It's a clash of Flames' No. 1 draft picks

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

RIMOUSKI, Que. -- Greg Nemisz won't think about going home just yet.

The Windsor Spitfires forward hopes to play on at this week's Memorial Cup.

Crafty Kelowna Rockets forward Mikael Backlund is thinking about his mom and dad back home in Sweden. He's banking on them seeing him play this week in Rimouski.

"They weren't able to get the webcast of our first game (an impressive 4-1 win over Rimouski) on the computer," the 20-year-old Backlund said. "Hopefully, they'll find an IP (Internet protocol) address and be able to watch us."

Either way, the Calgary Flames will be tuning in.

Nemisz was their first-round selection -- 25th overall -- last summer. They scooped up Backlund one spot earlier two years ago.

First picks always keep track of each other's progress.

"When you're there, you have a job to do," Nemisz said. "You don't really get to know guys as much but you're part of the same thing."

They share an NHL destination. But tonight, those journeys collide.

The 18-year-old Nemisz and his teammates will fight to keep their Cup drive alive. They're a shocking 0-for-2 after losing one-goal games to Rimouski and Drummondville.

Backlund and the Western Hockey League kings will try to put up a "Road Closed" sign in front of the Ontario Hockey League champs.

"I know him from different camps," Backlund said. "It's great that he's a Calgary pick, too, and, hopefully, we'll both play together some day soon.

"Right now, this is just another game we're trying to win. It doesn't matter who's on the other team."

But he knows what to expect. The 6-foot-4, 201-pound Nemisz is a sure-handed forward. When he's on his game, he controls the puck down low and isn't afraid to take a hit to make a play.

And Backlund? He's a master of the saucer pass.

"He's a highly skilled player who can break open the game at any time," Nemisz said. "Very talented. We're not going to do anything different to get ready. We know we have to play better. We're not putting the blame (for being 0-2) on anyone but ourselves."

The two have taken wildly different routes here. It would be like comparing the stretch of Hwy. 401 near the Nemisz residence in Courtice, Ont., to Hwy. 97 in Backlund's new Okanagan Valley hockey home of Kelowna, B.C.

Nemisz was the first player drafted by Windsor general manager Warren Rychel when his group bought the Spitfires three years ago.

The lanky teen increased his offensive output each year (to 36 goals this season) in front of Windsor-based Calgary scout Tom Webster.

Backlund had a head-spinning season. He played in the world juniors in Ottawa. Then, he made his Flames debut.

He never went back to his hometown club, Vasteras, opting to end the season in Kelowna.

"Best move I could've made," he said. "I wasn't playing very well at my club in Sweden. When you play that first game in the NHL, it makes you want more."

He'd like a replay against Canada.

"It was tough losing to Canada," he said. "It's a great crowd here (in Rimouski) but we scored a few goals early (on Friday) and it got quiet. Nothing is like the sound of 19,000 fans all cheering for Canada in Ottawa."

His tournament roommate was Victor Hedman, the big defenceman forever linked to London Knights forward John Tavares in the race for first overall pick in next month's NHL draft.

"Victor was pretty relaxed about that," Backlund said. "I don't know what the Islanders should do. I don't know John as a person but he's a good player. If they want a defenceman, they take Victor."


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