SUN Hockey Pool

Backlund refreshed from holiday

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

Exhausted is probably an understatement.

After the kind of year Mikael Backlund had, he needed some serious rest.

So the Swede went to Greece with his sisters.

"All-inclusive holiday. Just relax, sunbed all week on the beach," said the 21-yearold Calgary Flames prospect, who jumped back and forth between the AHL Abbotsford Heat and the NHL Flames in his first pro season before hopping over to Germany for the world championships when the Heat's long playoff run was over.

"Three weeks after the season, I did nothing. I didn't think of hockey at all. You have to do that for your brain.

"I was real tired. It was a long season. A lot of games in a lot of different places. A lot of travelling."

His country would have understood if he'd declined joining the fight in Germany.

But even though Backlund was battling a flu bug and running on very little sleep, there was no way he was going to say no.

" The first game of the world championship, I was real tired because I was sick," he said Monday as the first day of Flames development camp wrapped up at the Saddledome. "The day I landed, I played right away. It was kind of hard. I got like three hours of sleep."

The kid just loves hockey. And his native Sweden.

"It was a lot of fun -- a lot of pride representing my country. It was too bad we didn't win the gold," he said. "We were close."

Real close. The gold medal winning Czech Republic beat the Swedes 3-2 in the semifinal with just seven seconds to play.

"It was kind of hard, disappointing," said Backlund, whose team rebounded to beat host Germany 3-1 in the consolation game. "But we got a bronze medal. I'm real proud of that."

The talented centre can be proud of his first pro season in North America, too.

He had a rocky start with the Heat but turned his game around, and by the turn of the new year was among the top offensive weapons on the farm.

Finishing the regular season with the Flames, Backlund contributed a goal and nine assists in 23 games with the parent club and showed significant improvement both playing in his own end and without the puck.

Told to work on quickness in the off-season, he has been hitting the stairs and sprinting to improve on the ice.

There's no sign of ego despite his status as a first-round pick (2007), and the fact everyone from fans to coaches and the GM wants to see him with the Flames full-time next year as a top-six forward.

"Hopefully, he will be here full-time. There's no reason why he shouldn't be. He proved that last year," said Flames pro scout Ron Sutter, who is in charge of player development.

Being in camp with a bunch of kids who have yet to taste NHL game action is all part of that plan.

"I think it's important to remember that Mikael just has one year pro under his belt," Sutter said, pointing out Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers attended the Buffalo Sabres development camp this summer, too.

"It's all about development. It's all about learning. I think it's important for Mikael to be here and not get too far ahead of the game.

"He's still learning. He's a kid that is still green, and he's got a long ways to go."

Backlund has come a long way, but he knows there's still plenty to prove.

"It's up to me still," Backlund said. "I have to play really good and perform well at camp. That's what I'm going to do.

"It's a good opportunity for me to show the coaches and all the staff here what I'm about. And it's just a good chance to get better as a player. It's good for me. I want to get better every day."

Ideally, every day would be spent with the Flames this time around.

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CAMP ROSTER

Goalies

33 Leland Irving 31 J.P. Lamoureux 1 Cam Lanigan 37 Joni Ortio

Defencemen

54 Chris Breen 66 T.J. Brodie 80 Alex Deilert 51 Tim Erixon 45 Joey Leach 63 Josh Meyers 61 John Negrin 40 Giffen Nyren 43 Keith Seabrook

Forwards

75 John Armstrong 49 Bill Arnold 60 Mikael Backlund 46 Carter Bancks 68 Spencer Bennett 57 Lance Bouma 39 Bryan Cameron 74 Hugo Carpentier 79 Michael Ferland 73 Ryley Grantham 78 Patrick Holland 64 Ryan Howse 58 Nick Larson 38 Logan MacMillan 77 Aaron Marvin 48 Greg Nemisz 71 Gaelan Patterson 59 Max Reinhart


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