Michael Matheson of the Lac St-Louis Lions. (Photo courtesy the Lac St-Louis Lions)
If there’s a theme in Michael Matheson’s life, it’s consistency and patience. On the ice, the Lac St-Louis Lions defenseman tries to employ the subtle and superb skills of Nicklas Lidstrom; off the ice, he has taken a studious approach to his hockey future.
Rated as the top prospect available for the Quebec League draft this past summer, Matheson visited both Baie-Comeau and Halifax (the teams with the first two picks), but also made it clear to everyone when the time came that he had made a decision to follow the NCAA route.
“I didn’t make a decision until two weeks before the draft,” Matheson said. “We didn’t hide anything. They knew for sure I wasn’t coming, every team knew.”
Which is why Matheson ended up as Shawinigan’s second round pick, 27th overall. Not that he was swayed. The young blueliner has narrowed his choice of schools down to four suitors – Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Vermont. Geographically, the three Boston schools and UVM all keep him fairly close to home, while offering a top-notch program where he can hone his game.
“Hockey-wise, it takes longer for defensemen to develop,” Matheson said. “With college there’s fewer games, more practice time, more time for sure in the gym to develop my body and give it time to mature.”
At 6-foot-1 and 169 pounds, Matheson has a great frame to build on and the reigning Quebec midget AAA rookie of the year is proving he can put up numbers on a consistent basis. The Lions stalwart is leading the league in scoring by a defenseman with nine goals and 26 points in 19 games. But once again, his success isn’t limited to sublime skill.
“What he does exceptionally well before he even steps on the ice is he’s our No. 1 leader in work ethic,” said Lions coach Jon Goyens. “He wants to be that consistent, reliable defenseman who has that offensive-defenseman label as well.”
But how does Matheson get his points? Goyens cites crisp passing and skating. The coach also has his charges watch video of NHL blueliners in order to see what the pros do to be the best. Case studies include Sergei Gonchar and Matheson’s favorite, Lidstrom.
“We look at the position of their hands and arms when they handle the puck,” Matheson said, “and their feet when they’re straddling the blueline.”
Consistency in the defensive zone is something Matheson would like to keep working on; specifically, the way his feet are positioned. But Goyens knows whenever he needs to talk to Matheson about an aspect of his game, he has an eager student.
“Before you can even sit down at your desk, there’s a knock at your door,” Goyens said. “It’s like he’s reading your mind.”
That dedication was evident even last year, so Goyens drafted Matheson to work at the team’s summer hockey camp alongside players such as then-captain Benjamin Masella.
“We wanted Michael to be part of our leadership group,” Goyens said.
This season, it’s Matheson wearing the ‘C’ and the Lions are sitting atop their division with a 19-6-1 record.
Eligible for the 2012 NHL draft, Matheson isn’t sure whether he’ll play in the NCAA next season or do a prep year with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States League. But wherever he goes, success is sure to follow.
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