When the WHA came into the landscape in the 1970s, it gave me chances for players, mostly goalies, as well as giving the chance for international players to start off their career. That's what happened with this week's AGM, who broke in with the WHA from his native Finland before making a push at a NHL career. This week, the profile of Markus Mattsson.
Mattsson started is career off in his homeland, Finland, playing for Ilves Tampere from the 1973-74 season until the 1976-77 season. During that time as well, Mattsson played for Finland in international competitions, like the European Junior Championships (1974 and 1976), the World Junior Championships (1975), and in the inaugural Canada Cup in 1976 before moving his career forward.
In the summer of 1977, Mattsson was drafted by the New York Islanders in the NHL Draft and the Houston Aeros in the WHA Draft. Mattsson chose the WHA route, but he would be traded from Houston to the Winnipeg Jets in June and play a total of ten games (4-5-0) with the Jets in two stints-- as Mattsson was traded to the Quebec Nordiques, playing there for six games (1-3-0) before being traded back to Winnipeg at the end of the 1977-78 season. Also that season, Mattsson played two games for the Central League's Tulsa Oilers, going 1-1-0 in that brief time. The 1978-79 season settled down for Mattsson, who stuck with the Jets to play for 52 games that season, going 25-21-3.
As the Jets moved to the NHL, Mattsson moved with them, even though he was reclaimed by the Islanders, but then re-reclaimed by the Jets. For the 1979-80 season, Mattsson played 21 games for the Jets with a 5-11-4 record, while going into the Central League with Tulsa going 10-7-2 in 20 games. Mattsson would spend more time with Winnipeg in the 1980-81 season, but with a worse record-- finishing with a 3-21-4 record in 31 games, while playing five games in Tulsa with a 3-2-0 record. Though, Mattsson played in the 1981 Canada Cup, but he went 0-2-0 in two games before the 1981-82 season, where he's played in Tulsa all season, compiling 26-23-0 record in 50 games.
Mattsson signed with the Minnesota North Stars before the 1982-83 season, going 1-1-0 in two games. He'd spend most that season with the Central League's Birmingham South Stars, playing in 28 games and finishing with a 17-10-0 record of that season.
In February of 1983, the North Stars traded Mattsson to the Los Angeles Kings for a Draft pick. To close out the 1982-83 season with the Kings, Mattsson played in 19 games with a 5-5-4 record. Mattsson would split the 1983-84 season with the Kings and their AHL affiliate, the New Haven Nighthawks. In Los Angeles, Mattsson went 7-8-2 in 19 games, while in New Haven, Mattsson finished with a 16-10-1 record while appearing in 31 games.
After that, Mattsson would move back to Finland to play for Tappara Tampere from the 1984-85 season until he retired after the 1986-87 season.
While he still is the goalie who stopped Wayne Gretzky's 51-game point streak, he never seemed to get a chance to make a mark in front of a big audience. Mattsson played behind some of the worse defenses and offenses out there, which didn't help him much. Yet, luckily, because of the WHA, he was able to get his break in North America and leave his mark in the hockey aspect of things.