Over the next few weeks, The Win Column has ranked the Calgary Flames’ best prospects in advance of the 2022 NHL Draft. Next up in our prospect rankings is the 14th ranked prospect: Mathias Emilio Pettersen.
A 22-year-old Norwegian winger, Pettersen has spent the last two seasons playing in Stockton with the AHL Heat. He previously played for the University of Denver in the NCAA, and before that the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Omaha Lancers of the USHL when he first came over to North America.
Pettersen is no stranger to the spotlight; as a 10-year-old, he made headlines when videos of his games were uploaded to YouTube by his family and went viral.
As a teenager just bursting with skill, he was courted to play in North America from a very young age, and started playing in the USHL when he was just 16. However, he plateaued and struggled to dominate the USHL, which caused his draft stock to fall. The Flames plucked him in the sixth round of the 2018 draft.
He’s relatively small, standing at 5’10” and 170 lbs, but his skill with the puck is his biggest weapon and what puts him 14th on our prospect rankings.
Pettersen’s strengths and weaknesses
First and foremost, Petterson’s biggest skill is his puck handling and playmaking abilities. He might not be dominating the AHL like a top tier NHL prospect is expected to do, but it is extremely clear that he is extremely skilled on what seems like a nightly basis. Here are just a few examples. This one, where he takes a nice pass from Matthew Phillips and absolutely undresses the goalie for a beautiful finish.
And this one, where he drives wide around three defenders and finishes high far side for a brilliant goal.
His offensive skill and IQ is always on display, and it’s one of the reasons why he still has the potential to have an impact at the NHL level.
However, Pettersen isn’t particular adept at playing a 200 foot game, which hampers his ability to enter the NHL in a bottom-six role. His play away from the puck has improved but is still not at the level it needs to be.
With the introduction of recent first rounders Jakob Pelletier and Connor Zary to the Stockton roster this season, Pettersen played primarily on the third line, which limited his ability to put up big offensive totals both at 5v5 and on the man advantage. His production was essentially identical to the 2020–21 season, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in the minor leagues you really want to see progression every single year from your best players.
Pettersen’s on-ice results
In the AHL, Pettersen has put up decent, but uninspiring results.
In his first AHL season, Pettersen put up 0.48 points/game, and this past season he put up 0.44 points/game. He also tallied two goals and four points in 11 Heat playoff games.
Pettersen was very streaky, putting up goals and points in bunches and then going quiet. He averaged 1.5 shots per game, a bit low for a player billed as an offensive specialist, but playing on the third line with rookie Zary and grinder Eetu Tuulola will do that to you.
Because he had fairly mediocre linemates this season, it’s hard to evaluate what Pettersen could be if he had played in the top-six on a line with better players. Zary has all the potential in the world, but at this stage of his career, he isn’t a centre that can carry a line. Pettersen was doing a lot of heavy lifting for that line and should be more of a complementary player instead.
Pettersen’s next steps
Pettersen is still just 22 years old, so he has a lot of runway left. His number one goal for next season should be to play in the top-six in the AHL for the entire season. He needs to be a dominant force on the offensive side for the Heat, or whatever they end up being called.
Despite one of his weaknesses being the 200 foot game, that isn’t the key concern for Pettersen, or the primary area of focus for the offseason and training camp. Pettersen is an offensive player, and he needs to show that his offence is at a level that warrants an NHL call-up. If his hallmark ability—his puck skills—aren’t good enough to dominate the AHL, there is no way he’ll get a sniff of NHL action.
There is still a lot of hope and potential for Pettersen. He has shown flashes of brilliance in the AHL; now it’s a matter of bringing it every single night.