Nick Mattson doesn’t know what to expect when he gets to Rockford this fall but he had plenty of brains to pick on the subject this week.
“I’ve been asking them all how it is. They all say it’s one of the best places to go,” Mattson said. “It sounds like a great spot. I’m definitely excited to get the rest of the summer wrapped up and get there.”
Mattson signed a one-year contract with the IceHogs last month, not long after he wrapped up his four-year collegiate hockey career at the University of North Dakota. For Mattson, who was drafted 180th overall by the Blackhawks in the 2010 NHL Draft, the AHL, that first season of professional hockey, will be exciting. It’ll also be a little daunting.
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“It’ll be interesting right away, just getting acclimated to everything,” Mattson said. “It’s a new step in life, and I have no idea what it’s like, so it’ll be fun. I can’t predict anything because I don’t know what to expect. But I’m excited.”
Mattson’s anticipation level was high to start his senior year at North Dakota as well. The beginning wasn’t so great, however, as he was scratched several games. But once Mattson got back into the lineup he had a strong season; the senior recorded four goals and 17 assists in 33 games. Mattson said a changed mindset led to a good finish.
“Once I learned how to put all the distractions out of my head I just had fun and played,” he said. “Once you clear your head, do what you can do, it’s a lot different game; it’s a lot more fun. Once you start having fun, you can play a lot better.”
Mattson’s been to a few of the Blackhawks’ prospect camps, and he’s treating this one as he has the others: it’s a chance to show the Blackhawks brass what he can do, especially now that he’ll be joining their AHL affiliate. Still, having not played since April, this week isn’t easy.
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“It’s tough jumping out here in the middle of summer but it’s been cool,” Mattson said. “You really learn a lot in the drills they do and the coaches they have helping you are top notch. You just try to soak in as much as you can and hopefully survive. It’s pretty tough.”
Mattson is preparing for the next step in his career. Playing four years of college hockey was a great learning experience. He doesn’t know what to expect in Rockford, but he hopes to apply those college hockey lessons during his first professional season.
“It was a blast, so much fun,” Mattson said. “As much as you get better at hockey and college, you grow as a person; anyone who’s ever been to college knows that. It was a really good four years and I’m grateful for the experience.”