Backlund recalls draft day

STEVE MACFARLANE, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:51 PM ET

The 2007 NHL Entry Draft held its share of firsts for Mikael Backlund. Among them was a big dinner at around 1 a.m.

“It was the latest dinner I’ve ever had,” the Swede said with a laugh over the phone from his homeland as he recounted the end of a magical day that took place in Columbus, Ohio, three years ago.

Drafted by the Calgary Flames in the first round, 24th overall, Backlund has become the team’s hottest prospect after making the transition to North America two seasons ago.

He seems all but a sure thing to crack the Flames lineup at centre this fall after his first pro season included 54 games with the AHL Abbotsford Heat and another 23 with the parent club.

He scored a goal and added nine assists for the Flames, and based on his early returns, the 21-year-old ranks high on the list of best selections for a franchise known for making few strong drafts.

Before hearing his name called by the Flames, Backlund thought he might be going to another Canadian club.

“I thought I was going to Toronto,” said Backlund, who had interviews with the Maple Leafs, the Flames and the Florida Panthers before the draft. “I had the best feeling with (the Leafs). But they traded away their first- and second-round picks.”

The Panthers took defenceman Keaton Ellerby 10th overall, leaving Backlund to slide down the first round all the way to the Flames’ slot.

“It was a nervous time, but I was really excited, too,” Backlund said.

“I noticed the (Flames’) Swedish scout, Anders Steen, went up. My agent said,

‘A Swedish guy will go now.’

“I was hoping it would be me.”

It was.

Apparently, a meeting with GM Darryl Sutter the day before alleviated any concerns the team had over a knee injury that kept Backlund from playing his best in the months leading into the 2007 draft.

“That year was hard for me because of the injuries. I was always thinking about how it’s going to go for me in the draft because I wasn’t playing good.

I was happy when they said my name. It was a good feeling.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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