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Spring Report, New Recruits Pt. 2: Kiersted to NoDak, McManus to Minn., Pettersen to Denver

This is the second installment of our Spring Report on key, new college hockey recruits. Part 1 is here.

6. 98 D Matt Kiersted (#24) – North Dakota

Potential Arrival: 2016

North Dakota’s second swing out of this absurdly deep Minnesota 1998 group is rising star Matt Kiersted, an Elk River HS standout as a sophomore and NTDP camp invite. Even with a large set of talented 1998 defenseman in-state, we see Kiersted alongside Matt Hellickson (Uncommitted) in a tier right behind Gopher gem recruit Ryan Lindgren, and ahead of talents like Hill-Murray’s Casey Staum, Wayzata’s Hank Sorenson, Burnsville’s Sam Rossini, and many others. That’s because not only does he have unteachable offensive abilities and a quick hockey mind, but he’s taking care of his own end in a much bigger way now, using a mix of abrasive, well-timed plays and smart positioning to tie up key forwards or gain possession – to put it simply, he’s effective all over the ice now. If one were to track what zone the puck starts and ends up in, we’d bet more often than not that Kiersted drives possession up ice, even as a defenseman.

With a number of freshman D on campus this year, Kiersted will refresh the roster when he arrives, as a young, mobile offensive talent likely surrounded by towering D like Ryan Mantha and Christian Evers. Even three or four years out (anything can happen, Kiersted might end up for 2017 or later), it’s hard not to love the look of the future UND back-end, size, skill, and blue chip prospects contributing offensively.

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7. 99 F Brannon McManus – Minnesota

A huge get for the Gophers from Shattuck-St. Mary’s Bantams comes 364 days after they picked up Bantam star Ryan Lindgren (now bound for the NTDP), but this time it’s a goalscoring forward from California and not an imposing Minnesotan defenseman. A 5’9 forward, McManus has been scoring goals and making defenders look silly with his quick, effective hands for years and lit up the famous Brick tournament in Edmonton back in 08-09 with a 5-5-10 line in just 5 games. We highlighted him in September’s “Scouting the Bantams: SSM U14 vs. Madison Capitols“, noting “Brannon McManus, a Californian, is a sharp player in the final third who should pick up quite a few points this season,” and he finished the year with 68 goals in 65 games, as well as 52 assists. To put it in perspective, current Gopher star Taylor Cammarata, a 5’7 forward who clearly would thrive at the youth hockey level, had a 92-89-170 line in 58 games, while #1 overall pick in 2013 Nathan MacKinnon posted a 54-47-101 line at Shattuck as a Bantam (on the same team), which underpaces McManus’ by 19 points, though with 7 less games. The point is that yes, youth hockey numbers can be inflated and deceiving, but McManus is more in-between MacKinnon and Cammarata with his physical gifts and hockey sense, and while we don’t know that he’s first overall material, he could end up in the top three rounds and I don’t think it’s outrageous to bet on McManus projecting better as an elite collegiate scorer than Cammarata even may have with his 170 points.

McManus, like many of his teammates, had picked up a lot of Division 1 attention over the course of the season and is a key example of why recruiting has gone so early as many schools recognize his talents are going to be highly desired at the collegiate level. The Gophers get a potential 25-30 goalscorer per season from McManus if his skills can translate like they appear they will. Where he goes in the upcoming WHL draft will be interesting, as his 5’9 size is not likely to hurt his draft stock nearly as much as this commitment likely will, though a team willing to take a chance (like Portland especially has been as of late) and more likely to present an exciting route north might select him now, and it could reap a game-changer should he change his mind about the NCAA route one day.

8. 00 F Mathias Emilio Pettersen – Denver

Potential Arrival: 2018

Per Chris Heisenberg, the second 2000-born prospect has already committed. His name is Mathias Emilio Pettersen, and he is a Norwegian hockey sensation. At Nationals in Green Bay this year, barely a day after Pettersen’s 14th birthday, rumor had reached us that the prodigy had committed to Denver, though we had heard from the same source that it had not been true. This rumor resurfaced again a few times, but it was noted each time that it was just “interesting” and untrue. News broke, days later, that the commitment had occured. Obviously wary of reporting the news at that point, we reached out to a source close to Pettersen, who further noted that it was untrue. It turns out that some lines got crossed over the Atlantic and that parties were speaking off of previous information, not having become aware that the Pioneers had in fact picked up a verbal commitment from Pettersen, and he joins another 2000 (Oliver Wahlstrom – Maine), both forwards with strong ties to Europe, as the youngest prospects bound for college hockey.

