Some prospects can fall outside the 1st round since they lack the potential to become a complete all-around player. However, they can excel in one end of the rink which can still make them an early pick in the draft. Adam Ollas Mattsson is a shut down defender with the size to impose his will on to opposing forwards. Like the Devils 2013 2nd round pick, Steve Santini, he lacks offensive upside to be a 1st round selection but has proven to be a force in his own end. His combination of size and ability to read the play still makes him an attractive prospect. He could make a team take a chance on him in the 2nd round as his defensive abilities are amongst the best in his class.
Who is Adam Ollas Mattsson?
Adam Ollas Mattsson is a defenseman that has mainly honed his craft as a junior player for Djurgården in Sweden. His Elite Prospects profile list him at 6'4" and 216 pounds. He checked in at the NHL Combine at 6'4" and 209 pounds, which made him one of the physically largest prospects in this draft class. He is still just 17 years old (born 7/30/96) and has already competed against men in Sweden's 2nd highest tier of hockey, the Allsvenskan. Check out his basic stats below, courtesy of Elite Prospects:
As you can see, Ollas Mattsson has spent the majority of his junior career with Djurgården. He arrived in 2011-12 but started making a real impact in 2012-13 for their U18 teams, featuring in 32 total games and registering 8 assists. 2013-14 appears to have been a break out year for him as he spent most of his season with the U20 team, putting up 9 points in 33 games and earning a call up to the Allsvenskan for 6 games to play against grown men. He only finished 4th amongst defensemen points for his U20 team which suggests his play in his own end helped earn him the call up.
Ollas Mattsson has also represented Sweden at the U16, U17, and U18 levels and has earned Gold twice, once as a U16 and the other as a U17. This past August he participated in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament against many other future NHL prospects and came away with a +4 rating in 4 games, tied for 1st on his team. In April he played in the World U18 championships and managed 3 points in 7 games.
What Others Say About Adam Ollas Mattsson
Mike Repertorio at Pro Puck Prospects has this overview on Ollas Mattsson:
Ollas Mattsson is quite simply, a big, strong, stay at home defenseman, and he plays the role very well. He’s not the fastest or strongest skater, and can get beat on occasions. However, he finds success by using his size and long reach while keeping things simple. With great defensive awareness, Ollas Mattsson is extremely effective. He will get down and block shots, can close lanes effectively thanks to his reach, and can straight up run you over.
It's nice to know that he is able to use his large frame effectively, though I do wonder if this has made him stand out at a level where players are much smaller than what he would face eventually in North America a bit more than his talent would suggest. I do like that he gets into shooting lanes and is able to disrupt the opposition's attack.
Shawn Reznik of The Hockey Writers notes:
For a big player, Mattsson defends very well with his long reach and pokecheck. He also is good at getting his large frame in front of shots and making it difficult for pucks to get through. He’s shown flashes of offensive potential, but he’s likely going to be a defensive defenseman at the NHL level.
There are plenty of opportunities for defensemen to make it in the NHL even if they don't possess an offensive game. It seems he has the skills defensively to limit shots against and not allow his opponents that many great scoring chances.
Hockey's Future has this analysis on his play::
Seeks physical play in solving problems and handling defensive situations in his zone. Loves to give it to smaller forwards who challenge him and think they can slip by taking the low route. Puts his long reach to good use, constantly bothering opposition attackers. Positioning is usually sound and he shows no hesitation in blocking shots. Mattsson has a decent first pass and has shown an aptitude for blueline play, although the offensive game doesn’t yet appear to be the strength of his game. Is good at keeping pucks in the offensive zone as well as generally blocking passes.
You'll find out what NHL player he models his game after in the Hockey's Future interview below. Once again another report that praises his coverage in his own end. It's encouraging to read about his passing ability which many reports don't touch on.
Terrel of Arctic Ice Hockey, SB Nation's Winnipeg Jets Blog, ranked Ollas Mattsson 45th and wrote this about him:
Although limited in terms of offensive upside, Mattsson plays a real smart safe stay at home game. He consistently makes solid reads in the defensive zone and plays strong positionally. He has a good solid skating stride, though he could stand to work on his foot speed. He makes a solid first pass and can move the puck. His limits come into play in the offensive zone as he does not take chances nor create much offensively. He also could stand to use his size a little more effectively.
Ollas Mattsson has impressed different people all year with his defensive game which leads me to believe that he is a fairly consistent player. He may not be flashy but does offer an attractive skill set as someone who can suppress shots against.
Amongst the various public rankings, Ollas Mattson was 15th by Central Scouting for European skaters, 42nd by TSN's Craig Button, 65th by Brendan Ross at The Scouting Bureau, and Sweden's 11th best 1996 born prospect by Jacob Nystrom of Hockey Sverige.
A Little Video
There are numerous interviews in Swedish with Ollas Mattsson on YouTube, but here is an interview in English he had with Hockey's Future from the recent U18 Championships. Unfortunately it is difficult to find a highlight video for him - though I suppose that is to be expected for a defensive defenseman. In the Hockey's Future interview you find out that he looks up to fellow Swede and Djurgården alumni, Niklas Kronwall because of his physical game.
An Opinion of Sorts
As much as I like what I've read about his defensive game, I'd rather the Devils focus on a forward with their 2nd round pick since there seem to be numerous offensively skilled players that will be available at that position. Ollas Mattsson is someone whom I'd be more inclined to take in the 2nd round if the Devils were picking late or if they didn't have the amount of quality and depth across their blueline prospect pool that they currently have. With that said, I wouldn't be upset if the Devils took Ollas Mattsson since his defensive game is widely praised and he is still young and has a lot of time to round out his overall game. I am a bit concerned about his lack of offensive skills but if he can become a shot suppressing defender that can make the smart, quick pass out of his zone, then I can see him becoming an asset.
We know the Devils love to draft large defensemen by looking at their draft history. Since 2009 they have taken prospects over 6'3" such as Eric Gelinas, Alexander Urbom, Seth Helgeson, Curtis Gedig, Jon Merrill, and Adam Larsson. It is clear that the Devils value size when analyzing a prospect - especially defenders. For that reason alone, I wouldn't be shocked if Ollas Mattsson was on the Devils radar.
Some may argue that the Devils shouldn't target a defenseman early in the draft since the entire system is in a bit of a logjam right now but I don't think it's ever too early to re-stock the cupboard. A lot of the Devils defense prospects are now at the professional level so there is certainly room to add a junior defender. I'd rather target a two way defender before a defensive defenseman though in the 2nd round. I think it is crucial that the Devils focus on prospects that have shown offensive skill and have the results to back it up when using their early picks.
Now that you've read all this, what's your opinion of Adam Ollas Mattsson as a prospect? How do you feel about his large physical size, strong defense, but lack of offense? Are you impressed by him getting a call up to play against men as a 17 year old? Would you be happy if the Devils selected him in the 2nd round? Please leave your thoughts and comments below. Thank you for reading.