The Flames seem to have a strong history of finding talent in later rounds, which shouldn’t be that surprising. The team has found TJ Brodie, Johnny Gaudreau, and Brett Kulak in the fourth round, and Andrew Mangiapane, Matthew Phillips, Eetu Tuulola, and D’Artagnan Joly in the sixth. That’s a wealth of realized and potential talent in rounds where most teams are throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
But that magic somehow doesn’t extend to the fifth. In the past 10 years, the Flames have only found one NHL talent in the fifth round, Micheal Ferland (who had his own odd path to the NHL). Otherwise, a calamity of weirdness has followed their fifth round picks. The most recent one, Zach Fischer, is unlikely to sign with the Flames. Their 2015 fifth fled back to Russia after a year (Pavel Karnaukhov). Their 2013 fifth rounder was a defenceman who couldn’t play defence (Eric Roy), and their 2012 fifth rounder got injured once and was never the same (Ryan Culkin). It seems grim to bring up, but one of their fifth round picks literally died a year after being drafted.
The Flames might be cursed in the fifth round. Granted, there’s a dearth of talent in that round, but the Flames seem to keep stepping on landmines who do not become NHLers for very odd reasons. It then shouldn’t surprise you that today’s subject, Mitchell Mattson, was a fifth round pick. He was cast as a raw talent that had a commitment to a big school. It was pretty much free money in the fifth round. He still hasn’t become any less raw, and he still hasn’t gone to college. Again, they might be cursed.
(Don’t worry, they traded away their fifth round pick this season.)
Mattson began his hockey career as a standout player for Grand Rapids HS, earning himself the ninth overall selection in the USHL futures draft. Some strong seasons in the prestigious Minnesota high school circuit and an impressive cup of coffee in the USHL as a 17-year-old (seven points in 13 games) raised intrigue. An offer from the hockey pipeline University of North Dakota also got scouts wondering.
His draft year was not as great. Despite nearly putting up two points per game in high school, his extended USHL run was not as fruitful, only picking up two goals in 21 games and an additional goal in 10 playoff games. Nevertheless, Mattson went to the Flames in the fifth round of the 2016 draft.
His first full USHL season was a roller coaster. He had bouts of sensational play followed by quiet scoring droughts, until an injury prematurely ended his season.
Mattson was originally supposed to head to the UND for his freshman year, but abruptly (and for unknown reasons – not much is published about Mattson) went back to the USHL after being traded to the Sioux Falls Stampede. It’s not as if UND kicked him off the team, as he was still officially committed when the season began and had to be granted a release to leave the program. He recommitted to Michigan State in December and will presumably head there next season.
In the USHL, Mattson was a secondary player for the Stampede, usually finding himself in the bottom six although he did receive some special teams time. He picked up two injuries throughout the year, each taking about a month off of his season, which hampered his production.
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There’s not a lot to look at here. Mattson was slow to start, got a bit hot, but then went quiet for the rest of the season. Perhaps his various injuries hampered him, but he wasn’t producing at a high enough level in the first place. His production compared to his 2016-17 production is yikes, and considering that he’s a 19-year-old in one of the weaker junior leagues (the USHL prospects who are at least somewhat likely to go to the NHL usually go to the NCAA by 18 at the latest), it is a double yikes.
If there’s some positives you can say about him, it’s that he likes picking up primary points and 5v5 points. That’s kind of it.
Mattson was always going to be a long shot prospect, but taking a major step backwards in year two is extremely discouraging. Being a year older in one of the less-quality junior leagues and putting up a worse performance than last year is not a promising sign.
He’ll head to Michigan State next year, a step down from UND. There’s really nowhere but up to go in his NCAA career, but he’s starting at a very low point. Perhaps his raw tools scouts rave about will finally show up, although he would still need to blow the doors down to even work his way back into the conversation. All the best to him.
Hunter Smith | Mason McDonald | Tyler Parsons | Juuso Valimaki | Nick Schneider | Adam Ruzicka | Matthew Phillips | D’Artagnan Joly | Glenn Gawdin | Zach Fischer | Dillon Dube | Filip Sveningsson | Eetu Tuulola | Adam Fox | Linus Lindstrom | Pavel Karnaukhov & Rushan Rafikov