Two days after being part of the package that sent Erik Cole to the Detroit Red Wings, defenseman Mattias Backman has been speaking with the Swedish media about the trade and his thoughts on it. His initial reaction was of pleasant surprise and happiness.
It's a very interesting read and addresses some of the issues surrounding this past year. Why wasn't he getting the ice time in Grand Rapids? Why did he decide to move to Sweden? What are the plans for the future? You can read it at Hockey Sverige here.
Last summer it was thought that Backman could make it through training camp to start the season with the Detroit Red Wings. It didn't happen and he was instead assigned to the Grand Rapids. He wasn't started and when he did start he was playing with limited minutes.
He told Hockey Sverige: "I enjoyed working and all that, but I did not get the playing time that I might want to know that I developed and was able to take the next step.
I got stuck right at the start of the series and had to sit in the stands. Then I had to play a few games, but when I played I was not allowed on the ice much. Then I felt that this was not a particularly good development for me."
For a young defenseman in a new country, getting limited minutes after expecting to challenge for a NHL spot was particularly frustrating. He stayed until Christmas before deciding he'd develop better in Sweden rather than as a healthy scratch.
"I was thinking that I'm still young and do it well here at home so maybe the possibility still exists that you get something tender in the future."
Backman is now getting significant minutes for Linkoping and is one of the most productive defensemen in the SHL in terms of points per game. While his North American ambitions have been delayed, he seems to hope it is only for a year. He wants to get back to North America but also get the game time he needs to develop. Though google translate could be wrong this article seems to suggest that he had asked to be traded when he wasn't getting the ice time in the AHL.
While he says that there was no specific reason for his limited ice time with the Grand Rapids there are elements in his game that he'll have to improve upon if he wants to make in the NHL. A starting point would be to build up more muscle and get stronger.
It's clear that Jim Nill's knowledge of the Red Wings prospects helped him identify the prospects he was happy to acquire. Mattias Backman knew Jim Nill from his time with the Detroit Red Wings as he had been one of those who decided to draft Backman and had met him when he scouted Linkoping. The focus for now seems to be on the end of the season in Sweden, after which he'd have a longer conversation with the Dallas Stars about what the future holds. It is possible that he'll join the Texas Stars after he finishes in Sweden.
In an odd twist the Dallas Stars organisation now has three of the defensemen who won World Junior gold with Sweden in 2012: Mattias Backman, Patrik Nemeth, and John Klingberg.
It's clear that Backman has high hopes for his future with the Dallas Stars and he is eager to return to North America to play. As he told Hockey Sverige when he heard the news: "I was actually quite pleasantly shocked by it and very happy"
With Linkoping heading to the SHL playoffs it could be a few weeks before he potentially arrives at Cedar Park, and the Texas Stars.