The story of Mattias Ohlund's rise to become an elite NHL defenceman is well documented: in his rookie season in 1997, Mattias scored 30 points and was a runner-up for the Calder Trophy. The following year, Mattias set a career-high in points with 35 and also served as an alternate captain for the first of 10 seasons. A mobile, physical defenceman who could play on both special teams while being tasked with shutting down the opposition's top line, Mattias could seemingly do it all on the ice.
However, Mattias' transition to the NHL as well as to a new city, language and culture was not as smooth as his skating. In his early years in the League, Mattias leaned on fellow countryman, scout and D-man Lars Lindgren for advice. Lindgren, who was also from the same northern Swedish town of Pitea, helped calm Mattias' nerves by offering guidance on this new lifestyle as well as reinforcing to him what he was capable of.
"When I watched Mattias play even from a young age I noticed his skill set, his size, and the way he competed, he has the whole package," said Lindgren. "It was never a question of if he could play but rather when he was going to come to North America."
Mattias never forgot how important this guidance from Lars was during the early stages of his career and was sure to pass along this same support system to young up-and-coming players, particularly those from his native Sweden.
"Mattias took me under his wing right from my first camp. He was great in every aspect and helped me on and off the ice," recalled Canucks d-man Alex Edler. "He would invite me over to his house for dinners with his family and took me out on the road for dinner as well. He was very easy to talk to you and very generous. It was never a burden to him for him to share his time. I can't thank him enough for everything he did for me."
Upon signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009, Mattias also passed along the same mentorship role for young Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman.
"He helped me with everything both on and off the ice," recalled Hedman. "I was an 18-year-old coming over from Sweden and since he had been in a similar situation, he reached out to me as soon as he signed with Tampa. He took care of everything that needed to be taken care of when I moved over to the States and having his support meant a lot to me."
While Mattias' all-time records for Canucks blueline goals (93), points (325) and shots (1,534) might not stand the test of time when it's all said and done, the indelible mark he made on the players both in the Canucks organization and abroad ensures his legacy will endure.
Let us know who your mentor figure is by uploading a photo of you and your mentor on Twitter or Instagram with the #MyMattias and explaining the difference they've made in your life.