With injuries to some key players over the past couple of weeks, the Panthers were in need of some reinforcements. The team called up forward Kyle Rau and defenseman Mike Matheson on Friday from the Portland Pirates of the AHL. Both made their NHL debuts on Saturday in a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets, and they were fairly instrumental in the Panthers earning the victory. We sat down with Rau and Matheson on Monday afternoon for a short interview after the team’s morning skate in Coral Springs.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the Panthers organization?
“It’s great here, everyone’s so nice. The owner came and talked to my parents during my first game so that’s awesome…that’s stuff you don’t see everywhere. Everyone’s just been so nice and helpful…if I have any questions, they’re always answering, they’re always available.”
Since you and Nick Bjugstad played together at the University of Minnesota, did you keep up with each other before you were called up, especially since you’re both a part of the Panthers organization?
“Yeah, we probably talked two or three times a week, see how everyone’s doing, FaceTimed and stuff, so yeah we kept up with each other.”
Which part of the adjustment to pro hockey as been the most difficult?
“The hardest part of pro hockey is having so many games, it’s double the amount of games they have in college, so just getting ready for all of the games is the biggest difference.”
What type of music do you like? Any specific bands/groups?
“Not really, I just like country music. Luke Bryan is probably my favorite guy.”
What would you say is your favorite moment of your career thus far?
“Probably last game making my NHL debut is something I’ll always remember.”
Do you follow any sports aside from hockey?
“Yeah, I like watching football and baseball.”
“[Laughs] Yeah, I believe it.”
Do you have a favorite moment (goal, game, save, etc.) from all of the hockey you’ve watched?
“I remember last year I went to the Panthers-Wild game in Minnesota, when Bjugger scored…that was pretty cool to watch.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the Panthers organization, and would you say your perception of the team has changed at all since you were drafted?
“Yeah, I think the change in ownership has been huge. You can tell just in the way development camp was run. The second that they got in here, development camp changed a lot, I find everything is much more organized and then just those little aspects of the organization have really changed and I think that’s translated into them having a lot of success on the ice and you can tell with the amount of fans they’ve been getting this year that the organization is really heading in a great direction.”
What do you miss most about Boston College?
“I’d say just the camaraderie of your teammates and your classmates , just the whole culture in general of being able to live in a dorm with all of your best friends and go to the dining hall, get dinner every night together with a bunch of people, and walking to class and knowing 15 people on your way to class, knowing another 15 people in class, going to practice together…it’s just that culture of always being around your absolute best friends.”
The jump from college hockey to AHL is pretty big…what would you say were the noticeable differences and how were you ablt to adjust?
“I think it was the size and strength of the individual players that was a pretty big difference and then the structure of the game. I think in college it’s a bit more ‘dump the puck, chase’, a bit more ‘run and gun’ in that sense whereas in pro hockey it’s a little more structured, and obviously the guys you’re playing with are more intelligent, they have a lot more experience, they’re older, so they’re always positionally very sound, and you can rely on them to be in their position at all times.”
Would you say college hockey prepared you for the pro style of play?
“Yeah, I think so for sure. I didn’t find the speed was that much different and so I think that’s one thing that college hockey really does well is prepares you for that intensity, just not being able to every take a night off, in college hockey you really don’t play as many games so each game means that much more especially if you want to have a high ranking nationally. If you lose to a lower-ranked team, then it destroys your ranking and so you practice all week leading up to these games and the games are really intense…you really can’t lose focus at any point in the game, and I think that translates really well to pro hockey.”
So you and Ian McCoshen played together at the Boston College…do you keep up with each other, especially since you’re both a part of the Panthers organization?
“Yeah, we talk a lot. While I was in Portland, I was able to get down there a couple times to see the guys and then we text every once in a while too. Ian’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to having him.”
Do you have any pre-game rituals, and are you superstitious about things before / after games?
“Yeah, I have a few things for sure. When I tape my stick, it can’t touch the ground until i’m on the ice. Stupid little things, but that’s one that I’ve always kept with me.”
“[Laughs] No comment.”
What would you say is your favorite moment of your career thus far aside from making your NHL debut?
“I’d say the draft for sure, that was just a completely surreal day that I’ll definitely never forget. But on the ice, i’d say probably winning the Beanpot, at Boston College I was able to win it 2 out of the 3 years I was there and those were pretty special.”
Do you have any favorite types of music or any specifc bands/groups?
“Not really, nothing too specific, I’m not too picky, I’ll listen to anything.”
Stay tuned! We have some more interviews planned, including one with Panthers prospect Jayce Hawryluk!