With the Florida Panthers first round selection held at 23, general manager Dale Tallon and head scout Scott Luce dipped a bit down the player rankings to take Dubuque (USHL) defenseman Michael Matheson. The 6'1", 178 pound Quebecois defender finished 30th in the North America Skaters rankings and in the mid to late 30s in other unaffiliated rankings. Matheson is widely considered a project player and has committed to Boston College, starting in the fall semester.
Scouting reports vary on Matheson, but a few points have been constant; he is a smooth, quick skater and his size/strength(as of now) is an issue. Matheson is expected to put up higher than average scoring stats in the NHL and has been known to pinch in to help offensively. Corey Pronman at Hockey Prospectus has a scouting report:
Matheson came into the USHL with a fair amount of hype after turning heads last year playing Midget hockey in Quebec. He did not light up the score sheet as some would have expected, but his skill set still gives a lot of reason for optimism. Smooth, effortless, and pretty are just a sample of the adjectives used in the industry to describe Matheson, with an emphasis on smooth. He's a high-end, effortless skater who gets across large portions of ice in an instant. Matheson's gap control doesn't really require good instincts to be effective due to his four-way movement; he gets to the puck-carrier well without being a great defensive mind. Matheson is a great puck-mover who shows high-end distribution skills. His vision and poise are very admirable, as he sees options through tight lanes very well and his passes fly off the tape of his blade. He outlets very well, he can carry the puck up and distribute it off the rush, and he does good work on the power play. Matheson is really a great prospect outside of two little issues. One is his size, in that he's below-average in that area and is very poor strength-wise. He could also use some work defensively—I actually heard from a scout that he was used at forward this year at some point. He's not that bad as such a fact would indicate, but he's certainly not a shutdown force either.
With the Panthers already having a glut of defensemen in the system, the fact Matheson is a project player a ways out shouldn't dismay fans. The immediate defensive concerns for Florida are few with Tyson Strachan and Keaton Ellerby likely to replace UFA Jason Garrison and Colby Robak waiting in the AHL for his chance. Farther out is the encouraging prospect Alex Petrovic along with 2011 draft selection Rasmus Bengtsson. Matheson will be in no rush to be developed; four years at Boston may be what he needs to smooth out the rough edges in his game.
Continue on after the jump
Links: Steve Lepore caught audio from an interview with Matheson
NHL Profile for Matheson
Some other commentary:
Matheson has always been a highly touted defenseman after going in the 2nd round of the 2010 QMJHL Entry Draft despite concerns about him going the college route. Even so, Matheson’s game grew by leaps and bounds in his first and only season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. With a lack of defensive talent surrounding him in the backend, Matheson struggled early in the season taking a lot of minor penalties to bail his team out. During the playoffs, Matheson on most nights was the best player on the ice, playing a great two way game and quarterbacking the team’s power play. Matheson is a very good skater, but needs to work on his ability to find the open man. Matheson will head to Boston College this fall which will give him a few years to develop before turning pro.
Matheson is a risk/reward pick. Huge upside. High-end skater, high-end passer, so much talent. Size + defensive play are concerns.— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) June 23, 2012
Scout on Matheson: "He had a bit of an inconsistent year. He got all kinds of high praise early in the season, but he stalled."— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) June 23, 2012