#3: Mike Matheson
Team: Florida Panthers
Drafted in 2012, 1st Round (23rd Overall)
The Florida Panthers made Mike Matheson their first-round pick back in 2012, as the Quebec native was coming off of a strong season for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints (27 points in 53 games). Matheson would go on to attend Boston College, where he stayed for three seasons before signing with the Panthers.
In his first professional season, Matheson spent the regular season in the AHL, but was called up to the Panthers for the team’s playoff series against the New York Islanders. He showed well, putting up one point in five games as the Cats fell to the Islanders.
Since then, Matheson has nicely settled into a top-four role with the Panthers, anchoring the team’s second defensive pairing. Last season, Matheson had career highs in goals and points, finding the back of the net 10 times and adding 17 assists for a total of 27 points in 81 games.
Matheson is a solid top-four defender, as shown by some of his statistics. Among defensemen with at least 500 minutes at 5v5 last season, Matheson finished ranked 79th in points per hour and 101st in adjusted relative shot attempts percentage.
Though his numbers aren’t world beating, Matheson’s play last season established him as the team’s third best defenseman, behind Aaron Ekblad and Keith Yandle.
This season, Matheson will likely have the same role as last season, averaging about 21 minutes a night on the team’s second pair. He’ll chip in on the power play, though he likely won’t be the team’s number one option, and he’ll continue to be a strong player at 5v5.
Matheson is also under contract until 2025-2026, with a cap hit of just 4.875 million. Expect him to be a constant fixture of the team’s blue line for the foreseeable future.
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