Even without putting pen to paper and drawing up a potential depth chart, Mikael Backlund knows the score.
The Calgary Flames have a dozen forwards on one-way contracts and a veteran centre in Craig Conroy inked to a salary-cap friendly two-way contract.
That all adds up to one thing for Backlund: A NHL roster position isnít going to be simply handed to him, but the clubís top forward prospect plans to earn one at training camp.
At least do everything he can to force the issue.
ďIím going with the mindset Iím going to take a spot here,Ē said Backlund, whose club opens the on-ice portion of its prospects camp Saturday at the Saddledome. ďI canít think anything else. I really want to make the team and feel Iím ready to be here full-time and hopefully help the team win here.
ďYeah, there are a lot of forwards on the team, but you donít know whatís going to happen. Iím just going to go out and do my best to get a job here.
ďIíve been here two years, my third full camp, so I feel Iím ready. Iíve focused so hard.Ē
Possibly in Backlundís favour to make the Flames out of training camp is the uncertain health of centre Daymond Langkow, whose neck injury is expected to keep him out of full participation of training camp when it opens next week, or the potential to move a big salary or two ó with Ales Kotalik seemingly the No.-1 contender.
However, working against Backlund is his contract. The Flames, who have committed more than the NHLís US$59.4-million salary cap, have to take both his salary and potential bonuses into consideration.
Backlundís salary is listed as $875,000, but with bonuses takes up $1.27 million.
Considering the dollars and the offensive potential seen in the 21-year-old centre, it makes no sense to keep Backlund in a bottom-line role instead of a $500,000 player when Backlund would receive much more ice time with the AHLís Abbotsford Heat.
Still, thatís not going to keep him from giving his best shot.
ďI learned a lot from being in Abbotsford and up to the NHL,Ē he said of last year, his first pro campaign in North America. ďI learned how fast the game is up here, how good the players are and how good I had to play every game. I noticed I had to be good every game, have a good consistent level every game.Ē
Heíll take the first step when the Flames send their crop of youngsters to the prospects tournament next week in Penticton, B.C., in which the Flames will face squads from the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.
Backlund, who wonít receive the attention which will be given to the likes of Edmonton top prospects Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi, plans to show how much he learned by being part of the playoff run in Abbotsford.
ďIt was good for me to have two really long seasons ó I played at the world championships after,Ē said Backlund, who was also part of the WHL Kelowna Rockets team which won the 2009 league crown. ďI was tired, but it was the most fun of the year, playoffs and world championships.Ē