Rau and Matheson will likely make their highly anticipated NHL debuts on home ice when the Panthers face the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. Kyle Rau currently leads the Panthers’ AHL affiliate in goals with 17 and is tied for 2nd in points with 27 while Mike Matheson is tied for the team lead in goals by a defenseman with 5 and is 2nd on the team with a +/- rating of 14. They’re both playing in their first full AHL seasons this year after playing a few near the end of last year following the end of their college seasons.
Kyle Rau, drafted in the 3rd round of the 2011 Draft, is a pesky, hard-working 2-way forward that has a knack for scoring big goals. Before leaving the University of Minnesota last year to sign with the Panthers, Rau led all active NCAA skaters in game-winning goals with 23 and currently has 3 for the Portland Pirates. He also missed just 3 games over the course of his NCAA career and captained his team to four regular-season conference championships, four-straight NCAA tournament appearances, and 2 Frozen Four appearances. Rau was a teammate of current Panther Nick Bjugstad and the two played on a line together for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, so perhaps they’ll be able to rekindle some old chemistry.
His most recent big goal came on Sunday when he tied the game for the Pirates with 18 seconds left in the 3rd period by going hard to the net and out-working 3 players on the opposing team.
Mike Matheson is a solid, smart 2-way defenseman with great skating ability and some offensive skills. He’s been thought by most to be the one to take over the role of Brian Campbell in the future and log big minutes on the Panthers blue-line. Matheson impressed the team during the pre-season and some thought he could’ve made the team, but he was sent to the AHL to get some development in. Matheson, drafted 23rd overall in 2012, has been considered the team’s top prospect since he was drafted.
To make room for Rau and Matheson, the Panthers have sent John McFarland and Brent Regner back to the Pirates. McFarland recorded 0 points and was a -1 during the 3 games of his first NHL call-up while Regner also recorded 0 points and was a -2 during the 7 games of his first NHL call-up.