When you google Emilio Pettersen, the first things that pop up in the search results are a series of YouTube videos. The videos show a pint-sized Pettersen dekeing and dodging around larger players and scoring many slick goals in his native Norway.
While he was a YouTube sensation as a youngster, nowadays Pettersen – the Calgary Flames’ sixth round selection in the 2018 NHL Draft – continues to hone his craft with an eye towards big league stardom.
After proving himself a formidable force in Norway and seeking a challenge, Pettersen came to North America in 2014-15 as a 14-year-old. He played two seasons with the prestigious Selects Hockey Academy in Connecticut, where he was teammates with 2018 first round selection Joel Farabee, and finished third and fourth in team scoring over his tenure.
“[I moved] to gain knowledge about the game,” shared Pettersen during Flames development camp. “I knew that I was going to learn a lot from moving over here. It’s a different lifestyle over here, especially for hockey, where hockey’s not as big in Norway. So to build that knowledge about hockey and really try to gain some skill and coming over here to really benefit from it.”
After aging out of the Selects program, he played the 2016-17 season with the United States Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers, where he had 27 points and was fourth in team scoring. He was traded to the Muskegon Lumberjacks for the 2017-18 season where he had 46 points and was fifth in team scoring – he scored at the same rate as Nashville’s fourth round pick (and Muskegon teammate) Jachym Kondelik.
A veteran of two Under-18 World Championships for Team Norway, Pettersen seems primed to follow in his father’s footsteps. The elder Pettersen, Flemming, represented Norway at a pair of lower division World Juniors in the ’90s – the level of competition where countries are trying to get to the top level. In the meantime, Pettersen is off to school in the fall at the University of Denver and still seems to get a kick of out his old YouTube clips.
“I think I’m a little different player now,” laughed Pettersen. “It’s fun to watch how I used to play and how I play now. I have a little bit of the same skill-set, obviously now I play on the smaller sheet and you know moving over here you have to switch your mentality on how you would go about it. It’s just fun to watch.”
Pettersen joins a Denver Pioneers program in transition under new head coach David Carle. With several key veterans graduating or leaving for pro hockey and a freshman class that includes recent draft picks Slava Demin (Vegas), Brett Stapley (Montreal), Cole Guttman (Tampa Bay) and goalie Filip Larsson (Detroit), the Pioneers are going to be a young, scrappy bunch. With few established offensive weapons, the new coach will probably lean on whoever is able to score consistently early on.
If Pettersen can capture some of the swagger of his YouTube days, perhaps he’ll follow in the footsteps of past Flames sixth round selections Andrew Mangiapane (2015) and Matthew Phillips (2016) and make a name for himself as a high-end scorer as he works his way towards the NHL.
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