In 2011 in the fifth round of the NHL draft the Detroit Red Wings selected with the 146 overall pick 6’1″ 175lbs Mattias Backman. The same draft year that saw the Red Wings Select Tomas Jurco(35th) and fellow defense prospects Xavier Ouellet(48th) and Ryan Sproul(55th) . As is the case with almost every European prospect, one can attribute Ken Holland making this pick to Hakan Andersson the Red Wings lead European scout.
Per Eliteprospects.com, when asked about Backman, Andersson had this to say in June of 2011, “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.” In later years after the draft Andersson would later go on to make favorable comparisons to the rumored long time trade target of the Red Wings in Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler. Praise for Backman has only continued as he climbed the ranks of the Swedish league and established himself as one of the top offensive-defenseman while playing big minutes for Linköping HC. He has even caught the eye of Mike Babcock who had this to say in an interview with NHL.com after the end of the playoffs “There’s a kid named Mattias Backman … He’ll step in and play on our team next year. He can really skate, really move the puck.” — Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock (May 2014, NHL Live). Not to shabby coming from a Jack Adams award finalist
Backman, now a lanky 6’2 and 176lbs, has played three seasons appearing 148 games for Linköping HC of the SHL since being drafted, amassing 9 goals and 55 assists for 64 points while playing top line minutes as a 19 to 21-year-old in a professional league. Backman also appeared in 33 playoff games for the club gathering 19 points. After his clubs season ended in 2014 Backman made the jump to play for the Grand Rapids and debuted in the two final games of Griffins the season, recording zero points and a -1 rating. He put the final stamp on his 14′ season by playing 10 playoff games and filling the offensive void left by fellow countrymen and then injured Adam Almquist accounting for 1 goal 5 assists for 6 points playing top minutes against the best of NHL affiliates of the AHL in playoff mode and earning high praise from Griffins coach Jeff Blashil.
With the Red Wings resigning Kyle Quincey and not trading any players from the blue line via trade Backman faces an up hill climb to make the roster full-time. There is hope for him and those banging the war drums for a youth and change. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock have, in lockstep, repeated throughout the offseason that the best players are going to get to play with the big club next season. With that the ball thoroughly in his court its going to be up to Backman to take the next step and battle hard in the camps and development sessions to force Ken Holland and Mike Babcock to make room for him at the start of the season. If he doesn’t make the team out of camp he will not be to far away as he has stated he plans to spend next season in Grand Rapids, which should be good news for Jeff Blashil and great news for Mike Babcock if the injury bug strikes or if Kyle Quincey or Jakub Kindl continue to play like…well like Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl