Calgary Flames prospect Emilio Pettersen (pronounced PEET-er-sen) experienced a relatively successful, if inconsistent, transition to professional hockey in the 2020–21 season.
The Norwegian forward turned 21 in April and scored at a point-per-game pace over his first three weeks in the American Hockey League before seeing his production wane as the Stockton Heat struggled down the stretch.
Nevertheless, Pettersen continued showing signs of the talent which made him a standout in the USHL and in his two seasons with the University of Denver. He slots in at ninth on TWC’s 2021 Prospect Rankings, having been ranked between seventh and 13th by our team of writers.
Pettersen’s strengths and weaknesses
Pettersen makes up for his relative lack of size (5’10”, 180 pounds) with his quickness and puck skills. He’s a pass-first forward who only took 37 shots in 29 games last season, opting far more frequently to distribute the puck in high-leverage situations.
Make no mistake: Pettersen has the ability, when he so chooses, to carry the puck with speed and drive to the net for chances of his own.
With the Heat, he routinely demonstrated his willingness to attempt “individual effort” plays and frequently converted on the opportunities generated by his elusiveness and speed.
Pettersen is a confident offensive forward with a less-developed defensive game. He thrives when playing with speed and often makes the most of his chances to either pass or shoot on the rush. However, he has a tendency to become less noticeable when games slow down and his team plays a more static scheme.
He can be the flashiest, craftiest, and most exciting player in any given game. Next season, Pettersen will need to make those performances more common.
Pettersen’s on-ice results
Pettersen scored six goals and added eight assists in 29 games with the Heat in 2020–21.
Statistical aggregator Pick224 estimates Pettersen averaged a shade over 15 minutes per game; based on that figure, the site calculated he scored 1.52 primary points-per-60 last season. Only Martin Pospisil, Matthew Phillips, Adam Ruzicka, and Luke Philp converted at a better rate.
Pettersen managed to score at a decent clip at even-strength in 2020–21, tallying 10 of his points (four goals, six assists) in that situation. He scored four power play points in 29 games, tying Justin Kirkland and Carl-Johan Lerby for sixth on the team.
Stockton scored 14 goals and allowed 17 during Pettersen’s shifts at even-strength; without him, the Heat were outscored 50-44. According to Pick224, Pettersen’s -1.65 5-on-5 relative goals-for percentage ranked 11th on the Heat (among players with 10+ GP).
Pettersen scored nine points (four goals, five assists) in his first nine AHL games. He followed that up by scoring a lone assist in his next eight games before scoring another goal on Mar. 31. Pettersen then posted another eight-game stretch with just one assist.
The Heat posted a 7-2-0 record during Pettersen’s white-hot start. After that, they stumbled hard and went 4-15-2 in their final 21 games. Pettersen scored just two goals and five points in those contests.
Following the conclusion of the AHL season, Pettersen joined Norway’s team at the 2021 IIHF World Championship in Riga, Latvia. He played six games and scored one point, a goal against their hosts on May 28.
Pettersen’s next steps
In his first full AHL season, Pettersen showed he can score at a good clip but failed to maintain his momentum through the final two-thirds of the schedule.
Pettersen largely managed to stay above water as a middle-six contributor in the AHL, typically lining up in the left wing position on the second line. With next year’s Stockton team looking to feature a massive influx of young forward talent—Connor Zary, Jakob Pelletier, and Ryan Francis will all be eligible to join the team on a full-time basis—Pettersen will have to improve his level of consistency to stay ahead of the newcomers.
At this point, the NHL likely remains a distant target for Pettersen. He still has plenty of work to do before he can even become a complete AHL forward. Pettersen is an extremely talented and fast player but he needs to show he can better sustain his success from shift to shift and game to game.
When Matthew Phillips first broke into the AHL, he scored at roughly a 0.5 points-per-game pace and slotted in as a secondary scorer with the Heat. In his sophomore year, he became a principal weapon for Stockton and scored 33 points in 38 games.
It’s up to Pettersen to now take a similar leap forward.