The reason making selections in the NHL Draft is so hard is because it's not about what a player has done so far in his career, it's about what he will do four or five years in the future. Judging on the results of this year alone, it's likely Mitch Mattson wouldn't be drafted. But for those guessing at what Mattson might look like some day down the road, there are certainly signs that he could be a very good player, and that is likely more than enough to get him selected in this year's Draft.
Player: Mitch Mattson
Team: Grand Rapids(MN) HS/Bloomington Thunder(USHL)
Height: 6'4" Weight: 190 lbs.
Stats: MN HS: 25 games, 17 goals, 29 assists, 46 points/USHL 31 games, 3 goals, 0 assists, 3 points
Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 61st among North American
What I Like:
Finding a big body that can play up the middle is one of the most valuable and one of the hardest things to find in the modern NHL. Even if Mattson isn't necessarily there yet, he certainly has that potential, and if it pays off, there could be a huge reward for the team that drafts him.
-Lots of tools
Taken individually, there are a lot of things Mattson does well. He's a nice skater for his size, he can handle the puck a little bit and is a nice passer. It hasn't added up to much yet, but if he figures out a way to put it all together, he could be a really dangerous player.
What I Don't Like:
Mattson played in 31 USHL games this year and finished with a 3-0-3 scoring line. Three points in 31 junior games would be a red flag for a defenseman, let alone a forward. It is really, really difficult to play that many games and not pick up even a single assist just by accident. Players develop at different rates and bigger players like Mattson generally take longer to develop, so it's not a death sentence, but his struggles to adjust to a higher level of play have to be very concerning for NHL teams.
A big reason for Mattson's lack of production is that he's fairly passive as a player. He's the type of player that prefers to let the game come to him rather than asserting himself into the action, As a result, he can disappear for long stretches of time, even at the high school level where one would expect an NHL prospect to be dominant. It was debatable if he was even the best player on his high school team many times this year.
There's been a huge disparity in projections on Mattson throughout the year. Scouts that work nationally/internationally tend to only see the enormous potential and rank Mattson as high as late-first/early-second round. Local scouts that have seen Mattson more frequently tend to side more towards a late-round pick. It only takes one team to really like a player for that player to go high in the draft, so there's a chance somebody really falls in love with Mattson and takes him early, but I would bet more towards teams trusting their local guys and waiting until the fifth or sixth round to gamble on Mattson.
Mattson is boom-or-bust as a prospect. If he hits his ceiling, he could be an effective two-way center in the mold of a Brian Boyle. But he still has a very, very long ways to go to reach that potential, and early returns don't suggest a high likelihood of reaching it. But Mattson will play junior hockey again next season, and potentially a year after that before having up to four years at the University of North Dakota. The team that drafts him can afford to be patient and hope that the light goes on for Mattson eventually.