Before the season began, Mattias Janmark had a pretty heavy choice ahead of him. According to his contract, he could head back to Sweden if the Dallas Stars couldn't find a roster spot for him. Sure, Janmark was familiar with AHL Texas from a brief visit the previous season, but the ball was in his court and it was either Frolunda or The Show.
Luckily for Dallas, Janmark earned his way into The Show.
Originally drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, Janmark was a bit of a late bloomer who didn't hear his name called until he was 20 years old. Detroit nabbed him in 2013 with the 79th pick overall, just a few months after Jim Nill left the organization to become GM of the Stars.
Janmark would suit up for Detroit's prospects twice at the Traverse City pre-season tournament, an eight team event that also features Dallas' youngsters. When the Stars were unloading veteran Erik Cole at the 2014-15 trade deadline, Janmark was part of the return from Detroit.
So this summer, Janmark found himself back in Traverse City – but in Victory Green, not Motown Red. By now, he was an impact player on a squad that also featured Radek Faksa, Julius Honka and Devin Shore. Needless to say, Janmark's maturity stood out, but so did his goal-scoring prowess.
“Personally, I want to be contributing offensively," he told me. "But I want to be good defensively; a two-way player with maybe more offense than defense.”
After a hot start with Dallas that saw him notch a point in each of his first four games, Janmark has helped the Stars into the second round of the playoffs with four points through nine games. He's on the second line with Jason Spezza and for a team that has a tough St. Louis squad in the ring right now, that secondary offense is crucial – especially with Tyler Seguin yet to dress in the series.
But Janmark comes from great development stock and is used to being part of a collective. The Frolunda organization he comes from has been a factory for NHL prospects lately and as he tells it, that's by coach Roger Ronnberg's design.
“They changed mentality a few years ago," Janmark said. "Before they were wasting money on older guys and the economics weren’t going so well. Then they brought in Ronnberg and changed to bring in younger players and guys that want to get to the NHL and of course that’s good. Players are pushing each other and it’s a good environment. We practised hard…harder than most teams, I think.”
Along with Janmark, Frolunda has boasted NHL picks such as Andreas Johnson (Toronto), Jacob Larsson (Anaheim), Artturi Lehkonen (Montreal), Christopher Ehn (Detroit) and Mikael Wikstrand (Ottawa) lately and this year's squad won the SHL title under Ronnberg's tutelage.
While Janmark was obviously busy helping the Stars get past Minnesota in the first round when that was happening, it is interesting to see how Ronnberg's gambit has paid off. Similarly, what would have happened if Janmark hadn't earned his way onto the Stars this past fall? Would he have accepted an assignment to AHL Texas, hoping it was for the short term, or gone back to Frolunda?
Luckily for Janmark, his skills and production made the decision for him.