SUNRISE, Fla. - For Mike Matheson, the NHL Draft was a blur.
On the first day of the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, PA, the Florida Panthers used their first-round selection on Matheson, scooping up the smooth-skating defenseman with the 23rd overall pick.
"He can really skate, and I love defensemen who can skate," Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said at the time of the selection. "He's arguably the best skater in the draft and can move the puck."
Looking back, the choice has certainly proven to be a good one.
As a rookie this past season, Matheson showed plenty of poise and promise on Florida's blue line, recording 17 points (7-10-17) in 81 games. The 23-year-old also ranked second among all first-year defenseman in shots (179) and fifth in average ice time (21:03).
With the 2017 NHL Draft set to be held at the United Center in Chicago on June 23-24, FloridaPanthers.com's Jameson Olive recently caught up with Matheson to take a look back at his own draft before the Panthers welcome their next batch of talented prospects.
FloridaPanthers.com: What do you remember most about your draft day?
MATHESON: It's tough to say. The moment that I got picked would probably be what I remember the most. But at the same time the only reason I remember that the most is because I've been able to go back and watch the video of it. If I tried to recall walking down to the stage, I don't think I'd be able to. I actually don't remember it all [laughs]. From the moment I heard my name, I don't remember anything specifically until way afterwards.
FloridaPanthers.com: At what point in the first round did you start to get nervous that your named could potentially be getting called soon?
MATHESON: I think it was around the 17th pick. I knew that there was no chance that I was getting picked before that. It was around the 17th that I started thinking that it would be nice to hear my name soon [laughs].
FloridaPanthers.com: Who was sitting with you in the crowd?
MATHESON: My brother was right next to me. He and I were just kind of talking about different things, but it kind of went silent after that 17th pick for a little bit. You could tell that we were all getting a little bit nervous around that pick. But after the 22nd pick, they went to commercial and we all started to notice that a bunch of cameras were starting to appear around us. We had noticed earlier that each time someone got picked that a bunch of cameras would wander over close to them. I had a pretty good feeling about the interview with Florida that I had earlier that day and I knew that they were next. All of the sudden a bunch of cameras were around me, so I sort-of had a feeling it was coming. In all honesty though, you really don't know until you hear your name.
FloridaPanthers.com: What stood out to about the post-selection process?
MATHESON: All of that part is just being told to go here and go there. Each interview I had was just people asking me how I was feeling at that moment, but it's so hard to describe. You're just kind of speechless and so overwhelmed with everything going on. From the moment I got picked, it was so overwhelming. It's hard to pinpoint one specific moment. It seems like that part of it went by and then all of the sudden I was back up in Florida's arena box meeting up with my family. That's when things started to slow back down.
FloridaPanthers.com: How amazing was it to share that moment with your family?
MATHESON: It was cool. I kind of came around the corner and they were all standing there waiting for me. I think it was a pretty cool moment. They also had an area where we could go and take a photo with the family. Obviously being able to meet everyone that was involved in Florida's organization and having them meet my family was all really well done. For me, it was amazing to be a part of.
FloridaPanthers.com: Did you speak to any of your future Panthers teammates that day?
MATHESON: Since the draft was in Pittsburgh, I ended up going back the second day and just hanging out in Florida's box to watch the rest of it. Vincent Trocheck was there for that day and so was Bryan McCabe, so the three of just kind of watched it go on and talked for a few hours.
FloridaPanthers.com: Did you keep an eye on where other players were being selected in the draft?
MATHESON: Yes and no. I think it's always interesting to peek in and see where your friends go each year, especially during the first few years when guys that I knew from my hometown or from Boston College would be getting drafted. It's fun to see when certain teams draft people you know. But I think at this point, pretty much everyone that I've crossed paths with has had their opportunity to be drafted. I only pay attention to Florida's picks now.
FloridaPanthers.com: When did you finally take off your draft-day jersey?
MATHESON: I probably didn't take it off until dinner that night. We found a little restaurant after the draft to go to and have dinner - we were all starving! I think that's when I took it off. Now, it's hanging up in my bedroom in my parent's house.
FloridaPanthers.com: Do you have any other souvenirs from your draft day?
MATHESON: I have the hat, too. I'm pretty sure that I also have my credentials. I can't really think of anything else. I know that day I got a bag full of a few different pieces of Panthers apparel, so I definitely have that stuff. I've held on to everything, that's for sure.
FloridaPanthers.com: Do you ever find yourself thinking about your draft day when the Panthers are playing in Pittsburgh?
MATHESON: Yeah, for sure, especially since it was one of the first years after that new building was built. It's always interesting to go back and realize that this is where it all started and here we are. It definitely takes you back.
FloridaPanthers.com: Following the draft, how quickly did you begin to think about making your way to South Florida to take part in your first development at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs?
MATHESON: My mindset changed pretty quickly. I had been training with a few NHL guys at that point and their advice for me was the same: It doesn't really matter where you get drafted. It doesn't matter if you're a first rounder, second rounder or third rounder, all that matters is what you do afterwards. It was nice to enjoy the day and be picked where I was, but I quickly realized that once you get down to development camp, even though I happened to be drafted in the first round, there were guys that were drafted later that year that were put into the exact same situation. You don't get super special treatment just because you were drafted in a certain place. At the end of the day, you've still got to tie on your skates and go on the ice and perform. That's the message that I always try to give younger guys that come to me now. The draft is definitely a celebration, it's a really cool event, but what matters is what you do afterwards.