|Red Wings prospect Mattias Backman won a gold medal with Sweden at the 2012 World Junior Championship. (Photo by Getty Images) |
– North America got a peak at another Swedish prospect last season, as defenseman Mattias Backman
jumped across the pond to continue his successful development within the Red Wings’ organization.
Backman, Detroit’s fifth-round pick in the 2011 NHL draft, is a 6-foot-3, mobile defenseman that joined the Grand Rapids Griffins after his Swedish team, Linkoping, was eliminated from the 2014 Swedish Elite League playoffs.
Backman appeared in two regular-season games with the Griffins, and scored one goal in one playoff game with the defending Calder Cup champions.
Prior to joining the Griffins, Backman helped Linkoping reach the SEL semifinals, recording seven assists in 13 games.
The defenseman enjoyed a successful postseason campaign after struggling during the regular season, as Backman suffered injuries that stalled his development heading into the 2013-14 season.
“Last summer, he had some health issues and it stalled him a little bit,” said Jiri Fischer, Detroit’s director of player development. “He went into the season and physically, he didn't take the next step that he needed to really become the go-to guy in Linkoping. He was inconsistent, but thanks to wanting to get better, he has. His consistency is better and better and better.”
Backman earned six goals and 15 assists in 54 games with Linkoping during his third and final SEL campaign.
“Last year, he established himself as one of the top young defensemen playing outside of the NHL,” Fischer said. “In Linkoping, he played on the top pair and he had a fantastic season. He ended up being on the national team.”
In three years with Linkoping, Backman earned a total of nine goals and 46 assists, plus four goals and 17 assists during the playoffs.
In his first professional season in Sweden, Backman skated in 42 games for Linkoping, and also played for the gold-medal winning Swedish team at the 2012 World Junior Championship. The defenseman was the team’s second-leading scorer with two goals and six assists through six games.
“After we drafted him, the half a year he played so well,” Fischer said. “He just got better so much, thanks to his skating and puck moving and his hockey sense, and his ability to shadow players in the defensive zone and not get beat. He's very responsible.”
The defenseman signed a three-year entry-level contract with Detroit in May, 2013, and is expected to continue his future development in Grand Rapids in the upcoming AHL season.