Mathias Emilio Pettersen is a Norwegian center who has plied his trade in the United States since 2014-15, his age 15 season. His father was a forward who played professional hockey in Norway for a few years in the 1990s and early 2000s, but clearly his son was gifted with more talent, as he has a chance of being drafted by an NHL team this year.
Pettersen stands at 5’10” and weighs 179 pounds, which is not a bad overall size for an 18 year old, but he will require some bulking over the next few years. This is a definite probability as well, since he has committed to the University of Denver and will begin there this autumn. Considering the NCAA game, and the fact that he will be playing with seniors much bigger and stronger, if he wants to succeed he will certainly up his physical size and game. The question today, however, is when he could be drafted, and if the New Jersey Devils should take a look at him with one of their last picks.
Who is Mathias Emilio Pettersen?
Pettersen came over to the US from Norway to play in a U16 league, the United States Premier Hockey League. This he did for a season and a half before dominating midget competition for the rest of 15-16. Over the last two years, he has played in the USHL, the top junior league in the United States. Most of the US prospects you will see coming from here are a part of the US National Team Development Program, which consistently churns out the best USA players heading into a draft, but it is not entirely uncommon to see other players coming from some of the other teams in the league. Pettersen played for the Omaha Lancers two years ago, and this past year played for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
His first year in the USHL was not overly successful, producing only 27 points in 57 games. After the season, he was traded to Muskegon for a few draft picks. The extra year of seasoning and the change of scenery did him some good. This past year, in 60 games for the Lumberjacks, he ended up with 46 points, a much more productive year. With Omaha, he was only at 0.47 points per game, but with Muskegon he was all the way up to 0.77 points per game. That is definite improvement. This is not top of the line production, and he is definitely not a top prospect, but those are decent numbers heading into his freshman year at Denver. Should he produce 0.77 points per game next year at the NCAA level, that would be serious growth.
Further, even though he has come over to the States to play locally, he has played for Norway internationally a couple of times. He played for Norway at the World Juniors on their U18 team the last couple seasons, although it is worth noting that Norway was not playing in the top division, instead playing in Division 1A. The competition is not as fierce, currently comprising the nations of Denmark, Germany, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Slovenia. Like in the USHL, he showed serious growth from last year to this one. In year 1 of international play, he had 5 points in 5 games at the Championships, but this past year, in 5 games, he had 12 points. He clearly had a really great tournament this year, and that can help his draft stock some.
Where is Pettersen Ranked?
Central Scouting has Pettersen pegged at #120 on the North American skaters list. This was slightly improved from the midterms, when he was at #126. This is not an amazing ranking by any means, but considering there were 217 selections made last year, and he is #120 among NA skaters, there is a chance he is taken in one of the last two rounds.
The Draft Analyst, Steve Kournianos, has his final 500 rankings up, one of the biggest out there. He is really high on Pettersen, much higher than Central Scouting. He has Mathias ranked #110 overall. That is among all players, period. Pick #110 is good for the middle of the 4th-round. Clearly, Steve liked what he saw out of Pettersen for Muskegon this year.
In the literal polar opposite of the Draft Analyst, Draft Site’s 7 round mock draft does not have Pettersen included on it. That is 217 picks, and they don’t expect him to go. In earlier mocks, he was on there. Back in September 2017, he was mocked to go #143 of the 5th-round. In October and November, he was mocked to go in the 3rd-round, his highest showing. However, since 2018, he has not been included on the site’s mock draft.
Elsewhere, rankings are hard to come by. He is not on Future Consideration’s top 100, nor from Larry Fisher here at The Hockey Writers, or at Dobber Prospects. This would more have him in line with Central Scouting than the Draft Analyst.
