The seventh FUTURE STAR to be profiled by ProSportsBlogging is Michael Matheson, a 6’2 defenseman who has always seemed to achieve success by going the non-traditional route. As a young hockey player, Matheson was believed to have the skill-set of a forward, but he decided that he wanted to play defense. A few years later, when the 1994 age group was supposed to be playing as second-year Bantams, many of the elite players were moved up to Midget, while Matheson stayed at the Bantam level. Even this year, his decision to forego a career in the QMJHL and instead choosing a path that would allow him to eventually go to a premier University in the USA raised some eyebrows. To this day, some argue that his potential as a forward would have been sky high; and some say he would have been better off playing in Midget when he was still Bantam age; and some are stunned that he didn’t commit to the QMJHL when he would have been a virtual lock to go #1 overall. It’s hard to argue with results though.
The Midget AAA Rookie of the Year from the Lac St. Louis Lions continues to shine on the ice, and is the consummate team player off of it. Looking past his elite skating, his pro shot, his puck movement skills and his ability to generate offense, you will see a player that works extremely hard, that is always positive even in the face of adversity, and who already conducts himself like a professional, whether it be during a game, at practice or just talking hockey. Even when he agreed to do this interview, he made it seem as if I was doing him a favor, and not the other way around.
Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with Mikey Matheson. A transcript of our discussion can be found below, and just remember, this is a 16-year-old kid answering these questions. You don’t get this kind of insight into the game of hockey from most NHLers, let alone someone who is 2 years away from being draft-eligible.
PSB: I’d like to start by going back 2 years to Bantam AA. You were a very good player as a first year, but all of a sudden you’re seeing elite players like Luca Ciampini, Sammy Hodhod and Marc Biega being moved up a level while you stayed in Bantam AA for a second year. How did playing another year of Bantam help your development?
MM: There were many people telling me that I should do the same, because the belief was that those players would develop better in the next year. Staying in Bantam helped my work ethic more than anything. I was able to be a go-to guy on a team, and I also taught myself not to be the best out there, but to be the best I can be. I wanted to be the hardest working guy every game and every practice.
PSB: This past season, you went through difficult times with some injuries. How did you manage to stay positive through all of that?
MM: It was pretty difficult because it was the first time I had ever had a serious injury. One night in bed, I was lying there trying to fall asleep, but my ankle was keeping me awake. I couldn’t take my eye off it while thinking of how it happened and how much I missed the game. I felt separated from my team and was worried that the competition would be passing me by now. I decided I wasn’t just going to lay around and wait until I could play again, but use the time to my advantage and try and become a smarter player. I got up on my crutches at around 1:00 at night and hobbled over to the chalkboard in my room. I wrote down all the things I wanted to accomplish while coming back. I can now look at that board and see all of them checked off.
PSB: The Lac St. Louis Lions had a poor regular season record wise, yet in the playoffs, your team went to another level and went on a long playoff run. A big part of that was your ability to elevate your game. What were you doing differently in the playoffs?
MM: First of all, the biggest difference was the fact that we had become a team, and every player had elevated their games as well. I used all the things I had learnt over my injury and put them into action. I played more confidently and tried to become a pro hockey player off the ice. I felt I became more mature.
PSB: On May 1 of this past year, the QMJHL’s Central Scouting released their rankings of draft eligible players. You were #1 overall on that list. What did that honor mean to you?
MM: It was amazing to be able to see my name at the top of that list. It gave me a real push to keep going, to keep working hard. It gave me proof that my hard work is paying off and that there is perhaps a possibility that my dream can come true.
PSB: On the subject of achieving your dreams, what are you hoping to accomplish over the next few years?
MM: I am hoping to commit to a Division 1 University in the States next year, while having a productive year in Midget. I am then hoping to make the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL and have a good season to be able to get drafted by an NHL team. I then hope to succeed in my first year in College with a good rookie season.
PSB: Now I want people to get a sense as to what Mike Matheson is like as a player. What aspect of your game do you take the most pride in?
MM: I pride myself most on my skating. I try to use it as best as I can, in the right situations. I am a guy that you can count on to be giving everything I have every time we are on the ice. I try to be a player that is always thinking of the team and not himself.
PSB: Is there a particular NHL player that you model your game after, or that you feel is a good comparable in terms of your style of play?
MM: I think I play a lot like Kris Letang on the Pittsburgh Penguins. We have similar skating styles and I like to watch him so that I can learn things from his play. He is very good on the powerplay, which is the area where I can learn the most from him. He is also very good at moving the puck up the ice and breaking out of his own zone.
PSB: What’s the best piece of advice you were given that you constantly remind yourself of?
MM: My dad always told me two things. If you’re pointing at a guy (blaming him), hold your hand up and point your finger at him because you will realize that your other three fingers are pointing back at you. The second piece of advice was to always remember that no matter where you are, how good you are, and what league you play in – you can always become a better player, and there are always plenty of people who want to push you out of your position.
PSB: What do you hope to improve on over the summer?
MM: I am training at Painstation, where I am hoping to build more muscle mass and become quicker at everything I do. I will also work a lot on my release and the weight on my shot.
PSB: And finally – a lot has been made about your decision to pursue your hockey career in the US instead of going to the QMJHL, where many believe you would have been the #1 pick. What were the factors that made you decide to go the “Louis Leblanc route” of playing the extra year of Midget AAA, going to the USHL and then hopefully attending a good college?
MM: It was a very difficult decision, and I just want to say that I truly did consider both sides and they battled to the finish in my mind. My decision was based on the fact that I wanted to be able to stay home next year and graduate at my high school. I am also looking forward to playing another year with the Lac St.-Louis Lions. Education is very important to me, and being able to play hockey at a very high level while pursuing my studies at an elite University was very important to me as well.
PSB: Mikey – thanks a lot for your time. I wish you all the best next year and I hope to see you representing our province of Quebec at the U17s.
MM: Thank you, I’ll see you at a rink somewhere, I’m sure!
OTHER “FUTURE STARS” PROFILES:
June 14 – Frederic Gamelin (Baie Comeau Drakkar)
June 11 – Luca Ciampini (Halifax Mooseheads)
June 10 – Dillon Fournier (Lewiston Maineiacs)
June 9 – Ben Masella (Deerfield / Montreal Juniors)
June 8 – Patrick Walsh (Quebec Remparts)
June 7 – Sammy Hodhod (Shawinigan Cataractes)
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.