The London Knights have continued their busy offseason less than a week before their regular season begins trading one of their big defenceman to the Flint Firebirds in return for a handful of draft picks.
The Knights shipped 19-year-old defenceman Nicolas Mattinen to the Firebirds on Tuesday in exchange for Flint’s third-round pick in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, their second-round pick in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection and Niagara’s second-round pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection. On top of that, the Knights acquired a conditional pick – Mississauga’s third-round pick in 2019 – which they will receive if Mattinen plays one game (either regular season or playoffs) in his overage year.
“We would like to thank Nicolas for his years with the team,” said Knights GM Rob Simpson in the team’s press release. “He has been a great member of our organization, both on and off the ice, dating back to our 2015-16 MasterCard Memorial Cup Championship team. We wish Nicolas all the best with his new organization and with his future endeavours in hockey.”
Who is Nicolas Mattinen?
In Mattinen, the Firebirds get a 6-foot-4 defenceman weighing in at just under 220 pounds. He was drafted by the Knights in the sixth round (110th overall) by the Knights in 2014 and made his OHL debut in the 2015-16 season.
Since then, he’s played 105 regular season games over two seasons with the Knights. He tallied six goals and 18 points over that span. He added one goal and one assist in 19 postseason games with the Knights over two seasons as well and was part of the Memorial Cup winning team in 2015-16 that included the likes of Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak and Matthew Tkachuk.
In June 2016, Mattinen was drafted in the NHL Entry Draft. While he may never brag about where he went in the draft, the team that selected him certainly carries an expectation with it.
With the 179th overall pick in the sixth round of the draft, Mattinen was taken by the Toronto Maple Leafs – their 10th pick of the draft.
The Hunter connection between the Leafs and Knights is an obvious one. Nazem Kadri, Mitch Marner, JJ Piccinich and now Mattinen all played for the Knights before being taken by the Leafs. But now, Mattinen will have to continue his development in Flint.
— Charlie O'Connor-Clarke (@charliejclarke) September 19, 2017
Developing in Flint
A couple years removed from the dramatic start to their OHL existence, the Firebirds aren’t the same team they were in their inaugural season. From a 20-win season in 2015-16 to a 32-win season last year, the Firebirds have created a quick turnaround since moving to Flint from Plymouth.
The turnaround included a postseason berth in 2016-17 where they were defeated in the first round by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in five games. Still, they made the playoffs.
With the addition of Mattinen, the Firebirds add a big, defensive-minded defenceman who brings experience and leadership to a team looking to take the next step.
“This is a significant step forward for our hockey club,” said Firebirds’ GM Barclay Branch. “Nicolas brings a wealth of experience to Flint and is a defenceman that has a real presence, both on-the-ice and in the dressing room, and will be a good leader for our young players. He is a type of player that is conscious defensively and has an offensive side to him as well.”
The Firebirds will first visit London on October 27, while the Knights will head to Flint and take on their former teammate on December 28.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.