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Mattson's path set for development in USHL, NCAA

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

A fairly successful general manager of bygone days in this town was once asked about his doctrine of drafting for size.

“You can’t,’’ lectured Cliff Fletcher, the Silver Fox, “teach size.”

Well, from a current era, Mitchell Mattson would certainly apply.

Already a budding broth of a boy at 6-foot-4 and 186 pounds, the 18-year-old centre recently out of Grand Rapids High School represents one of those down-the-road projects organizations are keen on stockpiling.

Invest today. Reap dividends down the line.

“I would describe myself as a skilled power forward,’’ said Mattson on Saturday, after being selected in the fifth round (No. 126) by the Calgary Flames at the 2016 NHL Draft. “Someone who’s good in all three zones, responsible, someone with good vision and good hockey IQ. I do have a lot of work to do, though.

“I need to put on some weight, grow into my body a little bit.”

When that happens, when Mattson fills out a tad, he could be frightening handful for defences across the National Hockey League.

“A big, tall guy with a huge ceiling,’’ critiques Calgary’s director of amateur scouting Tod Button. “He played high school hockey in Grand Rapids and he’s going to the USHL next year. He’s got skill and can handle the puck. I think if you asked him, he would say he’s a skilled forward with some size.

“He’s a bit raw experience-wise playing in northern Minnesota, but we’ve got time on his side. He’s going to North Dakota after Bloomington next year, so we’re happy about that.”

Size. Strength down the middle. Born in Minnesota.

A future Joel Otto, perhaps?

As Button mentioned, Mattson is heading back to the USHL’s Thunder for the 2016-17 campaign and after that has committed to the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

“I knew I wanted to college,” Mattson said. “Ever since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to get an education. My decision to go to North Dakota was pretty easy.

“I visited there after the summer of my 10th grade year and I fell in love right away. The coaching staff is outstanding, the facilities are outstanding.

“So I love the school.”

Nurtured in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, he fully understands the nuances of living in a hockey culture.

“I know that hockey in Canada is a huge deal,” he said. “Being from Minnesota, I almost consider it a southern Canadian state because hockey is just as big a deal.

“I’m interested to see the city.”

Asked if he’d ever actually visited the city he one day hopes to call his professional home, Mattson shook his head.

“No. But I’ve seen (the Flames) on TV,” he said. “I’ve seen lots of highlights, like Johnny Gaudreau.

“It’s exciting to think about it.”

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