Mattias Backman surprised pretty much everybody with his impressive play at the IIHF world junior championship.
The 19-year-old Detroit Red Wings fifth-round draft choice started the tournament as a spare defenseman for an unheralded Swedish entry and ended it earlier this month logging heavy late-game minutes for the gold-medal winning squad.
“He showed the coaches he could play and they went with him — he played more and more,” said Mark Leach, part of a contingent of Red Wings scouts that attended the tournament in Calgary and Edmonton.
“He gained confidence as the tournament went on, he gained the confidence of the coaches, and he achieved great success.”
The 6-foot-2 170-pounder finished the tournament with three assists, 14 shots and a plus-5 rating in six games.
Backman, who the Red Wings nabbed 146th overall in last summer’s draft, played a mature two-way game, showcasing impressive mobility and smarts.
“The thing we liked most is that his skating ability is very, very good, and he’s always skating with his head up and making the right play at the right time and not over-handling it,” Leach said. “His decision-making under pressure was very good.”
Not only were Backman’s smooth skating and puck-moving ability on full display, he also made an impression with strong play in his own zone.
“He played a very solid and steady game defensively and he’s always in the right position at the right time,” Leach said. “He’s not a heavy banging defenseman but he can separate his man from the puck. He just puts himself in the right position and makes people go into bad areas.”
Backman, who projects as a No. 4 or 5 defenseman at the NHL level, has also impressed as a Swedish Elite League rookie with Linkoping this season. He has a goal and five assists along with a plus-5 rating in 28 games, averaging almost 16 minutes a night.
NOTES: Defenseman Ryan Sproul (Sault-Ste Marie, OHL) is expected to be out until mid-to-late February at the earliest with a fractured jaw after taking a puck in the face on Dec. 28. “He’s not able to talk right now and he’s probably in a lot more pain than he’s letting on,” Richard Rotenberg, the Greyhounds’ athletic therapist, told the Sault Star earlier this month. “Hopefully, within the next couple of weeks he’ll be able to begin eating again.” Sproul was having a tremendous season at the time of the injury, with 26 points a team-leading plus-17 … Forward Calle Jarnkrok (Brynas, Swedish Elite League) snapped out of a mid-season slumber this week with a hat trick to account for all of his team’s offense in a 3-1 win over Lulea. He had scored just two goals in 18 previous games … Defenseman Travis Ehrhardt (Grand Rapids, AHL) returned to action this week after sitting out since October with a shoulder injury.
Following is this week’s statistical report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Coetzee, Willie||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||36||9||8||18||7||0||84|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||31||6||6||12||27||-1||41|
|Nyquist, Gustav||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||34||10||25||35||10||-5||93|
|Tatar, Tomas||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||38||11||19||30||31||0||123|
|Andersson, Joakim||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||35||10||11||21||18||+1||75|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||30||4||4||8||19||-4||50|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||28||3||2||5||60||-1||37|
|Ehrhardt, Travis||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||5||0||1||1||11||+4||8|
|Lashoff, Brian||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||37||6||5||11||21||-10||56|
|Pare, Francis||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||38||6||16||22||14||-4||83|
|Parkes, Trevor||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||27||1||4||5||13||+1||46|
|Raedeke, Brent||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||34||5||6||11||18||-2||46|
|Smith, Brendan||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||32||5||12||17||47||0||65|
|Piche, Sebastien||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||18||0||2||2||13||-6||15|
|Pyett, Logan||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||37||1||15||16||26||+1||99|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||11||2||1||3||2||-1||17|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||PRO||AHL||3||1||1||2||2||0||1|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Swift Current||JR||WHL||44||4||18||22||54||-20||N/A|
|Sproul, Ryan||Sault Ste. Marie||JR||OHL||37||10||16||26||39||+17||N/A|
|Jurco, Tomas||Saint John||JR||QMJHL||32||21||25||46||27||+28||129|
|Jensen, Nick||St. Cloud State||COL||NCAA||24||5||14||19||2||+7||40|
|Nicastro, Max||Boston U.||COL||NCAA||19||1||4||5||20||-1||31|
|Sheahan, Riley||Notre Dame||COL||NCAA||22||7||14||21||14||0||77|
|Marchenko, Alexey||CSKA Moscow||EUR||KHL||4||0||0||0||2||-3||2|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Pearce, Jordan||Grand Rapids||AHL||12||1||6||1||1||3.42||.877|
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||10||6||4||0||0||3.01||.904|