Philadelphia Flyers Enforcer of the Future: Derek Mathers
With their last pick in the 2011 NHL Entry draft, the Philadelphia Flyers selected a 6'3", 230-pound prospect named Derek Mathers.
Mathers played 55 games last season for the Ontario Hockey League's Peterborough Petes. Though totaling just five points, Mathers fought 27 times and notched 171 penalty minutes.
Mathers is the scariest 17-year-old in hockey today. His massive size at such a young age is frightening, and there are few players capable of handling him in a fight.
Mathers will have to work on his playing skills to eventually make an NHL lineup, but there should be no worrying with the development of his abilities as the Flyers' next great enforcer.
A few fights from this past season display those abilities.
Mathers vs. Victor Terreri (Sept. 17, 2010)
Mathers is in the white jersey.
What the video doesn't capture is the start of the fight, when Mathers landed a punch that knocked Terreri's helmet off.
Here, Mathers seems similar to an open-styled fighter like Colton Orr; there is no jersey tugging, just straight toe-to-toe punching.
Mathers landed three good punches that bloodied Terreri.
Mathers vs. Anton Zupancic (Sept. 23, 2010)
Mathers is in white again. The replay offers a better view of the fight.
Though both players are the same height, Mathers managed to stay away from Zupancic's punches.
Mathers landed two hard rights: one on the chin, and another on the helmet which caused Zupancic to drop.
Zupancic got back up but didn't do anything after clearly being rocked by Mathers.
Mathers vs. Scott Sabourin (Sept. 24, 2010)
Mathers is in the maroon jersey. In this short fight, he landed a right that knocked his opponent off-balance.
Mathers vs. David Broll (Nov. 18, 2010)
Broll is one of few opponents similar to Mathers' size, weighing 225 pounds.
While Mathers didn't completely dominate like the announcer made it seem, he was able to control this fight.
This shows how good his balance and strength are, as a similar-sized opponent was still easy for him to control.
Mathers vs. Alex O'Neil (Dec. 16, 2010)
Mathers' balance and strength are just as effective towards the outcome of a fight as his punching power.
Watch as Mathers is able to stand upright and lean slightly forward the entire fight. He never loses balance.
This advantage is important because O'Neil needed to grab onto Mathers to keep balance.
With both hands on Mathers' jersey, O'Neil left himself open to be a punching bag.
Mathers vs. Kyle Hope (Jan. 9, 2011)
Mathers went for a check along the boards, but the player turned as Mathers hit him.
Aside from the simple ability Mathers has to dominate fights, his large frame will be useful for hitting and intimidating the opposition.
All Hope could do is hug Mathers here. There's really nothing stopping Mathers from being a destructive force on the ice.
Mathers vs. Alex O'Neil (March 3, 2011)
When a fighter has a height disadvantage such as O'Neil did against Mathers, the best approach is to come closer to the fighter.
This allows the shorter player to throw hard punches that connect, but gives the taller fighter less room to work with. Imagine trying to do jumping jacks in a phone booth.
Showing that the technique is no problem to deal with, Mathers pulls O'Neil on the back of his jersey and continues winning the fight (similar to Donald Brashear's style).
Mathers vs. Scott Sabourin (March 12, 2011)
Remember, this is a 17-year-old you're watching in these fights.
With the way the game has become faster, enforcers like Mathers will need to be able to play a complete game to land a job at the NHL level.
This is why the Flyers signed Jody Shelley instead of other players available during the summer such as Derek Boogaard or Brian McGrattan; Shelley is less of a liability on the ice than most of the other players who fill his role.
After Shelley's contract is up, the Flyers will be looking for a replacement. Mathers might be ready by then.
Get excited, Philly.