Heading into the 2007 entry draft, the Calgary Flames owned five selections, including the 18th overall pick. After numerous pick swaps, the end was result was still five new prospects added to the fold, including center Mikael Backlund, selected 24th overall.
One year removed from the draft-day acquisition of Alex Tanguay, General Manager Darryl Sutter was active again, aquiring the rights to defenseman Adrian Aucoin from Chicago for defenseman Andrei Zyuzin.
All in all, Calgary had a very “safe” draft, selecting hard-working, physical prospects who will be given every chance to add depth to the farm system. Backlund certainly has the highest upside, rated the second-highest among European skaters by Central Scouting.
Mikael Backlund, C
First round, 24th overall – Vasteras (SWE)
6’0, 194 lbs.
Projection: 2nd line playmaking center
Originally slotted to pick at 18th overall, the Flames pulled a deal with St.Louis, dropping down to 24th, and adding a third-round selection (70th overall) in the process. The move paid off, as Calgary still got their man in Mikael Backlund. A great playmaker with good hockey sense, Backlund’s two-way ability fits in well with the Sutter system.
Unlike Alexei Cherepanov and Angelo Esposito, Backlund’s reason for sliding in the draft was due more to injury than intangibles. A knee injury limited his ice time throughout most of last season. In total, he played 41 games for Vasteras, scoring 20 goals and 26 assists for 46 points.
“The knee is 100 percent now,” Backlund said at the draft. “I’ve also been seeing a doctor, they say it’s 100 percent, so I’m really happy to be free of the pain.”
Backlund is quite familiar with Calgary, having excelled at the Mac’s Midget Tournament in 2006, taking home the MVP award. He also had a great showing at the World Under-18 Championships, helping Sweden to a bronze medal while leading the tournament in goal scoring with seven.
Backlund will return to Sweden for the 2007-08 season, where a full, injury-free season will be the biggest goal. An option for 2008-09 could possibly be the Western Hockey League, as Backlund was selected in the CHL import draft by Kelowna.
John Negrin, D
Third round, 70th overall – Kootenay (WHL)
6’2, 195 lbs.
Projection: Versatile, top six defenseman
As history shows, the Flames have primarily looked to the west for prospects since the Darryl Sutter era began in 2003. With the third-round selection they obtained by dropping to number 24 in the first round, they took defenseman John Negrin from the Kootenay Ice. The 2006-07 season got off to a frustrating start for Negrin. First, rolling his ankle in a training camp softball game, then sustaining a concussion in his first game back. In all, he missed more than three months of hockey, and was listed on the “limited viewing” portion of Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings. Negrin finished the season with one goal and 15 assists in 44 games with the Ice, adding two assists in seven playoff games.
However, Negrin could end up being a very pleasant surprise for the Flames in the future, as he has all the tools to excel. A smooth skater with decent offensive instincts and good size, he’ll certainly get a chance to prove himself further in the WHL next season with the departure of overage defenseman Mike Busto.
“We’ve liked (Negrin) all year,” said Flames director of scouting Tod Button. “He’s a really good skater who moves the puck first… I like the fact that he’s going to be a leader and a go-to guy next year.”
With more responsibility on his shoulders next season, Negrin has a chance to rapidly increase his development, and hone the offensive part of his game.
Keith Aulie, D
Fourth round, 116th overall – Brandon (WHL)
6’6, 208 lbs.
Projection: 3rd pairing physical defenseman
Sitting with a pair of fifth-round selections, the Flames traded both to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a fourth rounder, 116th overall. They used it to select Keith Aulie, an imposing 6’6 stay at home defenseman out of Brandon in the WHL.. Aulie has size, and knows how to use it, garnering the reputation as one of the more punishing defenders to play against in the league. Aulie is a former first-round bantam pick, and was also the recipient of the league’s Doc Seamen Scholastic Player of the Year Trophy this past season. He made headlines last winter after saving his father’s life, pulling him from the icy water on the family farm near Rouleau, SK.
That kind of character was one of the main reasons Calgary chose the hulking defenseman, who scored one goal and added eight assists, along with 82 penalty minutes, in 66 games last season.
Fifth round, 143rd overall – Windsor (OHL)
6’2, 217 lbs.
Projection: 3rd-4th line energy forward.
The pick-swapping wasn’t quite done for Sutter, who shipped both sixth-round picks to Colorado in exchange for a fifth-round selection, using it on burly centerman Mickey Renaud of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires.
Renaud put up 54 points in Windsor last season, more than doubling the 26 he scored as a rookie, and was named the team’s player of the year. His father, Mark, played 152 NHL games with Hartford and Buffalo.
“I’m a competitive guy,” said Renaud. “More of a two-way center. Play hard every night, block shots, and try to chip in offensively.”
The penalty kill was where he excelled the most for a terrible Spitfire team, finishing third in the league with six shorthanded goals.
C.J. Severyn, LW
Seventh round, 186th overall – (US National U18 –NTDP)
6’0, 185 lbs.
The U.S National Under-18 team continues to produce top prospects in the draft, and with their seventh-round selection, the Flames tried to tap into the talent pool, selecting 6’0 left winger C.J. Severyn. Severyn is a physical winger who mixes his speed and aggression into a solid forecheck-oriented game. He scored six goals and added ten assists in 48 games last season, and has commited to Ohio State in the fall.
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.