Despite being as talented as any other defensemen with a comparable skillset in his class, Mike Matheson has struggled to produce at a regular rate in the USHL with Dubuque. Even after a rough season that followed a quality start he is currently projected to be a late first round pick.
Matheson is off to Boston College in the fall of 2012 to play for the Golden Eagles. At a slight 6-foot-1, 180 pounds the opportunity to play the college game will give him a good opportunity to fine tune his game and bulk up to a size which is sustainable at the professional level. Any team that takes him will have an eye for two or three years down the road.
Born: February 27, 1994
What people in the know know
The 5 questions
1. How much has playing with your brother helped you settle into your first season away from home?
“It’s helped a lot, especially being so far from home. We live in the same billet house. It doesn’t seem so far when you’ve got your brother downstairs.”
2. Apart from the obvious — build strength, improve skating and footwork — in what area of the game do you feel you need the most work before you’re ready to sign a pro contract?
“Everything has to be worked on, but one area is definitely my D zone and the other is my gap control, keeping tight gaps on guys coming down the ice and keeping tight gaps laterally with my defence partner so nothing can get in between us.”
3. Whom in the NHL do you watch and say, “I see things he does that I can blend into my own game” or “I need to start doing what he does?”
“I especially try to watch Kris Letang of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I try to play the same style game as him. He’s a really good skater and a really good puckhandler and a real threat on offence but he’s still very solid on defence.”
4. How much have you benefited from playing for former NHLer Jim Montgomery in Dubuque?
“It’s helpful to have a coach who’s done it himself. He knows what it takes to get to the NHL and he had a really successful career in college and went to have a good NHL career. He controls his team very well and it’s definitely a privilege to play for him.”
5. Moving from Montreal to Dubuque, Iowa, is quite a change in scenery — what are you missing the most about your hometown?
“I always loved going out on the outdoor rinks during the season. They don’t have any snow here. They don’t have any snow in Montreal, actually. That’s always something that I loved doing it, especially growing up as a kid. I’d spend all day, every day, on the outdoor rink. That’s something that I miss. That and, I don’t know, maybe a good smoked-meat sandwich.”
Mike Matheson is a good skater and has good top-end speed. He plays the body and reads the play well. He is willing to join the rush on the attack.
A Quebec-born player who spent last season in the USHL, Matheson has struggled with consistency issues.
He didn’t play much with Canada’s under-18 team at the Ivan Hlinka tourney last summer despite being as good as his fellow bluelines. And he faded as the year progressed after he got off to a great season with Dubuque.
Matheson has an impressive array of skills but has yet to combine all his talents into an effective package.
There are also concerns over his physical game. “He had a bit of an inconsistent year,” one scout said. “He got all kinds of high praise early in the season, but he kind of stalled and I’m not so sure he finished as strongly as everyone would have liked.”
Matheson’s major junior right are owned by the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats, but he’s presumably off to Boston College next season, where he’ll be able to refine his game for a couple of years before moving up to the next level.
Matheson appears to be your classic project pick in that he has yet to put together his entire arsenal. He’s still two or three years away — at least — from being a viable option at the NHL level. It would be unsurprising to see him slip into the second round given his consistency issues, but further play at either the NCAA level or in the Quebec League should do wonders for his game and could ultimately make him a steal at that spot.
The key for him going forward is to not only play against tough competitors, but to thrive.