VOORHEES –Three-year rookie camp veteran and former third-round pick Jonathan Matsumoto is in organizational suspended animation.
The once mid-level center prospect, who just three years ago showed promise as a depth player, has quickly stagnated in the Flyers’ system, getting passed on the depth chart by centers Darroll Powe, Jared Ross and Jon Kalinski. And although the soon-to-be 23-year old put up 107 points in 156 games with the Phantoms, he hasn’t seen one minute of NHL ice time.
“If I knew what was holding me back I would have worked on it already,” said smiley and soft spoken Matsumoto. “They told me to come to camp in shape and I’m feeling good now. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. Hopefully I just get a chance to show what I can do this year.”
After two full years at the AHL level and an ever-growing herd of new recruits challenging his spot on the team’s forward depth list, Matsumoto, who is in the final year of his three-year, entry-level contract, needs to make himself known almost immediately, before he loses his prospect status and starts gaining the reputation as an AHL-regular.
“I didn’t have that in mind but I do now,” Matsumoto joked. “I think I just go in and play my game. I’d obviously like to avoid getting the label (of AHLer), but hopefully I get the chance to show what I can do.”
What makes Matsumoto’s situation even odder is that he has impressed in camp, showing decent hands and skating ability, while also often centering top prospects like James vanRiemsdyk, Patrick Maroon and Andreas Nodl. And even though he continues to join the youngsters in rookie camp, the former Bowling Green State Falcon has kept a good mindset and taken a leadership role.
“I didn’t have captaincy in my mind,” said Matsumoto, who led the camp in stretching. “But I’m one of the more veteran guys here so I just took it into my hands. I remember my first camp, I was a little nervous and now that I’ve had a chance to be here for a little bit, I’ve been trying to take more of a leadership role.”
With the Flyers currently log jammed at forward, it does not look like Matsumoto will see NHL ice anytime soon. But with a good mindset and decent skills, it wouldn’t cost the Flyers to try.