What Others Have Said About Pettersen
Before the 2017 season, Dobber Prospects wrote up a profile on Pettersen. Here are some interesting quotes: “he boasts surprising strength and a knack for making wicked accurate passes, powerful wrist shots and elusive, quick bursts particularly when storming the net. Muskegon GM John Vanbiesbrouck lauds his work ethic, competitive drive and versatility…Pettersen was lauded as his new club’s best player on the ice out of more than 100 that attended Muskegon Lumberjacks’ late May three-day prospect camp.” The writer of this profile, Kevin Wickersham, at the time felt that Pettersen had the chance to be a first or second round pick if he continued to develop well during the 17-18 season. Clearly that never panned out, but nonetheless he does have a shot to be drafted.
In another article before the 17-18 season, The Norwegian American had a sit down interview with Mathias. Some quotes from Pettersen at the time: “When I made my decision to come over to the U.S., my thought process was to expand and improve my game as a hockey player… I try to focus on where I am right now and what I could do to get better and help my teammates to win games… (The US game) is a much higher level of play and the speed is much faster. It is a smaller ice sheet in the U.S., and that gives you the opportunity to go to the net quicker and faster.”
When he was at the USHL Top Prospects Game in January, The Draft Analyst had a write up about several of the players there, and one of them was on Mathias. He wrote “Few players were harder to drop from my September rankings than this physical puck wizard, whose slow statistical start didn’t equal the effort and skill he was bringing every game for Muskegon. The University of Denver recruit is starting to put up points (20 in 27 games), but it’s his three-zone play and willingness to give up his body at any moment that makes me think he’s going to draw a lot more attention as the season progresses. Pettersen at the TPG didn’t put a dent into the traditional stat sheet, but his speed and hunter’s mindset were most certainly on display.” Again, Steve is very high on Pettersen in comparison to everyone else, and this is some insight into why he feels that way.
A Little Video
Here were his first two goals in the USHL:
Here is a sweet sauce pass he made to set up a goal back in January:
And another goal with Omaha against the USNTDP:
In terms of trying to project where he could go, I think the earliest you should start looking would be the 6th round. The Draft Analyst would disagree with me, but he is the only one that seems to be higher on him. Central Scouting’s rankings have him around there, and considering his absence on other, longer rankings, that says something. The biggest knock against him is probably his level of competition. The USHL is not a bad league by any means, the best junior league in the USA, but it is not the Canadian juniors. If he had the same numbers playing in the WHL, for example, his projections would be a lot better. Seeing how he adapts to play in the NCAA next year will go a long way in determining his true capabilities, but that of course is after the draft, which presents a conundrum for teams.
Before this season with Muskegon, there were people who were projecting him to be the next Mats Zuccarello in terms of finding that level of success in the NHL despite being a Norwegian. Norway is not the hotbed of hockey like its neighbor Sweden is, and is even less so than Finland which seems to be a factory for producing elite goaltending. But since this season has gone on and the draft has approached, however, no one is really saying Pettersen has the potential to be another Zuccarello for Norway anymore. The hype level of him is not as high, despite a decent season. This is another reason I believe that he could fall.
The Devils do not have a 7th round pick currently, and have one 6th round selection at #172. If the Devils had multiple picks in these last two rounds, I would say throwing one out at Pettersen just to see how he does at the University of Denver the next couple of seasons would be a decent idea. But with only one selection in those rounds, however, I think the odds of him landing in NJ are not very high. There will probably be several skaters that fall whom the Devils have 4th and 5th round grades on that they might be able to snag with the 6th rounder. To use that one someone like Pettersen who really only projects at best to be a 6th rounder is not ideal. I don’t think it would be the worst selection in the world, and he definitely has some potential to become a bottom 6 forward in the NHL one day if everything breaks right, but that is best case scenario.
That’s my take about Pettersen, however. What do you think about him now that you’ve read up on him? Do you agree with Central Scouting’s ranking of him, do you think he has more potential like the Draft Analyst does, or do you think he shouldn’t be drafted? Do you see him being taken by NJ at some point? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading another prospect profile here at AATJ!