Mikael Backlund nominated for Masterton Trophy by Calgary’s PHWA chapter
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike7 months ago
In 2007, the Calgary Flames traded down in the first round and selected 18-year-old centre Mikael Backlund from VIK Västerås HK of Sweden’s secondary HockeyAllsvenskan circuit. Sixteen years and 900 NHL games later, Backlund has become one of the defining players of recent Flames history and is playing some of the best hockey of his career.
Backlund has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, as selected by the Calgary chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Selected annually by the full membership of the PHWA (from a pool of nominees chosen by each local chapter), the Masterton Trophy is given to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. The award is named after the late Bill Masterton, who passed away in 1968 following injuries sustained in a game.
Backlund’s journey to the NHL was relatively short, but his path to what he eventually became took awhile. Signed to an entry-level deal a year after being drafted, Backlund spent another half-season in Sweden before being moved by the Flames to North America amidst some grumbling among Västerås club leadership about Backlund’s progression. After a silver medal performance at the 2009 World Juniors, Backlund made his NHL debut against the New York Islanders (as a short-notice injury replacement) before being assigned to the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, where he helped the Rockets capture a WHL Championship.
Turning pro in the 2009-10 season and spending much of the season learning the two-way game in the AHL, Backlund became a full-time NHLer in 2010-11 but began his career as a bottom-six player. He gradually developed a reputation as a savvy shutdown player, and by 2012-13 he was beginning to carve out a niche as a player that could be sent out after the other team’s top guns.
Since 2013 or so, Backlund’s two-way prowess has remained constant as his offensive production has gradually increased. In 2015-16, he set a career high with 47 points. He surpassed that in 2016-17 with 53 points. This season, he’s set a new career mark with 54 points. In the absence of a full-time captain, Backlund, the team’s most senior alternate, has been lauded by teammates, coaches and management for his leadership capabilities. Simply put, Backlund’s been playing the best hockey of his career just as he’s passed his 34th birthday.
In addition to maintaining a high standard of play on the ice, Backlund (and his wife, Frida) spear-head several charitable endeavours throughout the Calgary area, notably with ALS Society of Alberta, Kids Cancer Care, Parachutes for Pets: Lily’s Legacy and Special Olympics Calgary. When he spoke with the media regarding his off-ice work, Backlund credited his wife and his upbringing from his parents as driving forces behind him doing what he can to give back to the community.
Flames players have been honoured with the Masterton Trophy twice in the club’s history: Lanny McDonald was awarded it in 1982-83 and Gary Roberts in 1995-96. Backlund was previously the Calgary nominee for the Masterton in 2016-17, and was the Flames’ nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Award for humanitarian work in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
For his longevity, leadership and on (and off-)ice excellence, Backlund is this year’s Calgary chapter nominee for the Masterton Trophy.
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