Catching Up With ... Jon Matsumoto

After a year away, a familiar face for Rampage fans will be returning to the Alamo City.

Center Jon Matsumoto signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Florida Panthers in the opening days of free agency and will look to add firepower to the Rampage’s offense this season.

Matsumoto returns to San Antonio after donning the Silver and Black down the stretch of the 2011-12 season and helping the Rampage to the team’s third playoff appearance in franchise history.

“I’m really happy to be back in San Antonio,” he said. “My wife and I loved the area and the fans were great to us.”

In only 35 games with the Rampage, Matsumoto tallied 10 goals and 16 assists, along with 13 points in 10 playoff games en route to the team’s first playoff series victory. Now the 26-year-old center is hoping to mimic that offensive production over the course of an entire season for the Rampage.

“We had a great run here a couple years back and we really had to battle for that playoff spot,” Matsumoto said. “Competing for the Calder Cup is always the goal. The way it ended wasn’t ideal, but we took a lot of strides as a team.”

Matsumoto is excited to return to a Rampage squad that will likely feature many familiar faces from the 2011-12 season.

“Our team had great chemistry and everyone was getting along and clicking really well,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing the guys who were a part of that run.”

Last season, Matsumoto played 60 games for the Worcester Sharks and recorded 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) before being loaned to Chicago for the final five games of the regular season.

With a slight dip in numbers during the 2012-13 campaign, Matsumoto said he’s been pushing himself harder than ever before – both in the gym and on the ice.

“I worked out in Raleigh this summer and was really focused on my quickness and speed,” he said. “I felt I was lacking a little bit in those areas last year. But I think I’m in the best shape of my life now and I’m pretty excited to get the season started.”

Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the third round (79th overall), the Ottawa, Ont. native has tallied 314 points (139 goals, 175 assists) in seven seasons in the AHL. He has also played in 14 NHL games between Carolina and Florida, recording two assists.

Matsumoto will travel to Florida for training camp next week and said he’s looking forward to joining the young corps of offensive weapons for the Panthers.

“Florida has been doing a great job drafting the past few years,” he said. “The future looks bright for the organization and I’m happy to be back as a part of it.”

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