2008-09: Mattias Backman debuted in Sweden’s SuperElit junior league with the Linkoping J20 club, appearing in a pair of games without registering a point.
2009-10: Backman spent the bulk of the season with Linkoping J20, posting 4 goals and 5 assists in 33 games in the regular season before adding one goal in 6 games in the playoffs. He also played in 5 contests with the big club in the Elitserien without picking up a point.
2010-11: Backman gained some pro hockey experience – appearing in six Elitserien games with Linkopings and two games on loan to First Division team Mjolby. He represented Sweden at the 2010 U19 World Junior A Challenge and had an impressive campaign with Linkoping’s U20 team. Backman was minus-2 with four penalty minutes in limited ice time with Linkopings men’s team and scored 1 goal and 2 assists for Mjolby. He had 1 assist and 4 penalty minutes for fifth-place Sweden at the WJAC. He scored up 2 goals with 18 assists in 27 games with Linkopings U20 team and added 2 assists in three playoff games. Ranked 95th amongst European skaters in Centrral Scouting’s final rankings, Backman was selected by Detroit in the fifth round (146th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.
2011-12: Backman skated in 42 games for Linkopings as a 19-year-old in his first pro season in Sweden’s Elitserien and played for gold-medal winning Sweden at the 2012 U20 World Junior Championship. He scored 1 goal with 7 assists and was plus-seven with 14 minutes in a lower pairing role for Linkopings – averaging 11:27 minutes of ice time per game. In six games at the WJC he was plus-five with 3 assists and 4 penalty minutes. Sweden defeated Russia, 1-0 in the gold medal game. Backman skated with Linkopings U20 team in six regular season games and was plus-two with 1 goal and 1 assist. He was with the U20 team during the run to the SuperElit finals after Linkopings’ tenth-place men’s team did not make the playoffs and was the team’s second-leading scorer with 2 goals and 6 assists; finishing plus-five in six games.
2012-13: Backman appeared in a career-high 52 games in his second season with Linkopings. He scored 2 goals with 24 assists and was +5 with 34 penalty minutes. Linkopings finished fifth in the Elitserien and lost to league champion Skelleftea in the playoff semifinals. Backman scored 2 goals with 4 assists and was +6 with 4 penalty minutes in 10 playoff games. He played five games for Sweden in the Europe Trophy tournament with no points nor penalty minutes. Backman signed a three-year entry-level contract with Detroit in May, 2013.
Despite his size, Backman doesn’t play a particularly physical or powerful game. He is a simple, economical defenseman who makes the smart play and knows to play within himself. He’s an excellent skater for his size, makes a good first pass and makes good decisions with and without the puck. He won’t wow you, but he won’t often be beat or get caught cheating either.
After making big strides forward in 2013-14 Backman appears ready to challenge for an NHL job. A crowded defense corps in Detroit will make that a challenge, and he may have to spend another season in Grand Rapids.