This coming May is the 40th anniversary of the Atlanta Flames moving to Calgary. To commemorate this occasion, we’re counting down the Top 40 Calgary Flames in history.
We’re halfway home! Coming in at #20 is Mikael Backlund.
Backlund is the textbook example of the NHL being a tough league, center being a tough position to play in said league, and patience paying off in player development.
Drafted out of his hometown Vasteras, Sweden in 2007, he made the jump to North America the following season – making his NHL debut as an emergency recall following the 2009 World Juniors – and spent the back half of the season helping drive Kelowna to a WHL Championship and Memorial Cup appearance.
Backlund became a full-time pro in 2009-10 and began his gradual climb. First he was a call-up guy playing in the bottom six with the team’s lesser lights. Then he became a full-time NHLer but kept getting hurt at odd times, including one season being penciled in as Jarome Iginla’s center before breaking his hand in the very last practice session of training camp.
The 2012-13 lockout was a turning point for Backlund. He returned to Vasteras where he played big minutes against some big-time NHL imports. When he returned, he brought his swagger back with him. Since then, his offense has seen an uptick and he’s emerged as one of the NHL’s top two-way forwards. He’s received Selke votes in each of the past three seasons, finishing fourth in voting in 2016-17.
Backlund’s also been recognized as one of the team’s on-ice leaders, serving as an alternate captain and mentoring a rotating slew of young forwards – most recently Andrew Mangiapane and Matthew Tkachuk. He’s the second longest-serving active Flame behind Mark Giordano, with both of them being carry-overs from Darryl Sutter’s tenure with the club.
Gilmour made this list because he was great for a short period. Backlund’s never enjoyed the lofty highs that Gilmour did, but he’s been very good and extremely consistent for a long, long time.
He cracks the 20th spot.
Arrival: Selected in the first round, 24th overall, in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (June 22, 2007)
Current Player
Awards: none