Late round draft picks are often big gambles and long shots. Over the past few years, the Calgary Flames have attempted to make more calculated gambles with their sixth and seventh round picks – often opting for small, offensively talented players or overage prospects who are closer to their developmental ceilings than their younger counterparts (but are themselves more developed).
One of the more interesting late round projects the Flames have taken on in recent years is our 19th-ranked prospect on this year’s rankings, defenseman Adam Ollas Mattsson.
A brief history
Ollas Mattsson was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, Brad Treliving’s first as general manger – overager Austin Carroll was the seventh round pick that year, and in the following drafts Treliving opted for more proven offensive firepower in the forms of Andrew Mangiapane (2015), Matthew Phillips (2016) and D’Artagnan Joly (2017). At the time, the Flames scouting department raved about his character and leadership, both in terms of his on-ice performances for Sweden’s national under-18 team, but also in terms of some family tribulations.
From Kristen Odland’s piece on Ollas Mattsson after his selection in 2014:
Two years ago, Ollas-Mattsson’s mother lost a three-year battle with liver cancer which had been her second encounter with the disease, beating breast cancer when Ollas-Mattsson was born in 1996.
“She passed away when I was at a hockey tournament,” said the big left-handed defenceman who turns 18 on July 30. “But (experiences like that) make you tougher. It makes you stronger as a person, dealing with all of those emotions and stuff. I think it’s made me who I am today. I think I’m a lot more mature than guys my age.”
After his mother died, it was up to him to help his father Jorgen take care of his younger brothers 13-year-old Isac and six-year-old Joel who was born 10 weeks premature and is in a wheelchair.
For such a young man (he turned 21 in July), Ollas Mattsson has played a lot of pro hockey – particularly when you take into account that he missed a chunk of a prior season due to an injury suffered at the World Juniors. He played six games in Allsvenskan during his draft year, then amassed 108 SHL games for Djurgardens over the past two seasons.
In his wrap-up piece on Ollas Mattsson’s SHL season back in March, Christian Tiberi had a point about Ollas Mattsson’s production:
Points were hard to come by for the young defender, as was ice time. Ollas Mattsson, on average, played the least out of any regular Djurgardens defender. I imagine the SHL has similar development dynamics to the NHL; you aren’t just going to throw your young defenders into the fire. But if you aren’t much besides a third pairing guy in an inferior league at age 20, your chances at the NHL are slim.
If you look at Ollas Mattsson’s career trajectory, dating back to even his years in Sweden’s U18 and U20 leagues – and the Swedish national team – he’s almost always used in a complementary, defensive role and his offensive numbers are never there. The highest points-per-game he’s generated as a regular in a major league is 0.31 in junior. It’d be helpful to his long-term employment prospects in the big leagues if he can generate more offense, but at the very least he’s been consistent in being an effective defensive presence in his career thus far.
Malmo, Sweden-based The Hockey Writers correspondent David Carlsson provided his assessment of Ollas Mattsson’s play in the SHL.
He’s a pure defensive defenseman, with the old traditional style of play; he plays simple and reliable, rarely joins the attack on turnarounds and always uses big margins in his passing game. Very mature for his young age, both physically and mentally. He’s not very quick, but still, he can look comfortable when facing speedy opponents. Kind of similar to the Blue Jackets prospect Gabriel Carlsson in his game, but with less offensive upside. I think his game will benefit from the small rink in North America, where he’ll get to use his great reach even more. Is there NHL potential? Yes, give him a couple of years. He still needs to develop his game, and it wouldn’t hurt him to get more offensively involved.
Henrik Skoglund, of Sweden’s Hockey Sverige news site, praised Ollas Mattsson’s maturity when examining his fledgling pro career.
Adam Ollas Mattsson is a large defenceman who has his strength in the defensive play. With his tall and big body he has a good reach with his stick and he can often solve problems in that way. He is not shy to play a physical game and is good in the positional play and shows no hesitation to block shots. He could improve his offensive game and his skating. His footwork has developed to be better over the years, though he has more to work on in that area. Has been criticized for his, sometimes, lack of concentration over a whole game and can sometimes make bad decisions due to that.
What comes next?
Barely 21 years old, Ollas Mattsson will play in the American Hockey League in 2017 on an AHL deal – though it’s possible that he could end up in Kansas City of the ECHL to get more playing time. The Flames hold his North American rights until June 1, 2018, so the next season is essentially an audition for him.
There’s a strong possibility that one (or both) of Juuso Valimaki or Adam Fox enters the pro system in 2018-19, so Ollas Mattsson effectively just has one season to show his wares and make an argument that the Flames need to keep him around beyond June 1. His playing style is in no way showy, but the best hope for Ollas Mattsson is that he develops a niche as a shutdown defender and forces himself into Calgary’s plans.
|#20 – Ryan Lomberg|