Know Your Bobcat – Mathias Ahman
Throughout the months of August and September, BismarckBobcats.com will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment features Bobcat rookie defenseman Mathias Ahman.
Name: Mathias Ahman
Hometown: Harnosand, Sweden
Weight: 165 lbs.
2012-13 Team: MODO J20
2012-13 Stats: 40 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 10 PTS, +0, 16 PIM
Favorite Band: Foo Fighters
Favorite Hobby: Golfing
Highlight of 2012-13: “Advancing all the way to the finals in the SuperElit with my teammates. We ended up taking second place; it was a great and exciting run.”
When a player finds himself on the Bismarck Bobcats’ training camp roster, it’s because he made the final cut at the team’s Main Camp. Many roads lead to Main Camp, however: players make it the list by being a returning veteran, signing a tender agreement, being selected in the NAHL Entry Draft or receiving an invitation from the Cats’ open camps.
In the case of Swedish defenseman Mathias Ahman, his path began at the Bobcats’ open camp in Denver, Colo.
Playing on the other side of the Atlantic from the NAHL in 2012-13, Ahman didn’t receive the junior-level scouting that a player in his position might receive in North America; instead of a team in the NAHL pursuing him, it was up to the 19-year-old to choose which team to pursue.
“I had received some offers from teams in Europe, but I wanted to play in North America [for 2013-14],” expressed Ahman, who helped MODO to the SuperElit Finals in 2012-13. “The Bobcats jumped out at me as a program that had a strong tradition and developed players well for the NCAA.”
Open camps have been a major asset for the Bobcats for years and years, as the black and gold have plucked big-time impact players like Ryan Jacobson, Charlie Mosey, Nikolaj Rosenthal, Matt Gates and Levi Blom from their pre-draft tryouts in both Denver and Prior Lake, Minn.
“Every year we seem to find that hidden gem that slipped through the cracks,” explained Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “Last year we were able to identify Levi Blom in Denver, and it was kind of like déjà vu when Mathias jumped off the page at us in the very same camp.”
Ahman then parlayed his Main Camp invite into a spot at training camp 2013.
“I was able to get a couple of goals and make some plays,” recalled Ahman, who scored both of his Main Camp goals in the crucial camp-ending All-Star Game. “It was really exciting playing with so many skilled players in July; it gave me a good idea of what kind of skill level to expect now that we’re all here in Bismarck.”
The Best Defense…
Like so many young blueliners, Mathias Ahman identifies himself as an offensive defenseman—but it isn’t necessarily because of where he’s from.
“It’s not a Swedish or a European thing,” stressed Ahman, “even though you have many talented offensive defensemen from Sweden like Niklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Tobias Enstrom. I think it’s more of how defensemen are expected to play a two-way game in 2013. You see it no matter where you go.”
The Bobcats have a strong history of defensemen providing an offensive spark, with names in the last five years like Sam Rendle, Donald Olivieri, Bryce Anderson and Nate Repensky dotting the roster.
Under Sedevie—a former collegiate and professional goaltender—however, the focus of the defensive unit has been the back end: in 2012-13 the Bobcats were second in the league defensively, allowing just 2.33 goals per game.
“You have to strike quite a balance when it comes to offensive defensemen,” related Sedevie, “because you don’t want to limit their ability to create plays up front, but defense is still the priority.
“Mathias showed us a lot of promise in camp making strong plays on the pucks and turning heads with a heck of a powerful shot that has a lot of accuracy, too. If he can combine that offensive potential with a solid defensive game, he will go far in this sport.”
Ahman’s philosophy on combining his style with the Bobcats’ system is simple, but insightful.
“The defensive zone is where you work hard, the offensive zone is where you have fun,” offered the 1994 birth year.
Coming to America
Ahman arrived back in the U.S. last weekend after spending the previous month back home preparing for training camp.
Like many other rookies, the toughest adjustment has been going through Hell Week to open training camp.
“This week has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through as a player,” admitted Ahman. “But I also thought it was a lot of fun, pushing myself and competing against some great athletes on the team. The competition aspect helped bring the best out of everyone because we’re athletes: we want to win.”
One adaptation that has been particularly smooth for Ahman has been settling into the Bismarck/Mandan area.
While Bobcat players often come from major metropolitan areas with populations in the millions like Minneapolis or Chicago, the rookie blueliner hails from the small coastal locality of Harnosand, a city of less than 18,000 people that is over four hours north of the more populous southern region of Sweden.
“Bismarck is a much larger city than I am used to, so it has been very interesting to explore so far,” said Ahman. “The people here are very nice and have made me feel welcome very quickly.”
The biggest transition of all, however, lies ahead of the Swede: shifting from Hell Week and dryland training into strapping on the skates and getting into the on-ice flow of the North American Hockey League.
Safe to say, it’s a progression that he is eager to get into.
“We’re all excited to get on the ice now that Hell Week is over,” offered Ahman. “We’ve been working hard at Healthways but the real work starts now on bringing the Robertson Cup back to the VFW Sports Center.”
Stay tuned to BismarckBobcats.com over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. This week we’ll also sit down with Blake Busch, Jeremy Norway and Will Pavek.