Back in July, we wrote about Mikael Backlund’s opportunity to step up and prove the Flames were right to draft him 24th overall in 2007.
With six goals and five assists in 24 games this season, we’re not sure the 24-year-old center has made the most of his opportunity; however, it doesn’t sound like the organization is ready to give up on him quite yet.
“I want to help him realize what he needs to keep doing,” coach Bob Hartley said, per the Calgary Herald. “He’s tougher in puck battles. He’s going harder at the net. I want him to play as a centerman. You need to be able to play the game in the three zones. He’s a great skater. He’s got great vision. I want to help him expand his role and believe in himself.”
Given the dearth of centers in the NHL, high draft picks that play the middle will usually get multiple chances to prove themselves. And based on what Hartley said, the still-young Swede is improving.
Backlund is a pending restricted free agent that’s finishing out a one-year, $725,000 contract.
“Obviously, the better I play, the better contract I’ll get — that’s how it works,” said Backlund. “So I’m trying to do my best and show them that I want to be a part of this team, I want to be part of the future of this organization.
“Hopefully, I’d like to stay here.”