Who is Mattias Havelid?
Mattias Havelid is a skilled defender coming out of Sweden who split time between U20 juniors and the SHL this past year. Havelid comes in on the smaller side for a defenseman, currently standing 5’ 10” and 172 pounds. Known best for his ability to make plays with the puck, Havelid was good enough to spend 23 games in Sweden’s top men’s league this season, though he did not find the scoresheet in that time. He’s a standout scorer at the junior levels, though, finishing near the top of the J20 Nationell in scoring rate among U19 defensemen and especially showing up big at U18 Worlds, where he scored 12 points (4g, 8a) in just six games played. Stats from Elite Prospects can be seen below:
If the name looks vaguely familiar to you, that’s because he is the son of Devils Legend Niclas Havelid, who played 15 regular season games and 7 playoff games for the club in 2009 after being acquired at the deadline (and promptly left the NHL, ending his 9-year, 628-game career). Mattias Havelid is a bit of a different player than his dad, who had a good career (including Olympic goad) in his own right, but Mattias has a ceiling of a dynamic offensive defenseman and power play QB. He is an aggressive player with the puck on his stick and, based on reports, is not afraid to be highly involved with a team’s transition offense. As is the case with a lot of players with that type of upside, there are question marks with Havelid’s defensive game. Not a total liability, necessarily, but someone who needs to improve substantially in that facet to go up against NHL competition.
Where is Mattias Havelid Ranked?
Havelid has settled in toward the late-first, early-second range of most rankings at this point. It makes some sense, as Havelid is the kind of prospect that seems a bit too risky to spend big draft capital on, but has the upside as a dynamic playmaker to make him attractive once you get out of the very top tiers of the draft. He is rated between #25 and 50 by almost everyone, so he will be a name likely be called somewhere around where the Devils are selecting in the second round at 37th overall.
- #19 European skaters - NHL Central Scouting (Final Ranking)
- #25 - Elite Prospects (May ranking)
- #26 - Craig Button, TSN (May 10, 2022 ranking)
- #44 - FC Hockey (Spring ranking)
- #35 - Smaht Scouting (Winter ranking)
- #33 - Will Scouch (April ranking)
- #27 - Recruit Scouting (March ranking)
- #50 - Draft Prospects Hockey (April ranking)
- #76 - Bob McKenzie (Midterm Ranking)
- #37 - The Hockey Writers - Peter Baracchini (May 7, 2022 ranking)
- #48 - The Hockey Writers - Matthew Zator (April 5, 2022 ranking)
- #46 - The Hockey Writers - Andrew Forbes (March 22, 2022 ranking)
- #37 - Dobber Prospects (April 8, 2022 ranking)
What Others Say About Mattias Havelid
Over at The Hockey Writers, they wrote up the players who made a big leap from Central Scouting’s midterm rankings to their final ones. Havelid was definitely one of those players, jumping from #43 among European skaters at the midterm to #19 in the final list. They provide a good summary on what Havelid is all about in that piece:
Havelid is the latest offensive defenseman from Sweden who could make a big impact in the NHL. His skating, puck movement and confidence stand out in a way that have captured the attention of NHL teams and Central Scouting here. His upside will be determined by his development on defense. Still, a 24-spot jump shows the belief in what he could become. He led all defensemen in scoring at the last Hlinka-Gretzky tournament with 2-7-9 in five games. Expect his name called early on day two.
Certainly, Havelid fits one of the major prospect archetypes you see each year (and one of the more polarizing ones, at that). It seems that few doubt that Mattias Havelid is a talented player with the puck on his stick, but the questions about size and defensive ability serve as the limiters to his value.
This January report from Eetu Siltanen at Dobber Prospects provides an interesting window into the type of player Havelid seems to be:
He is an aggressive player and when he has possession, he likes to rely on his puck skills and skating. Hävelid constantly plays on the edge and likes to join the rush to support attacks. He also likes to carry the puck in transition and when he is in the offensive zone, he is confident with the puck and can make plays on the blue line. He plays with pace but also sometimes makes mistakes due to a lack of patience. However, that doesn’t happen very often. Hävelid is relatively small which might get him into trouble in some battles, but he definitely isn’t afraid of the dirty areas.
Being an aggressive player is something that obviously cuts both ways as guys can get burned for taking risks, but I tend to like players who seize the initiative in a game and try to make things happen, which this report definitely suggests in the case for Havelid.
Our friends over at SBN Preds blog On The Forecheck took a bit of a closer look at some draft eligible players (specifically Swedish defenders) in this February piece by Eric D. The whole piece is good, with video highlights to show the aspects of each player’s game, but I’ll just highlight a couple of the takeaways. First, on his approach with the puck:
He keeps his head up the whole way up the ice, uses linear crossovers to build space between him and the other team, and freezes defenders with his adept, but not chaotic, stickhandling. He doesn’t have the straight-line speed to excel like this in the NHL right now, but his confidence will go a long way to him hopefully becoming a top-four defender at the pro level.
Then, the piece had some evaluation of his defense, including this bit here:
He doesn’t engage puck-carriers like you want a top defender to do despite his ability to be so dynamic when possession flips to his side of the ice. In the defensive zone, I have concerns that he’s too stagnant and waits for a moment to rush up ice instead of creating that chance himself.
It is interesting how some players seem very different at both ends of the ice. Havelid takes the play to his opponents when he has the puck but is maybe too passive or indecisive when defending in his own end. Sort of like the anti-Jonas Siegenthaler. I do think the fact that he definitely has the tools to excel means he could be developed into more capable two-way player. The Devils don’t have a stellar development track record on the defensive side of the puck, but certainly Havelid has the tools and seems like a worthwhile project to take on, given how dynamic he seems with the puck on his stick.
A Little Video
There isn’t enough video out there publicly to get a great feel for his game, but below are some highlights videos from his U18 Worlds goals and then his season in J20 Nationell. One thing to appreciate from these videos are subtle movements and smooth skating from Havelid and a quick release that seems to help him find good shooting windows.
An Opinion of Sorts
Mattias Havelid is the type of prospect I always have some time for. Gamebreakers are tough to come by in the NHL and Havelid seems to have the skills and the mentality to get to that level. The Devils have mixed up their approach to drafting defensemen in recent years, giving them a decent mix of playing styles in their pool of prospects at the moment. I think Havelid could be a good addition to that group, obviously more in the Reilly Walsh mold than the Nikita Okhotiuk or Kevin Bahl mold. Given his size and the questions about his defensive game, Havelid is definitely an upside play and will rely on good development to become a more complete defenseman. I think his reportedly aggressive mentality is a generally good sign that he can be coached to sharpen his approach in the defensive end while keeping the elements that make him a standout, but development is always the fraught part of the prospect process and the Devils have been pretty middling in that department, particularly on defense. Overall, I like him as an option at #37 but have to dig deeper into this part of the class to get a full idea where he fits in among my preferred choices.
What are your thoughts on Mattias Havelid? Do you have concerns about the size aspect for him? What do you think about the descriptions of his play with the puck? Is he someone you’d be interested in early in the second round? Sound off with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.