For the last four seasons, the 18-year-old forward has performed some magic at the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minn. This season he finished as the third-leading scorer in the state with career highs of 52 assists and 77 points in 27 games.
Long before his season came to end Feb. 28 following a 4-1 loss to Edina in the semifinal round of the Minnesota State Class AA playoffs, the 5-foot-10, 174-pound Mattson already had established himself as one of the more notable scholastic prospects available in the 2009 Entry Draft in June.
"He's a magician with the puck; he would probably be able to stickhandle in a telephone booth with two gorillas," said Jack Barzee, a Midwest-based scout for NHL Central Scouting. Mattson was ranked No. 57 among North American skaters in Central Scouting's midterm rankings, and No. 6 among high-school players.
"He started out with us as a sophomore and has certainly grown into his role and matured into a dynamic young man," Holy Angels coach Greg Trebil told NHL.com. "Danny is a jack of all trades because he can play either wing or center a line. He forechecks well and gets in deep, can control the puck and is a great passer. On top of all that, he's usually the one taking our important defensive-zone draws."
Mattson admitted he really has no preference on what position he plays.
"I'm willing to do whatever the coach wants," he said. "I like to mix it up a little bit and play physical when the situation calls for it. I feel like I'm more of a playmaker, though, more of that finesse-type of player."
Mattson, who finished seventh in the state in 2007-08 with 69 points (30 goals) in 25 games, will attend the University of North Dakota next fall.
"I also had visits to Minnesota and Wisconsin, but my mom graduated from North Dakota and when I was on campus, it just felt like a good fit and all the coaches were great," Mattson said.
While he openly admits a need to improve his defensive-zone coverage, there's no question Mattson's vision and distribution of the puck are second to none.
Chris Edwards, who scouts the Ontario Hockey League for Central Scouting, had an opportunity to evaluate Mattson in November during the 2008 Nike Bauer National Invitational Tournament in New Hope, Minn. Through the years, the NIT field has included many of the top players selected at the NHL Entry Draft.
"He's a guy I'm feeling good about," Edwards said. "He showed good puck-handling ability, was aggressive and was always involved in the play. He's creative, a kind of playmaker, and skated very well on wing throughout the whole tournament."
Unfortunately for Mattson, his team, Minnesota Red, dropped a 6-2 decision to Shattuck-St. Mary's in the tournament final. The Minneapolis native finished fifth in tournament scoring, however, with 5 points (2 goals) in three games and impressed with his blazing speed and acceleration in transition.
"He's got the kind of skills that you're born with -- you can't learn them," Trebil said. "I think the transition he made to use his body more was his biggest challenge and something he's really accounted well for himself. He's not afraid to check anybody and he gets bashed around himself. So he's learned to finish checks, and when he hits you know it."
Trebil likens Mattson to 2006 Holy Angels graduate Jay Barriball, now a junior at the University of Minnesota. Barriball, an undersized forward like Mattson, finished 18th in the state in scoring as a senior, posting 28 goals and 66 points in 25 games. As a junior he finished fifth in the state in scoring with 81 points and led Holy Angels to a 26-3-1 record and the 2005 Class AA championship. He was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the seventh round (No. 203) of the 2006 Entry Draft, but is now property of the St. Louis Blues.
"As a pure scorer he's probably in the same area as Jay," Trebil said. "Jay was a tremendous scorer for us and while he may be a little faster on skates, Danny is bulkier and possesses more leg strength. I think Danny offers a combination of dead-accurate shots and great plays. He'll get more assists than goals, but he's just so well-rounded as a player."
Trebil has no doubt Mattson will continue to improve and excel at North Dakota and beyond.
"I don't think there's any doubt about it," Trebil said. "He's born with it. He can score goals and is very unselfish."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.