In the quiet of a small rink in Châteaguay, Quebec, where the only sounds were the scrape of skates on ice and the echo of a puck against the boards, Mathieu Cataford found his love for hockey.

Drafted 77th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2023, the 19-year-old recently clinched the Quebec Martimes Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) MVP trophy, leading the Halifax Mooseheads with an astounding 90 points during the 2023-24 season. But Cataford's story is about more than stats and accolades—it's a tale of resilience, hard work, and a relentless drive to reach the pinnacle of his sport.

Joining the Mooseheads at the start of the 2021-22 campaign, the forward’s three-season tenure with the club has set him up to continue playing hockey at higher levels. Amassing 211 points in 195 games, he has secured his place among the franchise's all-time greats and looks to continue breaking records in his return to the QMJHL next year. 

After a standout 2023-24 season in which he wore an ‘A’ and signed his entry-level contract with the Vegas Golden Knights, Cataford added the Michel-Brière Trophy as the league’s MVP to his resume with 40 goals and 50 assists in just 65 games.

“These past three years with the Mooseheads were probably the best of my life,” Cataford said. “Playing in the QMJHL with this team was a real-life dream.”

Throughout his career, Cataford's biggest influences have been his coaches and teammates, who have taught him valuable lessons both on and off the ice. His very first hockey coach was instrumental in shaping his understanding of the game and how to be a good teammate. The biggest lesson he took away was that making the right play is more important than scoring a goal. Cataford built on that mindset in Halifax, crediting his linemate in the QMJHL, Markus Vidicek, with much of his success this past season. 

“We had great chemistry,” said Cataford. “I was happy with myself and my season and especially signing my contract with Vegas, but I didn’t do it all by myself. I did a lot of that with my teammates.”

Entering the Golden Knights organization this past year has marked a significant step in Cataford’s career. The NHL club’s support has been crucial to his development, and he attributes Vegas’ Director of Player Development, Wil Nichol, and Skating and Skills Development Consultant, Scott Jones, with a lot of growth. 

“They followed me throughout the year and gave me some feedback on what they wanted from me, what I need to improve, and the things I was doing well,” said Cataford. “I think it had an impact. I was glad to see that they were following me.”

Cataford's brief stint with the Henderson Silver Knights at the end of the 2023-24 season provided a glimpse into professional play for the young athlete. Assigned to Vegas’ AHL affiliate on April 9th, he played four games with the team, tallying two assists, including a point in his debut.

“My AHL debut was a great moment,” Cataford said. “I was anxious before the game, but once I got on the ice, the nerves settled. Playing those games gave me a good sense of what to expect and how I need to prepare for the future.”

As Cataford readies for the next chapter of his career, his unwavering determination and focus on improvement promise a bright future. Whether it’s enhancing his speed, sharpening his skills, or building on his physical game, he remains committed to becoming the best player he can be. 

The 5’11 winger is focused on playing to his identity and making daily improvements next season. While demonstrating his development to the Golden Knights is his primary objective, adding a few more points to the scoresheet and winning a few more league awards along the way couldn't hurt. 

Cataford's ambitions extend beyond the AHL as he eventually aims to don the Golden Knights' jersey in the NHL and make a significant impact with the team. He also has his sights set on representing Team Canada in the World Junior Championship at the 2025 tournament. 

“The dream is to make the NHL with the Vegas Golden Knights, but I think I’m going to put focus on my AHL seasons first and just try and make the jump as quickly as possible.”