2015-16 Team: Bloomington Thunder (#27)
Date of birth: January 2nd, 1998
Place of birth: Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Ht: 6’4″ Wt: 186 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 1st year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking (February): Unranked
- Bob Mckenzie (TSN): Unranked
- Craig Button (TSN): 24
- HockeyProspect.com: Unranked
Mattson has put himself on the NHL Draft map with a strong senior season with Grand Rapids High, followed by a dominant playoff showing and a deep run in the famed annual Minnesota High School Hockey State tournament. Mattson stands out on the ice, both for his massive frame (6’4″, 186 pounds) and his standout skills. After finishing his senior season with his high school team, Mattson joined the Bloomington Thunder after being taken with a top ten selection in the 2014 USHL Futures Draft and getting his first taste of USHL action at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 season.
Like fellow Minnesota high school star Riley Tufte, Mattson’s imposing size and high-scoring ways have had him on the draft radar for years, with Mattson committing to the prestigious University of North Dakota hockey program at the tender age of 16. However, Mattson suffered through long stretches of inconsistency this year – a big reason why he’s seen as a step below Tufte, this season’s Mr. Hockey award winner as Minnesota’s top high school hockey player. Despite tallying 46 points in 25 games and adding 12 more in a three game playoff run with Grand Rapids High, Mattson failed to live up to expectations upon joining the USHL’s Thunder for the final 21 games of the season. Expected to build off a strong 13-game showing the season before, Mattson instead notched just two goals in 21 games as the fourth-seeded Thunder fell to the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the conference final.
Despite sharing similar physical traits, Mattson’s game is far different to that of the high-scoring Tufte’s. A hardworking two-way player, Mattson is a safe bet to stick at centre as he moves into the professional ranks due to his commitment to the defensive end as well as his impressive offensive abilities. Standing 6’4″ but weighing in at well under 200 pounds, Mattson also doesn’t win as many physical battles against tougher competition as you’d expect from a player of his stature. He isn’t necessarily an overly physical player, but he does possess a bit of a mean streak and uses his long reach effectively both on the defensive end and to protect the puck when in possession. For someone of his size, he possesses well above-average puck skills, as he shows the stickhandling ability of a much smaller player and has a very strong and accurate shot.
Mattson probably won’t hear his name called in the first round next month, but the future North Dakota Fighting Sioux should still be a prospect held in high regard around scouting circles. Not many players possess his rare combination of size, scoring ability, and two-way game. While he’s still very raw and can be considered a bit of a project, the potential payoff for a team taking a chance on him outside of the first round is a complete and physically imposing top six centre, a rare commodity in today’s NHL.
NHL Draft Projection:
Mattson seems to be all over the map in terms of draft projection, as he is listed as high as a late first round pick in some eyes and as low as the fourth or fifth round. However, his size and skill should allow Mattson to hear his name called in the third or fourth rounds.
A big, hard-working player who is still learning the game, Mattson has piled up points for Grand Rapids this year under coach Trent Klatt. Now the North Dakota commit has the Thunderhawks one win away from the state tournament – if they can beat the always-tough Duluth East.
Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News
Big and really can skate well., and advances the puck well. Displays a strong stride, nice passing skills, and is committed to playing a 200 foot game. Needs to build his underdeveloped frame. Looks like he might project as the big centre teams look for. So far he hasn’t blossomed into a scorer, but there is time to develop in college as he has committed to the University of North Dakota.
Bill Placzek, Draftsite.com
- Consistent motor
- Strong puckhandling ability
- Powerful shot
- Hardworking two-way player
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Top-end skating speed
- Shot release
- Needs to use size more effectively
Mattson is a similar prospect to fellow Minnesota high school prospect Riley Tufte, as they both are tall but lanky centres with the potential to develop into talented top six scorers as professionals. However, Mattson is a few steps behind in his development and therefore carries a fair bit more risk than his USHL counterpart.
NHL Player(s) Comparison – James Van Riemsdyk
Risk = 2.5/5 Reward = 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive = 7.5/10 Defensive = 6.5/10
— USHL (@USHL) May 1, 2016
— GameOn (@GameOnMinnesota) March 10, 2016
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11