
B. Campbell 54 5 17 20 22
N. Bjugstad 39 9 10 -1 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 24 13 5 .928 2.17
A. Montoya 8 3 1 .929 2.01

 
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