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Mike Matheson was one of the more intriguing players heading into last season to see how he’d fare with his new team.  He wound up making a bigger impact than many expected; how will he fare for an encore?


Things didn’t get off to a great start for Matheson last season as he suffered an abdominal injury late in the preseason that kept him out for more than a month.  Only a few weeks after returning, he suffered a lower-body injury that cost him another month.  It took until mid-January for him to play more than ten games.

But Matheson certainly made the most of the limited time he had.  He made an early impression with his mobility and willingness to jump into the attack, showing that he was an ideal fit within Martin St. Louis’ desired playing style.  It didn’t take long for him to land a spot atop the defensive depth chart and when he got there, he didn’t give it up when he was in the lineup.

The end result was Matheson setting a new career-high in assists and points despite missing 34 games due to injury.  Meanwhile, his playing time, which also was a personal benchmark, went up by more than five-and-a-half minutes per game compared to his final season with Pittsburgh.  That type of year-to-year swing is extremely rare.

The bulk of that swing came from time on special teams.  After being a tertiary option on the power play with Pittsburgh, Matheson was a fixture on the top unit.  He rarely saw time shorthanded with the Penguins but took a regular turn with Montreal.  That helped transform him from a third-pairing player to a legitimate top-pairing one.  Aside from the injuries, things couldn’t have gone much better for Matheson in his first season with his hometown team.

Stats: 48 GP, 8-26-34, +7, 33 PIMS, 0 PPG, 2 GWG, 126 shots, 80 blocks, 53 hits, 24:27 ATOI

5 Year Averages

(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)

GP: 66
Goals: 9
Assists: 19
Points: 28
+/-: +1
PIMS: 34
PPG: 0
GWG: 2
Shots: 129

2023-24 Role

There are quite a few players on this roster whose role or at least their spot on the depth chart are up for some debate.  St. Louis likes to shuffle players around so that’s not too surprising.  Matheson is one of the exceptions.

He spent most of last season as the number one defenceman sitting atop the left side of the depth chart.  There’s no reason to think that shouldn’t be the case this season.  The majority of the back end is back for next season with the departure of Joel Edmundson being the lone exception.  Kaiden Guhle, assuming he has a healthier sophomore campaign, should see a bit more ice time but he isn’t ready to play top minutes just yet.  Fellow second-year players Arber Xhekaj and Jordan Harris aren’t going to be playing their way onto the top pairing either.  I could see his five-on-five time dipping ever so slightly but that’s about it at even strength.

From a special teams perspective, a lot depends on what happens with the player he was traded for.  If Jeff Petry is in the mix when the season starts, that would give Montreal two legitimate power play options which could cut into Matheson’s minutes (especially if they’re trying to pump up Petry’s trade value).  Even if that happens, we’re talking about him not playing a minute and a half per man advantage as he often did last season.  On the penalty kill, I expect Matheson should have a similar role as a year ago with Guhle being the top left-shot option in that department.

Projected Stats

Matheson produced at a 58-point pace last season.  I’m not willing to bank on him producing at that level next season but setting more career highs offensively should be in the cards, assuming that he can stay healthy this time around.

From a fantasy perspective, he’s someone that I could see both being overrated and underrated at the same time.  If someone drafts him based on his points pace alone, it’s going to be a reach.  But with how much time he missed last season, the fact he’s on a team that few expect to contend for the playoffs, and that he doesn’t provide a bunch of hits, he could fall under the radar.

He’s a number one defender on Montreal but in most standard leagues, I like him more as a third guy.  In deeper leagues, he’s a serviceable second option and probably should be going off the board a round or two earlier than he might otherwise.  If you’re more optimistic about his offensive upside next season than I am, Matheson could be a steal for someone in that draft range.

GP: 74
Goals: 12
Assists: 29
Points: 41
+/-: +4
PIMS: 40
PPG: 1
GWG: 2
Shots: 180

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