Mathias Emilio Pettersen – Scouted for over a decadeMathias Emilio Pettersen. Photo: Getty Images/Justin Berl
Few hockey players can say they were a YouTube-celebrity at age six. For Norwegian center prospect Mathias Emilio Pettersen though, it’s exactly what happened. The talented dangler was first discovered back in 2006 when a clip emerged of him weaving his way through a group of nine-year olds, skating coast-to-coast with the puck before topping it off with a goal. Additional clips emerged through the years as his fame continued to grow. Pettersen scoring goals at age 9, Pettersen making teenagers look silly at age 11 – while at the same time, opinions from the so-called “internet experts” continued to follow at every turn. Put it this way: many who doubted the young prodigy and his abilities weren’t afraid to voice their concerns.
“Wake me up when he makes a move like that at the NHL level”
“Kid is going to get crushed in juniors”
“He’s nothing special”
Here we are more than a decade later with Emilio Pettersen on the verge of being selected by an NHL franchise in the 2018 Entry Draft. Sure, he’s not the most talented 2000-born player in the draft – the competition in that particular birth year is quite stiff – but in the long years following his rise to internet-fame, he’s proven his doubters wrong by evolving into a bona fide NHL prospect.
That said, the road to the 2018 NHL draft has been long and winding for Emilio Pettersen. After leaving his native Norway in preparation for the 2014-15 season, Pettersen headed for North America where he joined the U-16 team for Selects Hockey Academy – a team from the recently formed United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL). Pettersen played three seasons for the Selects in the USPHL – posting points per game totals of 1.46, 1.71 and 1.62 – before moving up to the USHL, United States Hockey League, in 2016-17. The USHL is currently considered the top junior league in the United States and features players aged 16-20.
Representing the Omaha Lancers, Pettersens first season in the USHL was somewhat of a disappointment. He did manage to put up 27 points (10+17) in 57 games but the team struggled and Pettersens +/- ended up at an abysmal -32.
Following his first season with the Lancers, he was traded to the Muskegon Lumberjacks where, in a likely combination of an increased comfort level with the USHL as well as being on a more talented team, Pettersen has thrived.
“I’m quite happy with my season so far. While challenging, it’s all about keeping up my level of play at this point. With how well we’ve been playing as a team and with the teammates I’ve got here, I think that it is possible”, Emilio Pettersen told Norwegian publication Nettavisen in January.
Just 35 games into his current season Pettersen has already matched his previous season total with 27 points (8+19) while his +/- has improved markedly to +5. With those 27 points, he is currently ranked in the top-30 of scorers in the USHL.
While his season with the Lancers was a slight misstep, Pettersens development looks to once again be back on track with the Lumberjacks. In terms of his immediate future post-USHL, Pettersen has already committed to play for University of Denver in the NCAA top division. However, based on what his upcoming NHL team thinks is best in terms of development, the next destination in his career could be subject to change for the young Norwegian. As for the NHL draft itself, Pettersen tries not to think about it:
“I’d rather focus on improving my game. You can’t walk around every day just thinking about where you’ll be drafted. You just have to wait and see.”
Mathias Emilio Pettersen won’t have to wait much longer. On June 23rd, the second day of drafting, he’ll get to find out which NHL team has selected him. If you ask professional scout Pete Judge of ISS Scouting, whichever team takes a chance on Pettersen will be drafting a special player:
“As it stands right now he’s probably a mid or late-round draft pick due to some issues with consistency but personally I think whichever team picks him is getting one hell of a talented player.”