Mikael Backlund
Mikael Backlund
30-Year-Old CenterC
Calgary Flames
2019 Fantasy Outlook
Backlund posted his third 20-goal season in 2018-19, notching 21 tallies and 26 helpers in 77 games while topping 200 shots for a second straight campaign. The Swedish center is the middleman for the Flames' "3M" line, flanked by wingers Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik. That trio is used in all situations, including the penalty kill and power play -- Backlund averaged 3:19 of ice time per game on the man advantage last season. With four straight years at 45-plus points, it's safe to assume that the pivot will reach that mark again in 2019-20, although his shooting percentage may regress from the 10.2 percent mark he posted last year, as his career average currently sits at a more reasonable 9.1 percent. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed a six-year contract extension with the Flames in February 2018 worth $5.35 million annually.
Nets game-winner Sunday
CCalgary Flames
October 20, 2019
Backlund scored a goal on two shots in Sunday's 2-1 win over the Ducks.
Backlund received a slick pass from Matthew Tkachuk and put the shot behind John Gibson, giving the Flames their first and only lead of the night. Backlund has scored in consecutive games during the Flames' two-game run through California. The center has four points in 10 games, but he's starting to heat up to provide the Flames with some depth scoring.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
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.
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
Deposits penalty shot
CCalgary Flames
October 19, 2019
Backlund scored on a penalty shot for the Flames' only goal in a 4-1 loss to the Kings on Saturday.
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Collects helper
CCalgary Flames
October 12, 2019
Backlund generated an assist and two shots on goal in Saturday's 6-2 loss to the Golden Knights.
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Sets up tying goal
CCalgary Flames
October 10, 2019
Backlund dished an assist, three shots on goal and four hits in Thursday's 3-2 shootout win over the Stars.
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Quiet in opener
CCalgary Flames
October 3, 2019
Backlund went minus-2 with two shots on goal in Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Avalanche.
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Good to go
CCalgary Flames
October 3, 2019
As expected, Backlund (lower body) is in the projected lineup for Thursday's season opener against Colorado.
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