(Coral Springs, Florida) Who is the Canadian’s second scorer this season, ahead of renowned teammates such as Cole Caufield, Sean Monahan and Brendan Gallagher?

Those who responded Mike Matheson deserve our eternal respect.

Because it’s correct: the Canadian’s second scorer so far is the 29-year-old defender, who is experiencing a form of professional rebirth with the Montreal club.

After 34 games, the Quebecer finds himself with a production of 6 goals and 19 assists, for a total of 25 points. Excluding bad luck, this is a pace that will allow him to surpass the best harvest of his career, 34 points, a total obtained last season, his first as a member of the Canadiens.

And as luck would have it, Matheson will play the 500th game of his career here Saturday night in Florida, where it all started for him with the 2015-2016 Panthers.

“I didn’t know it was going to be my 500th game, but I know now! “, he explained Friday noon after the Canadian’s training in Coral Springs. “For sure I’m a different player from the player I was here. I learned a lot with the Panthers, but there were difficult seasons, difficult moments too. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, it allowed me to become who I am. »

Yes, we can say that Matheson has come a long way since the Panthers selected him with a first pick, the 23rd overall, in the 2012 draft. Once a not too flamboyant defender, he has since found a offensive side to his game that many did not suspect.

This is also what Martin St-Louis noticed.

“He didn’t have the same role when he was here,” noted the Canadian coach. Now he has a role where he has opportunities to demonstrate what he can do. It’s an adaptation for him too.

“He has more responsibilities with us. He is able to control the game on both ends of the ice. What I like about Mike is that he seeks the right balance. Going on the attack or staying at the back, in this decision, there is a balance to achieve, it is a gray area. He plays a lot of minutes, we have to manage that, but it’s hard not to make him play more…”

Matheson’s metamorphosis is all the more impressive given that, in his own opinion, his first steps in the NHL with the Panthers sometimes led to moments of discouragement.

“There were difficult times when I was struggling psychologically,” he admitted. Fortunately, there are teammates here who helped me. So, I would say I’m not the same player anymore, but there were times when I thought that wasn’t going to happen. I was trying to get better without really knowing if it was going to happen. »

But it happened, and today, and certainly on this sunny Friday here, Matheson was smiling again. The management of the Canadian can undoubtedly congratulate itself on having obtained it for almost nothing in July 2022 during a transaction which sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins two players, Jeff Petry and Ryan Poehling, who are no longer even with the team.

On Saturday evening, therefore, Mike Matheson will return to where it all began, with the pleasant feeling of knowing that his story is far from over.

“I wouldn’t change anything that happened,” he said. Because everything happens for a reason…”