If there’s one thing the Calgary Flames have gotten better at over the last decade or so, it’s finding good hockey players in unusual places. Case in point: Norwegian YouTube highlight reel turned college hockey star Emilio Pettersen, another small-bodied late round pick who plays the game at a high level.
Pettersen is the sixth ranked prospect on this year’s list.
How did we get here?
A product of Manglerud, Norway – a suburb of Oslo – Pettersen was typically two things in hockey growing up: smaller than the other kids and more talented than the other kids. He originally came to prominence as a curiosity in the European hockey world as highlight videos of him were posted on YouTube by relatives before he even hit his teens.
Committing to the University of Denver the week after his 14th birthday, he left home that year to come to North America. He played two seasons with the Selects Academy prep school team, posting impressive offensive numbers, before moving onto the United States Hockey League for his 16 and 17-year-old seasons. He played one campaign apiece for the Omaha Lancers and Muskegon Lumberjacks, putting up 24 goals and 73 points over 117 games – he was fourth on his team in scoring in both of his USHL seasons.
After being drafted by the Flames in the sixth round of the 2018 NHL Draft, Pettersen went to college. He made his debut as a true freshman for the Denver Pioneers in 2018-19. He amassed 30 points in 40 games, finishing second on the team in scoring and contending for his conference’s all-rookie team. As a sophomore he took a step forward, accumulating 35 points in 36 games and leading his team in scoring. He was named a second team conference all-star as a sophomore and made the conference all-academic team in both years of college.
But the Flames came calling after his impressive second season and he signed a pro deal, waiving his remaining NCAA eligibility.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
Pettersen’s sophomore production held up fairly well within the NCAA’s Division I hockey competition. His 13 goals was tied for 62nd. His 22 assists was tied for 36th. His 35 points was tied for 29th. He was just outside a group of 45 NCAA skaters that put up a point per game (or more).
But relative to his age group, Pettersen was pretty notable. Here’s him compared to other junior-aged college players:
- Sixth in goals, ranking behind Jack Drury (Carolina), Alex Newhook (Colorado), Cole Caufield (Montreal), Curtis Hall (Boston) and Shane Pinto (Ottawa)
- Third in assists, behind Trevor Zegras (Anaheim) and Newhook
- Fifth in points, behind Newhook, Drury, Caufield and Zegras
All-in-all, that’s pretty dang good.
Those in the know
Back in December, Dobber’s Joel Henderson provided a rundown of Pettersen’s game:
Pettersen is one of the Calgary Flames top prospects. He has high-level playmaking and hand speed which leads to consistent creation of high danger chances. He does all of this usually under pressure or at top speed. The top PP in Denver runs through him and Flames should be excited at his level of skill and speed. You can find him on the right half-wall on the PP feeding pucks across to Bobby Brink (Flyers second rounder) for the time being.
On the horizon
Pettersen has been one of the better college players in the United States over the past couple seasons, scoring with regularity against young men. The next challenge for him will be to translate his skill and swagger to the AHL, where he’ll be asked to score against grown-ass men. It’ll be an adjustment, but for someone who adjusted to the NCAA very quickly there’s reasons for the Flames brass to be optimistic.
FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2020