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Big year for Backlund

by Torie Peterson / Calgary Flames
CALGARY, AB -- For most of the Calgary Flames, competitive hockey is now on the backburner until training camp.

Not for Mikael Backlund.

The 22 year-old has been invited to play for Sweden in the World Hockey Championships.

"I got email today saying they wanted me to come and play. I emailed them back, I'm really interested and want to go," Backlund grinned. "I said I had to meet with Jay and the coaches first and they were really excited for me to and wanted me to go. I'm just waiting for them to call me now and let me know what dates, when to go and where."

Being invited to play for Team Sweden comes with a lot of expectations. The country takes the tournament very seriously and Backlund knows he must bring his A-game into the tournament.

"If you say no, people get really upset and if you win the World Championship, you're like heros at home. If you lose or play bad, they're really miserable," he said. "It's big in Sweden so it'll be a lot of fun. From my standpoint, for myself, it's going to be a good opportunity to have another long season and play more games and enjoy my team with Team Sweden, representing my country which I love to do."

The invite caps off an excellent season for Backlund. In his first full year in the NHL, he potted 10 goals and accumulated 25 points overall.

He started the year on the fourth line, allowing him to progress as a player without throwing him to wolves. As the season rolled along, head coach Brent Sutter placed him on different lines, helping him get more acclimatized to playing against better players and aiding his development.

By the end of the season, he was centering Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay on the top line.

"For me, it was fun to play with Iggy and Tangs. I think I picked up my game at the end of the year and played with more confidence. I think I played some really good games here at the end of the season and got a lot of confidence. I'll take that with me going into the Worlds and into the summer. I'll come back, work hard and push for that spot again."

After finishing up at the World Championships, it'll be right back to work for the youngster. He knows he can't take this season foregranted and will need to be ready to compete for a spot during training camp next fall.

"As a young player after the first year, you can't get too comfortable. I just had a meeting with the coach about that. Coming into next year, I have to be really focused to make the team again."

That being said, he believes he has the skill set to challenge for spot on the top two lines.

"Obviously my goal and where I want to be is the first line. Keep playing with Iggy and hopefully Tangs. We'll see what happens there. But it will be a lot of fun.

"Growing up, my dream was always playing on the first two lines and helping a team that way. Being a top player on the team and the League. This year, I got a lot of experience and learned a lot this year. I learned a lot about myself and my game and it going into next year, it makes me feel a lot more confident and comfortable. I showed I can play on a top line and do it well and I just need to have another good summer and take my experience with me and get even stronger next year."

While his role with the club next season is still up in the air, Backlund cannot wait to come back to Calgary in the fall.

"I feel really comfortable around here. I love playing here. I feel good about the city and I feel a lot of support from the fans and from the organization and the coaches. I feel good about everything. Coming in next year, I'll be really prepared. I'm just really excited for next year."
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