CalgaryFlames.com takes a closer look at some of our young prospects - today, it's Emilio Pettersen.
In a dizzying year, it's understandable how Emilio Pettersen may have still been spinning at the end.
Logging on to his end-of-season interviews, the first question should've been easy. Where in the world was he?
"Yeah, I'm back home (in Norway)," he started before quickly correcting himself. "Actually no, sorry, I'm in Denmark."
The now-21-year-old forward expected to be in California for his first professional season, but the pandemic forced him and the Stockton Heat across the border to Calgary. His debut campaign was followed by an appearance at IIHF World Championship, where he represented his home country of Norway.
So, sure, maybe a few glances at the stamps in his passport were warranted.
With his feet under him, he dove into the pro ranks and paced Stockton freshmen with six goals and finished second among Heat rookies with 14 points in a shortened season. Not bad for someone working through getting their bearings.
"It was an odd year," Pettersen said. "There were a lot of games in a short amount of time. I was used to a college season where you play 35 games in more time, so it was different. Our team went through a little bit of a rough patch toward the end of the year, but all-in-all it was a good year for me. I could go out there, learn from older guys and come back with a positive mentality that I'm going to be a big part of the team."
Thirty games doesn't provide a lengthy runway to get acclimated, but Pettersen was impressive. He tallied three multi-point efforts, including a three-point outing against Manitoba early in the season, and finished third on the Heat roster with four points on the man-advantage. He earned praise for his practice habits and willingness to battle, showcased his speed, hands and quick release.
It's easy to understand the optimism surrounding the Manglerud, Norway native and former University of Denver standout.
The bonus after the AHL season came with representing his home country on the world stage, the second time he's had the honour of playing for his home country.
Video: Some of his best from 2021 season
This time, playing alongside professionals and players he had looked up to for most of his life such as Ken Andre, Mathis Olimb and Mats Rosseli Olsen, it was a uniquely special opportunity.
"It was a great experience and I had a lot of fun playing," he said. "When you play for your home country, you're representing everything you grew up with and everyone you watched from a young age. For me, I've grown up watching Norway play in Worlds. It's a big deal in Europe. Playing with some of those guys who I've looked up to since I was a little kid was awesome."
Pettersen was one of eight new players for a Norway team that skated toe-to-toe against the world's best, a nod to his current level of play but also an indicator of the player he can still become.
Looking ahead, he's hoping to round out his game - add strength, fine-tune the details and build on the foundation he's laid for himself. A strong rookie season is just the start for a player who is constantly working to push his ceiling and become the latest in a successful run of sixth-round selections under the Calgary Flames banner.
Their second season has proven to be prosperous for the recent wave of Flames forward prospects. Andrew Mangiapane received his first NHL action in his second pro campaign back in 2017-18. Dillon Dube graduated to the NHL early his sophomore season in 2019-20 and Glenn Gawdin and Matthew Phillips each got their first NHL calls in the same year. Last year it was Adam Ruzicka who made the leap in his second season.
Pettersen is aware of the list, and he's hoping it's a club he can join.
"I think just keeping up with what I'm doing, coming into next year with an even better mentality and more experience," he said. "If I can bring my skill level, my speed and my IQ to the best of my ability, I think I can do some pretty good things.
"Obviously I want to do well. I want to help the team and the organization any way I can, and hopefully I'll crack (Calgary's) lineup soon."