It may have been a long travel day for new Heat defenseman Adam Ollas Mattsson leaving Stockholm and traveling to San Francisco International Airport to join his new team, but it was totally worth it for the 20-year-old Swede.
“I’ve been waiting for the call to come over here since my season ended,” Ollas Mattsson explained, “so it’s really exciting to be here.”
A call was placed to him late in the evening that wrapped up his amateur tryout contract with the Stockton Heat, and was told to get on a plane the next day. From Stockholm to San Francisco, with a quick pitstop in Newark, New Jersey, Ollas Mattsson is now ready to bring his game to North America for the first time.
What he totes with him is some vastly impressive experience with one of the top leagues in the world that only few know much about, the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), the top division of pro hockey in Sweden.
“When you look at him as a young guy coming in that’s the thing,” Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska said. “The elite league in Sweden is a fast, skilled league and he was able to play in that with a lot of older men, so I think the smarts that he has or his ability to play in that league shows off the smarts he has.”
Ollas Mattsson continues the scouting report as well.
“It’s a good league with a lot of good players but it’s the only league I’ve known so I can’t compare it to anything,” Ollas Mattsson said. “Some guys that played in the NHL for a long time but finish their careers there. I don’t think a lot of people know the Swedish League much but I can definitely say there’s a lot of skill and talent there.”
Which makes his statline in his first full season playing exclusively in the SHL that much more impressive. Against some grown men, some of which have experience playing in some of the other best levels of hockey the world has to offer, Ollas Mattsson was plus-3 in 52 games played while also chipping in a goal and three assists.
His defensive ability is what caught the eye of the Flames in 2014 when he was selected in the sixth round, 175th overall by the Calgary Flames.
“He’s been at a few developmental camps so we’ve seen him over the summers,” Huska said. “He’s just a guy who does a good job defending. I think he’s a hard guy to play against, he’s got some big size and will work to clean up the front of the net and someone that can be used in a shut down role.”
Now, Ollas Mattsson, who still hasn’t signed an entry level contract with the Flames since being drafted, has a chance to show the NHL club what he can bring to the table and how he can take his experience playing in a solid pro league and apply that to the AHL experience he’ll garner during his amateur tryout.
In his first handful of practices, the 6-foot-4 defenseman admitted jet lag has set him back a bit, waking up about three to four hours before guys even begin to arrive at Stockton Arena to start their days, but he’s adjusting to life in North America both on and off the ice.
On the ice it’s been the help of veteran blueliner Keith Aulie, who’s been paired with him through his first two practices with the Heat, and we’ve already seen firsthand how Aulie has been able to impact the games of the other young defenseman like Kayle Doetzel and Kenney Morrison.
“[Aulie’s] helped me a lot since I’ve gotten here,” Ollas Mattsson admits. “He tells me all the drills, which is hard in the beginning because you don’t know them, and tells me what I should look out for, so he’s been really helpful already.”
Off the ice, the most helpful thing for Ollas Mattsson is another Swedish defenseman in the dressing room already. A year after Ollas Mattsson was taken in the NHL Draft, his friend and former teammate Oliver Kylington would be selected by the Flames, assigned to the Heat, and now is able to use his experience over the last two years to help bring his buddy along.
“We actually played together when we were 16 back home in Djurgardens under-16 team, and then in the summers we often hangout back in Stockholm so we know each other pretty well,” Ollas Mattsson explains of his relationship with Kylington. “It’s a lot easier to get here when there are a couple familiar faces to talk to, and even talk a little Swedish to. Everything off the ice, I’m kind of lost at since I’m new, so Oliver’s helped me out a lot off the ice.”
The pair played together during the 2011-12 season playing eight games together. Kylington had 6 goals and 11 points in that span while the defensive minded Ollas Mattsson had 4 assists and was plus-8.
And should he come back to the Heat from his recall to the big club, Rasmus Andersson would be another familiar face for Ollas Mattsson as the pair had played on Sweden’s national team together at the under-16, under-17, under-18 and under-20 levels including suiting up together during the 2015-16 World Junior Championships last year.
Ollas Mattsson is expected to make his North American debut during the Heat’s season-long five-game road trip taking the team through Austin, Texas and San Antonio, Texas through the rest of the month and the start of April.