Mikael Backlund
Mikael Backlund
29-Year-Old CenterC
Calgary Flames
2018 Fantasy Outlook
Backlund dished out 31 assists last season, tying his career best, but he only registered 14 goals and finished with a minus-21 rating. In the two years prior, the Swedish forward had consecutive 20-plus goal outputs. Still, he set new career highs with 214 shots on goal and 19:01 of ice time per game, including more than two minutes on the man advantage. His shooting percentage (6.5 percent) was his lowest since the 2011-12 season, but Backlund had never fallen below nine percent in that key shooting metric ahead of the lockout era, so history suggests he should improve upon his 2017-18 mark this season. Better yet, as one of the best two-way forwards in the game, expect him to make it four straight years with 45 points or more. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed a six-year contract extension with the Flames in February 2018 worth $5.35 million annually.
One helper in win
CCalgary Flames
March 15, 2019
Backlund picked up an assist and added seven shots on goal in Friday's 5-1 win over the Rangers.
Backlund has a modest three-game point streak, with two goals and three assists as well as 13 shots on goal and a plus-5 rating in that span. Backlund has earned 44 points (19 goals, 24 assists) in 67 games this year, just one point shy of his total from last year.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Backlund enjoyed the finest season of his career in 2016-17, as he posted new career highs in goals (22) and assists (31), breaking the 50-point mark for the first time. Perhaps even more promising was the fact that the Swedish pivot exploded for a career-best 16 power-play points while enjoying his highest-ever man-advantage ice time. Add in the fact that he’s a great possession player (54.74 Corsi For percentage) who’s willing to put the puck on net (career-high 197 shots on goal in 2016-17), and you've got the makings of a potential breakout player on an improving Calgary offense. That said, at 28 years old, Backlund’s more of an established veteran than a rising prospect at this point, so don't expect superstardom to come his way.
Always known for his strong two-way play, Backlund improved in all phases of the game last year by setting new career highs in goals (21), assists (26) and rating (plus-10) – thanks in no small part to a vicious stretch of eight points in four games to close out the campaign. He’s not much of a faceoff man despite being the Flames’ second-line center, but the Swede makes up for it with his defensive effort and penalty-killing ability. A first-round pick (24th overall) back in 2007, Backlund was looking like a bust – at least for fantasy purposes – until this past season, but he’s one of those NHLers whose value doesn’t always show up on the scoresheet. The rebuilding Flames are on the rise, but Backlund’s fantasy utility doesn’t promise to do the same unless he can get quality help on his wings. That’s far from guaranteed as the season approaches.
Backlund is remarkably valuable for the Flames, but less so for fantasy purposes. His production is fine, though it’s not likely to spike any time soon. Why? He’s the defensive backbone of the Flames' forward ranks. Backlund is the center that coach Bob Hartley sends over the boards for key defensive zone faceoffs. And he gets the tough assignments to shut down the opposing team’s best guys. While he does have the defensive chops of a Patrice Bergeron, unfortunately, Backlund doesn’t have his offensive skills. He’ll be in the hunt for the second-line gig, but Hartley will be loath to hand it to him given the success he’s had gaining possession in his shutdown role. More than anything, Backlund will spend his season working to improve his faceoff skills, not his shot. That means that 30 or so points will probably come his way, and without secondary stats like hits, blocked shots, or power-play production.
Backlund finally started to showcase his first-round talent in 2013-14, scoring 18 goals and adding 21 assists in 76 games. He also was one of the few Flames to end the season with a positive plus/minus at plus-4. Backlund should be one of the top two centers for Calgary to start the year and could certainly end up with 40-50 points if he stays healthy.
It's a do or die year for Backlund, who has failed to live up to expectations in his first four years in the NHL. The first-round pick (2007) has only 62 points in 170 games and has struggled with inconsistency and injuries. Nonetheless, with Calgary rebuilding, perhaps some of the pressure will be off Backlund and he can finally start to live up to his draft promise. He will compete for the No. 2 center spot, but his inability to score consistently should scare any fantasy owners away.
The 2011-12 season was a disaster for Backlund, as he started the season as Calgary’s No. 1 center, then saw a lack of consistent play and injuries leave him fighting for a spot in the top four lines. He will look to remind coaches of what they saw of him in 2010-11, when he had 10 goals and 15 assists, as the No. 2 center spot in Calgary is still up for grabs. He has great potential, but he has to show that ability in games again.
Backlund, the Flames' first-round draft selection of 2007, stands out as one of the top prospects on an organization that has a shortage of noteworthy young guns. His ascension to the NHL had been an arduous process, though a neck injury to Daymond Langkow allowed Backlund to stay up with the club for the majority of the season. In 73 games of NHL action, the Swede posted 10 goals and 15 assists, though he still watched a handful of games from the press box as a healthy scratch. He will be one to watch this season, as he can score and distribute the puck just as easily.
Backlund more than held his own in a 23-game trial with the Flames last year, notching one goal and nine assists while playing on multiple lines. Whenever you look at a young player's numbers with the Flames, you have to take the system into account - this was a system that depressed offense, so Backlund's output is better than it looks. Backlund also fared well at the team's developmental camp this summer, and he's got a good chance to surpass Daymond Langkow in the Flames' pecking order and stick with the team all season long.
Backlund is a bright prospect who finally came over to the WHL late last season after spending close to four years with Vasteras IK in Sweden. He notched 30 points in 28 games with Kelowna (WHL), showing that his skills will translate to the North American game just fine. The Flames will give him a long look during camp and even if he does wind up getting sent down to the AHL he could still make an impact at some point during the 2009-10 season if injuries hit the Flames' roster. Keep him on your radar, especially in keeper leagues.
Backlund has spent the past three seasons with Vasteras IK in Sweden, scoring 20 points in 67 games in the process. He also helped Sweden to a silver medal at the IIHF World Junior Championships earlier in 2008. The No. 24 pick should get a shot at making the team in the fall, but unfortunately for him, the Flames are extremely deep at center. Don't completely count him out, however.
The Flames' first round pick in 2007, Calgary expects big things out of the Swede Backlund in the future. The 18-year-old does not have overwhelming scoring power, but he is a great two-way player that should have a long career in the NHL. Give him a couple years before that happens, however, especially with his recent knee injury.
Backlund is pure talent but his pre-draft ranking plummeted after a serious knee injury kept him off the radar for about four months. He's healthy and ready to go now, and could be a real steal if he can bulk up for the pro game. Thnk a point-per-game output, folks -- that's pretty nice fantasy fodder. His injury has put him under the radar; it shouldn't scare you off.
More Fantasy News
Offers assist in blowout win
CCalgary Flames
March 12, 2019
Backlund recorded a helper in a 9-4 win over the Devils on Tuesday.
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Reunion feels good
CCalgary Flames
March 10, 2019
Backlund potted two goals, one on the power play, and added an assist in a 6-3 win over the Golden Knights on Sunday.
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Dishes out apple
CCalgary Flames
March 3, 2019
Backlund had an even-strength assist in 18:45 of ice time in the Flames' 4-2 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
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Point streak at six games
CCalgary Flames
February 26, 2019
Backlund found twine again in Tuesday's 3-1 win over the Islanders.
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Scores opening goal in win
CCalgary Flames
February 24, 2019
Backlund scored his 16th goal of the season in Sunday's 2-1 win over Ottawa.
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