Matheson is ready to take the kids under his wing

Matheson is ready to take the kids under his wing

Mike Matheson He understands what it means to join a rebuilding team like the Montreal Canadiens, and the defender says he is ready to support the young players he will see next season.

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The Habs acquired the 28-year-old through the 2023 fourth round draft of the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the defensive man. Jeff Petri and the attacker Ryan Boehling Saturday. Matheson is moving from a team that has been in the playoffs for 16 consecutive seasons to an open reset roster where he will play with young defenders such as Justin Barron (20 years), Jordan Harris (22) and perhaps even Kaiden Guhle (20), and small attackers such as Nick Suzuki (22), Cole Caufield (21) and Kirby Dash (21).

“All these young players who are proving themselves in the National Hockey League are there for a reason,” Matheson said Monday. They do not necessarily need someone, because they got the position they are in by achieving it themselves. Having said that, I think it can be very helpful to have someone to turn to for questions. »

The veteran of seven seasons and 417 NHL career games has inspired leaders in the Penguins on his own journey – Sidney CrosbyAnd the Chris Letang And the Evgeny Malkin.

“I hope I can help pass on the culture they created in Pittsburgh,” Matheson continued. It’s something very special. That’s what it takes to win this league. I’m not saying I’m going to be a master or Chris or a “genu” for the guys here because they’re better than me, but if there’s anything I can do to help them or teach them a lesson about what I accomplished earlier in my career it would be great. The team will help. »

Matheson is coming off the best season of his career. He achieved career-highs in goals (11), assists (20), points (31), plus/minus (plus 12) in 74 games with the Penguins, adding six points, including five assists, in seven playoff games. Stanley Cup.

The picture wasn’t always rosy for Matheson, who was drafted in the first round (23rd overall) by the Florida Panthers in 2012. Before his three-year rookie contract expired, the Panthers signed him a massive eight-year contract. A toxic gift came with its share of excessive expectations. Two years after the deal went into effect, the Panthers traded it for the penguins on September 24, 2020.

“I didn’t live up to expectations, I was frustrated with myself and didn’t have much confidence,” Matheson admitted. I wasn’t playing as I expected.

“Once I got to Pittsburgh, I was able to fit into a different play system where I had the opportunity to use skateboarding a little more. It allowed me to be up against my opponents more often, rather than staying behind. When I’m passive, I don’t take advantage of my strengths. . […] I’ve had more success in Pittsburgh for this reason, and I want to take that to Montreal. »

Video: NYR @PIT, #4: Matheson scores on the skew shot

For the Penguins, Matheson was the fourth most-used linebacker, but he was averaging under 20 minutes per game (18:48). Given that he’s now the highest paid defensive Habs ($4.875 million per season) and that he’ll develop with several of his young teammates, we’d probably expect to see Matheson used more often in Montreal and rub shoulders with slightly tougher competition night after night. His replacement, Petrie, was the second most used Canadian player last season (22:07). A challenge that the main interested party welcomes with open arms.

Matheson argued, “My time in Pittsburgh under a good system allowed me to develop. I was able to see a player like Chris Letang and see what he does every day in training. I consider myself ready to move forward and take on these responsibilities. It’s a challenge, and I want to I face such a challenge.”

Shock soon gave way to enthusiasm

Matheson, a native of Pointe Claire, on the western island of Montreal, admitted he was surprised by the deal, but the shock soon gave way to excitement.

“I wasn’t expecting a deal, but when I knew I was going to Montreal, it was so special,” said Matheson, who speaks flawless French. “I grew up in Montreal and learned to play hockey while watching the Montreal Canadiens. I was a huge fan, and with my family we watched all the games. To think that I would wear this jacket every night at the Bell Center is very special.”

That dream of playing for his childhood team is exactly what makes Matheson not at all afraid to join a team in Recon, which finished last in the NHL last season (22-49-11, 55 points).

“We saw what they did at the end of last season, and it was exciting even for a player who doesn’t play for the team, but comes from Montreal,” said Matheson. I was happy for the team. Being a part of Canadians was a dream for me. »

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