The Florida Panthers have several solid defensemen. You can make several arguments for each of them. Aaron Ekblad consistently puts up at least 10 goals every year while his partner Keith Yandle always gets 30 assists. While they are solid defenders they aren’t the Panthers best defenders. That honor belongs to Mike Matheson.
In the weak 2012 draft, the Panthers fresh off a division championship picked the young defenseman. Matheson played three years in college. Matheson had a solid AHL season in 2915-16. However he broke out when injuries to several defenders propelled him into the starting lineup. Matheson was very solid in 5 playoff games. Entering 2016-17, Matheson was a dark horse candidate for the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. Although Auston Matthews ended up with the rookie of the year award, Matheson posted 17 points in 81 games.
Matheson was given an 8 year extension and hasn’t disappointed. He has made some highlight reel goals including this beauty early in January:
He has 6 goals and 10 assists in 49 games. He is on track to get 26 points this year. Last year he made a lot of defensive mistakes. This year he looks like a veteran on the defensive side. Although pairing up with defensive stalwart Mark Pysyk might help, Matheson has held his own defensively. Ekblad and Yandle both struggle defensively. Here are my rankings of the Panthers 7 defenseman in order from best to worst:
- Mike Matheson
- Keith Yandle
- Aaron Ekblad
- Mark Pysyk
- Alex Petrovic
- Mackenzie Weegar
- Ian McCoshen
With Matheson locked up for 8 years, the hope is for Matheson to develop into a Brian Campbell like defenseman. Campbell was one of the best two way defenders to ever don a Panthers jersey and Matheson is very good on both sides. The sky is the limit for this kid.