By Kirk Luedeke
This week, a bevy of prospects for the 2012 NHL Entry Drafts went to Toronto for the second annual Research, Development and Orientation (RDO) Camp hosted by the Central Scouting Service and NHL.
Designed to test proposed rules changes while also giving NHL teams a nice pre-season look at some of the top players expected to be taken in next June’s draft, one player attracted the notice of more than one NHL scout in attendance, defenseman Michael Matheson.
The Montreal-area native (Point-Claire, Quebec) has had a productive August. Last week, he helped Team Canada to a gold medal at the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Slovakia. For the Canadians, the team represented some of the best draft-eligible talent (1994 birthdates or later) for 2012 and beyond, because it is the one tournament that does not conflict with the junior hockey season. Major junior (CHL) teams in the playoffs do not release their players to compete in April Under-18 tourney, so Canada has not enjoyed as much success in the IIHF U-18 competition as they do in the non-IIHF Hlinka, when annual powerhouse clubs are assembled.
Matheson is an outstanding skater and offensive blue liner who spent last season skating for the Lac St-Louis Lions, a AAA midget club and is going to the USHL to play for the Clark Cup champion Dubuque Fighting Saints (an expansion club who went the distance a year ago). He is expected to arrive at Chestnut Hill in the fall of 2012 assuming he doesn’t shift course and opt for the QMJHL.
The 2012 Memorial Cup host team the Shawinigan Cataractes own his rights, but thus far, Matheson has declined to report, opting instead for the USHL to preserve his NCAA eligibility. Were his rights to be traded elsewhere or his future NHL club to weigh in, Matheson could change course, but for now, the thought of him going to the Eagles has the BC faithful excited. Matheson has high-end vision and hockey sense and the maturity and poise to be a very good two-way defenseman at the highest level.
At 6-foot-1 and a shade over 170 pounds, he has a lot of growing to do, but under the tutelage of coaching legend Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.), is the kind of player who is expected to thrive in the crucible of the Hockey East. With his excellent mobility and strong passing ability, Matheson could develop into a standout student athlete in a short period of time.
For now, he’ll try his hand in the more physical USHL, under head coach Jim Montgomery, also from Montreal and veteran of the Hockey East as a former star scorer at the University of Maine. Older brother Kenny will also skate for the Fighting Saints this season as a forward. Also joining Mike Matheson on defense in Dubuque will be Teddy Doherty (Hopkinton, Mass.), a fellow BC recruit and member of Team USA’s fifth-place Ivan Hlinka squad.
“This kid (Matheson) was excellent all week,” said one NHL scout at the RDO camp. “He’s a real good skater and played well at the Ivan Hlinka. He then followed it up with the kind of showing in Toronto that makes you sit up and pay attention.
“If people weren’t following him closely after being a AAA player last year, they sure are now.”