New Montreal Canadiens acquisition Mike Matheson is a man who likes to keep a low profile. As proof, he’s not even the best hockey player of his pair; his wife, Emily Matheson, can boast of winning gold with the United States at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
This has often earned him ridicule from Jeff York, his former coach and responsible for his development for three years in the NCAA with Boston College.
“I often remind him of this fact to bail him out,” the hockey player confirms over the phone during an interview with TVASports.ca. Making friends comes naturally to him. His family instilled this quality in him and he has been developing it for several years, since midget hockey.
“Mike is part of a team. It’s never about Michael. He doesn’t have to be the first player in line. He mixes with the group from day one.
So that’s what his former agent and now Canadiens GM Kent Hughes was referring to when he called Matheson a “five-star” human being. Because Matheson is so much more than a hockey player when you take a closer look.
After all, he might as well have dropped his psychology studies when he left Boston College before his fourth year of college to make the jump to the pros. The studious athlete pursued his ambitions to complete his master’s degree even as he tried to establish himself in the best league in the world.
“He is a young man with an interesting perspective on the whole world, on all aspects of society. He is not just a hockey player, ”said the former coach of him.
An elite kick
Well, Matheson isn’t trying to draw a spotlight on him; however, the hockey fan cannot remain insensitive to the grace of his skating.
The Quebecois, born in Pointe-Claire, moves majestically touching the ice. Without digging. No superfluous movement. It is certainly their trademark.
“It’s the first thing we noticed when he came on our show,” says Jeff York. He had world-class skating, worthy of the elite.
So much so that former Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon saw in him an emulator for Duncan Keith, a conviction that prompted him to give him a generous $39 million, eight-year contract in 2017 when Matheson hadn’t had one until now. broken anything in the National League.
This contract weighed heavily on the young defenseman, who was lost with the Panthers before finding them with the Pittsburgh Penguins thanks to the good treatment of his assistant coach in charge of defense, Todd Reirden.
“His puck skills have improved a lot [que dans la NCAA]York acknowledges. He is calmer, he makes good plays. I think Todd did a fantastic job showing him videos and teaching him how to play in all the different situations.
“For the record, I managed Todd myself when he was playing at Bowling Green. So I talked to him often to hear about Mike and I can tell you that he was very excited about his progress.
Smart, hot and serious, Matheson continues to develop at 28 years old and after seven seasons in the NHL. As he does so, the athletic qualities that earned him the first-round pick in the 2012 draft begin to show more and more.
Last year, he stepped up to another level with the Penguins: His 11 goals scored tied for the NHL ranked eighth among NHL defensemen, tied with Devon Toews of the Colorado Avalanche. His 31 points in 74 games represent a personal best for him.
And there is still room for improvement. Matheson recorded those results while using an average of just 43 seconds per game on the power play. In Montreal, he is likely to have more responsibility in this department.
“He’s got a good shot, the puck comes off his blade fast,” York notes. It’s true that on the power play in Pittsburgh, it’s often Malkin and Crosby who have the puck. He’ll have a chance to make a bigger impact in 5v4. But it’s 3v3 where you’ll see him dominate. He is dynamite in this facet of the game thanks to his skating.
In fact, forget about game situations, Matheson will get a chance to play more… period. He becomes almost de facto the number one defender for the Canadians. That’s good, since he can spend a lot of time on the ice without losing his shine.
“He never runs out of energy,” says York. He can make a 40-45 second presence and, even if he remains stuck in his territory, he doesn’t gasp, knees bent, trying to come to his senses. He is in fantastic physical shape.”
It’s youngsters Justin Barron, Kaiden Guhle, and Jordan Harris who will be able to thank him, because without this “five-star human being” in training, these recruits might as well have been sent to the slaughterhouse.