Don’t expect a booming slap shot, a highlight-reel rush, or a thunderous open-ice hit from Mattias Backman.
What the Detroit Red Wings like most about the 6-foot-2, 169-pound blueliner isn’t the “wow” factor in any one aspect of the game, but his overall simplicity and steadiness and his ability to move the puck.
“He’s not a spectacular (Niklas) Kronwall-type player,” said Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “He’s more of a ‘make-a-good-first-pass’ guy and he’s a mobile skater.”
The Red Wings selected Backman from Linkoping of Sweden’s top under-20 league in the fifth round, 146th overall, of Saturday’s draft in St. Paul, Minn. Backman didn’t play on the Swedish national team, so he wasn’t under the microscope of scouts at the IIHF world junior championship. But he made a big impression on Andersson playing for his club team.
Backman, who is a great skater, was among the top five defense scorers at the under-20 level, recording two goals and 18 assists for 20 points in 27 games. He has also played 11 games in the Swedish Elite League over the past two seasons.
“He’s close to 6-foot-3 and he’s very mobile, he thinks the game well, he keeps the game simple, he has a very good first pass, and he can also skate the puck out of trouble,” Andersson said. “He’s a good defenseman.”
Backman is expected to be one of seven defenseman on Linkoping’s Swedish Elite League team next season. The hope is he will establish himself as a regular and earn a spot at the WJC.
Like most prospects — especially those taken late in the draft — adding strength is his first order of business.
“If he fills out, he has a really good chance to play in the NHL,” Andersson said. “The other tools are there.”