We highlighted Pettersen back in February, when we had learned he was bound for North America (Selects Academy at South Kent) next season. The videos from that paragraph are embedded below. While a commitment of any player this young is questionable, we have doubts that this is the end. A verbal commitment is not binding and we’ve seen many a top prospect opt for a new route, so nothing is permanent – but this is still very young to make these decisions. At the same time, it’s clear from the videos alone the level of skill Pettersen possesses. He’s not alone – one coach described the aforementioned fellow 2000-born recruit Oliver Wahlstrom as “the type of player you want doing skating technique and skill demonstrations – at age thirteen.”, and there are a few other players in a similar tier in the 2000 birthyear. One would think that the recruiting race for many of these talented young prospects probably won’t stop at thirteen whether or not they commit, but regardless, remember the names.

OTB Rising Uncommitted: Mathias Emilio Pettersen (from February):

“Just one this week. Make room for the YouTube generation, as 2000-born forward Mathias Emilio Pettersen, a Norwegian prodigy, looks to be another of what’s becoming a long-line of YouTube stars making an entrance to top-tier amateur hockey, as he’s heading to the Selects Hockey Academy at South Kent next fall, and will look to christen their new rink with some imported offensive sparks. While the first of this YouTube generation seems to be Kevin Roy (if another elite prospect went viral before, let me know), and even, kind of, stretches to 2014 draft eligible Sonny Milano and his “Bauer Hockey Commercial” contest entry, it doesn’t seem like we’ve seen anywhere near the end.”

He’s been wowing hockey fans on video since age 6 and currently is tied for 2nd on Team Sweden in goalscoring at the World Selects Invitational for 2000s (5-2-7 line in 5 games), behind Maine recruit Oliver Wahlstrom, who has a 9-3-12 line in 5 games. These videos, one is below, tell the story here: Pettersen does things borderline unthinkable and almost always impressive for a player at any age, but he’s playing against U16 skaters in Norway so he’s got a little more room to breathe: the country has 72 times less registered hockey players than the United States: under 7000, to the USA’s half million. What he can do at Selects Academy under either U16 National coach Devin Rask or new U16 American coach Dave Peters (from Dartmouth) will be much more revealing of where Pettersen stands within the group, and whether or not Denver has the Norwegian Gretzky on board for 4 years out.

Mathias Emilio Pettersen at age 12 (two years ago):

9. 98 D Jake Ryczek (#43) – New Hampshire

Potential Arrival: 2016/2017

When (or if) New Hampshire star defenseman Brett Pesce graduates from UNH, the Wildcats may have a worthy replacement in their most recent D pick-up, Jake Ryczek. No, he may not be 6’3 or skate like the wind, but he’s got the hockey sense, footwork and vision that allows him to continually impact games in more ways than the scoresheet. Able to rush the puck up ice or throw it up to a surging forward with a nice first pass, he’s not got the huge frame to be your go-to defenseman in a shutdown situation, nor necessarily the #1 powerplay quarterback, but he helps to drive possession up ice with sound, tenacious defensive play and passing skills. Possessing a game that should translate terrifically to the wide sheet in Durham, Ryczek is one of what seems like will be many Selects Academy products to head the NCAA route and make an impact.

10. 98 F Hank Crone (#68) – Boston University

Arrival: 2016/2017

BU netted one of the top playmakers in the country to skate alongside the absolute horses that they’ll have on roster by the time he arrives; likely in 2016 but maybe 2017. At 5’8, it’s far from a sure bet the skilled set-up man will arrive the year his skill would normally dictate. Crone put up 40 points in 31 games, and his 23 assists are more than any two players on his team’s goal totals combined, meaning he was setting up pretty much everyone on his team and had a helper on nearly 30% of the team’s goals. A pass-and-skate playmaker, we suspect he was having an off week when we saw him – and still had him as our #68 prospect in the country, a testament to the evident high-end skill and hockey sense we caught from some of the plays he makes on the puck. Crone was an NTDP camp invitee but has tendered with Omaha of the USHL, where he’ll join a team that went 39-14-7 in 2013-14 and won’t have to be a key producer – instead he may have an opportunity to make sparks fly with NHL prospects in Ryan Donato (Harvard, 2015) and Shane Gersich (North Dakota, 2015), or feed Michael Wilson (Uncommitted) and his heavy shot, if the Lancers protected list and rink talk are any indication of their roster next year