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Backman finds defensive rhythm in Sweden

Published Monday, February 24, 2014, 11:59 a.m. under 2013-14 RWC Reports
Mattias Backman

Mattias Backman (Credit: lhc.eu)

There’s no timetable for defenseman Mattias Backman to bring his game to North America just yet — but for now, he’s excelling in the Swedish Hockey League.

The 21-year-old has been anchoring Linkoping’s first pairing with high-scoring veteran captain Magnus Johansson and is averaging 19 minutes per game while leading the SHL with a plus-23 rating and contributing offensively with five goals and 14 assists in 48 games.

Backman’s season was a little slower off the mark than hoped because a personal matter prevented him from maintaining his normal off-season training regimen until late in the summer. The setback was significant, but his game has picked up as the season progressed and he was rock-solid leading into the Olympic break.

“He’s a better 1-on-1 player (than last season), and that plus-minus rating tells you that,” said Red Wings director of European scouting Hakan Andersson. “He’s good at eliminating guys. Sometimes, still, you can see the youth. He’s a bit optimistic at times — he likes to pinch down a bit too often — but he’s winning more battles and looking more experienced out there.”

The 6-foot-2 176-pounder has always been a smooth, mobile puck-carrying defenseman, drawing comparisons to Vancouver Canucks blueliner Alexander Edler. He put himself on the map with Sweden’s gold-medal-winning squad at the IIHF world junior championship squad in 2012 and he signed a three-year entry-level contract with Detroit last May.

Andersson said Red Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer scouted two of Backman’s games in January and came away very impressed.

“He may be the most excited about him in our entire organization,” Andersson said.

Although he’s slightly behind last season’s 26-point pace, it’s not a sign of regression.

“He looks more confident with the puck,” Andersson said. “He has no problem carrying it all the way up the ice or making the first pass. He looks better with the puck.”

Backman, who could use another 10 pounds of muscle, has two years left on his entry-level contract and is exempt from waivers for two more seasons. But the Red Wings don’t have a deadline for his arrival in North America, so another season in Sweden is possible. They’d love for him get a look with Team Sweden at May’s IIHF world championship like Calle Janrkrok did last year.

“We’ll just wait,” Andersson said. “He was on the verge of the national team last spring. I think he has a reasonable chance to make the world championship team. He’s among the top 10 or 12 best defensemen in the league and with a little bit of luck, he could squeeze into that top seven. We’ll see how he finishes the year and we’ll go from there.”

NOTES: Center Calle Jarnkrok (Grand Rapids, AHL) suddenly has 13 points in his past 13 games, although just one goal. On the season he has 30 points in 54 games, fifth on the Griffins … Winger Tomas Jurco finished the Olympics with one goal, a minus-1 and eight shots while averaging 14:09 in ice time per game in four contests for 11th-place Slovakia … Henrik Zetterberg’s back surgery is bad news for the Red Wings, but if there’s any good news out of it, it’s that long-term injured reserve will provide the salary-cap relief for general manager Ken Holland to keep prospects such as Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco with the big club … Center Luke Glendening told MLive.com his inability to find the net in 33 NHL games is “getting a little frustrating and a little old real quick.” A little more offense would make Glendening an invaluable fourth-line player … According to metronews.ca, right-winger Martin Frk “thought it would be a little easier to play pro, but it’s very hard.” … Forward Teemu Pulkkinen and defenseman Gleason Fournier received their first NHL recalls for practice purposes during the Olympic break. Adam Almquist also got the call … Right-winger Zach Nastasiuk (Owen Sound, OHL) returned from injury this week and recorded an assist … The latest on left-winger Tyler Bertuzzi (Guelph, OHL) from ourwindsor.com: he’s still not practising because of a neck/head injury that has kept him out since early December … Left-winger Andreas Athanasiou (Barrie, OHL) was named OHL player of the week for the week of Feb. 10.

Sarah Lindenau contributed to this report.

SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT

NAME TEAM LEAGUE LEVEL GP G A P PIM +/- SOG
Almquist, Adam Grand Rapids AHL PRO 51 2 35 37 48 0 99
Callahan, Mitchell Grand Rapids AHL PRO 54 21 8 29 47 +16 154
Jurco, Tomas Grand Rapids AHL PRO 32 13 19 32 14 +10 91
Marchenko, Alexey Grand Rapids AHL PRO 49 3 15 18 14 +11 34
Sheahan, Riley Grand Rapids AHL PRO 31 8 10 18 12 -2 51
Sproul, Ryan Grand Rapids AHL PRO 53 8 16 24 32 +5 112
Glendening, Luke Grand Rapids AHL PRO 18 5 7 12 18 +8 26
Jarnkrok, Calle Grand Rapids AHL PRO 54 11 19 30 14 +14 87
Pulkkinen, Teemu Grand Rapids AHL PRO 54 19 23 42 26 +14 153
Frk, Martin Grand Rapids AHL PRO 32 1 5 6 16 -10 27
Jensen, Nick Grand Rapids AHL PRO 25 0 0 0 6 +6 14
Tvrdon, Marek Grand Rapids AHL PRO 1 0 0 0 0 0 3
Ferraro, Landon Grand Rapids AHL PRO 51 12 14 26 40 -1 135
Aubry, Louis-Marc Grand Rapids AHL PRO 19 1 0 1 14 -3 28
Fournier, Gleason Grand Rapids AHL PRO 11 0 0 0 0 +3 6
Parkes, Trevor Grand Rapids AHL PRO 19 2 2 4 15 +2 30
Nestrasil, Andrej Grand Rapids AHL PRO 48 5 9 14 14 -6 57
Ouellet, Xavier Grand Rapids AHL PRO 49 4 9 13 20 +1 61
Nedomlel, Richard Grand Rapids AHL PRO 3 0 0 0 2 -2 1
Parkes, Trevor Toledo ECHL PRO 27 17 17 34 20 0 106
Frk, Martin Toledo ECHL PRO 15 5 8 13 10 -11 27
Nicastro, Max Toledo ECHL PRO 47 0 15 15 26 -13 95
Nedomlel, Richard Toledo ECHL PRO 39 7 6 13 97 -5 65
Tvrdon, Marek Toledo ECHL PRO 22 9 4 13 6 -8 59
Aubry, Louis-Marc Toledo ECHL PRO 18 7 7 14 10 -4 62
Jensen, Nick Toledo ECHL PRO 3 0 0 0 0 -2 4
Mantha, Anthony Val-d’Or QMJHL CHL 49 50 55 105 63 +25 260
Hudon, Philippe Victoriaville QMJHL CHL 48 17 7 24 63 -6 100
Athanasiou, Andreas Barrie OHL CHL 56 41 41 82 50 +20
Nastasiuk, Zach Owen Sound OHL CHL 52 17 24 41 22 -11
Bertuzzi, Tyler Guelph OHL CHL 29 10 25 35 49 +9
McNulty, Marc Prince George WHL CHL 60 17 23 40 111 -6
Wheaton, Mitchell Kelowna WHL CHL 46 6 20 26 32 +23
Tvrdon, Marek Kelowna WHL CHL 18 6 7 13 14 +4
Janmark, Mattias AIK SEL EUR 39 17 11 28 54 -8 93
Backman, Mattias Linkoping SEL EUR 48 5 14 19 12 +23 58
Melen, Hampus Tingsryds SWE-J20 EUR-JR 11 0 5 5 14 -6 17
Bodin, Rasmus Linkoping SWE-J20 EUR-JR 14 0 2 2 2 -3 5
De Haas, James Clarkson ECAC NCAA 31 3 7 10 16 -13 38
Marshall, Ben Minnesota BIG-10 NCAA 28 3 11 14 52 +6 54
McKee, Mike W. Michigan BIG-10 NCAA 13 0 0 0 48 -2 4
Pope, David W. Kelowna USHL/JR-A JR-A 43 24 20 44 20

GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT

NAME TEAM LEAGUE GP W L O/S SO GAA SV%
Paterson, Jake Saginaw OHL 40 21 16 2 2 3.39 .908
Coreau, Jared Grand Rapids AHL 5 0 4 0 0 4.39 .873
Mrazek, Petr Grand Rapids AHL 19 13 5 1 1 2.21 .923
Coreau, Jared Toledo ECHL 15 1 9 4 0 4.43 .864
McCollum, Thomas Grand Rapids AHL 35 19 10 2 2 2.29 .923
48 Comments
  1. Buck Feta says:

    Wow, how good has Nestrasil been lately?! Did he really go from Toledo to the top line? I would love to read a story about him, Mr. Wuest.

  2. Graham says:

    I’ll be satisfied if he can at least unload one of eaves, Samuelsson, Bertuzzi or cleary for ANY draft pick at all. How about all of them for two 3rds?

  3. Hockey Fan says:

    Eaves and Sammy have been waived could been had for nothing but their salary and if not mistaken when they are called
    back up they can be had for half there salary



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