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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 - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 73 13 36 9 49
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jagr 71 15 26 -2 41
J. Jokinen 75 8 33 -2 41
B. Boyes 73 12 23 10 35
A. Ekblad 75 11 24 11 35
J. Hayes 66 18 13 -5 31
A. Barkov 65 14 17 -1 31
B. Campbell 76 3 22 2 25
B. Pirri 43 20 2 5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 17 12 .921 2.33
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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