Those are the words of University of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, who coached Matson for four seasons with the Golden Gophers. That’s saying a lot about the Vancouver Canucks 2007 draft pick, as Lucia has coached numerous NHL players, including the likes of Phil Kessel, Thomas Vanek, and the Canucks own, Keith Ballard.
The terms hard work, determination, intelligence, and leadership frequently end up in a conversation when speaking of Matson. He just wrapped up a four-year career at Minnesota, captaining the team this past season all the way to the Frozen Four in Tampa Bay, Florida, before losing to Boston College in the semi-finals, 6-1 on Thursday. Forty-eight hours later he signed an Amateur Try Out contract with the Canucks American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
Matson captained the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minnesota, for two seasons, leading the squad to a Minnesota State Class AA championship his junior year. That season he put up impressive numbers – 68 points (28-40-68) in 27 games – earning an honorable mention as All-State.
“He works so consistently hard on every shift,” said Greg Trebil, his former coach at Holy Angels. “He puts pressure on his teammates to match his efforts and intensity.”
The next season he only played 13 games with the Academy, scoring 36 points, enough to be named a finalist for the Minnesota Mr. Hockey award, which goes to the top high school player in the state. Trebil spoke identical words as Lucia when asked where Matson’s work ethic ranks with players he has coached.
“I can say without hesitation that he is one of the finest young men to have played for me,” said Trebil, who now serves as director of hockey operations at the Academy. “He was a very dedicated student, and is easily the hardest working player I have every coached.”
Matson also suited up for 16 games with the Des Moines Buccaneers during his senior season of high school. The Buccaneers are a tier 1 junior franchise situated in Iowa, in the United States Hockey League. After the season Matson was drafted in the 6th round, 176th overall, by the Canucks. The 6-foot, 190-pound centre played the following season with Des Moines in the USHL, leading the team in scoring with 37 points (13-24-37) in 55 games, en route to being named the Buccaneers MVP.
The Mound, MN native started his collegiate career the 2008-09 season with the Gophers, who at the time had Vancouver’s 2007 1st round pick Patrick White, and 2009 1st round pick Jordan Schroeder. His first two seasons at Minnesota were cut short due to season ending injuries, he only played 13 games his freshman season, and 19 his sophomore season. After his second season Matson was named to the WCHA All-Academic team, and also won the team’s Mike Crupi Most Determined Player award.
Finally after the two abbreviated seasons, Matson was able to play 33 games as a junior. He scored 10 goals, and added three assists that season; he was even named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week in November. Although he was able to play more games his third season then his first two seasons combined, Matson again found himself observing the end of the season from the press box. An ankle injury shelved him for the final game of the season, as well as the Gophers two playoff losses to Alaska-Anchorage. For the second consecutive season Matson was named to the WCHA All-Academic team, and was named the Most Dedicated Player on his team. After the season he was voted as team captain for the following season by his teammates, a testament of his hard work and dedication. Being named captain meant a lot to the Mound, Minnesota native.
“It’s honestly everything to me,” Matson told the Minnesota Daily. “I grew up watching the Gophers, and to see all the captains come through … and to be on that list with those guys is something I’m very proud of.”
This past season Matson was able to stay healthy and he captained Minnesota to a Frozen Four appearance, their first since 2005. He played a career-high 43 games and recorded a career-high 23 points (8-15-23). He scored the game-winning goal and added an assist in the Gophers win over North Dakota that gave them the berth into the Frozen Four. The Gophers were not the pre-season favorites to go as far as they did, but Matson’s workmanship and leadership brushed off on his fellow teammates.
“He set the tone for everybody on our team, you knew you could turn your back and Taylor was going to be the hardest working guy whether you’re watching or not,” said Lucia. “By his example, he forced everyone else on the team to work as hard as he did.”
Not only did he leave an impression on the ice, but his personality off the ice left his former coaches praising his character.
“Taylor is driven in everything he does, whether it was in academics, or in how he conducts himself,” added Lucia. “Just a guy that you never had to worry about, that was always going to do the right thing.”
“He was a good friend to all,” Trebil said. “Always stood ready to help anyone that needed it and many times provided that help.”
He is yet another new face to join the Chicago Wolves, as fellow Canucks prospects, goaltender Joe Cannata, forward Nicklas Jensen, and defenseman Frank Corrado, all have joined the team recently. Matson will look to impress the Canucks brass in the hopes of earning a contract with the big club. He has recorded one assist in two games with Chicago so far.