Calgary Flames drafted for grit and toughness in 2007

By HF Staff
Photo: Selected 24th overall, Mikael Backlund has developed into a solid top-six center at the NHL level. (Photo courtesy of the NHL)

The 2007 draft started with the Calgary Flames lacking picks in either the 2nd or 3rd round, but with multiple picks in both the 5th and 6th. Darryl Sutter managed to make a number of deals, including trading down in the first round from 18th to 24th where they selected a piece of the future of their top six. In the end the Flames only selected five players in what was seen as a very "safe" draft class.

Mikael Backlund, C, Vasteras (SWE) – 1st round, 24th overall
Status: NHL Player
Games Played in NHL: 138

When the Calgary Flames drafted Mikael Backlund 24th overall they hoped that they would be gaining the top line center that the organization had been missing for years. After two more successful years in Sweden, Backlund finally made the move to North American and joined the Kelowna Rockets. With a point-per-game pace in junior under his belt, Backlund soon made the move to the professional ranks with the Abbotsford Heat in 2009-10. That year Backlund split time between Abbotsford and Calgary putting up respectable numbers in both leagues in his rookie pro season. The 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons have not seen the increases that would normally be expected of a player with the skill set of Backlund.

Blessed with great speed, elite level hands, and a playmaker mentality, Mikael Backlund is the high end player that Calgary hoped for when they drafted him. It remains to be seen whether or not he will be a true first line playmaking center or a high end second line center, but either way, his combination of offensive skill and defensive responsibility should prove to be good value for a late first round pick.

John Negrin, D, Kootenay Ice (WHL) – 3rd round, 70th overall
Status: Bust
Games Played in NHL: 3

John Negrin was selected after the Flames of traded down in the first round from 18th overall to 24th. What the Flames hoped for was a top tier defensive prospect that most teams would likely pass over due to Negrin's injury shortened season in the WHL. Little did the Flames know that injuries would be the theme of John Negrin's career. After a pair of offensively dominant seasons in the WHL both with Kootenay and then Swift Current it looked like Negrin was destined to pay off as a mid round steal. Unfortunately the injury problems started again once John Negrin made the jump to professional hockey. With a pair of injury shortened seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11 Negrin found himself starting the 2011-12 season in the ECHL.

Originally billed as a smooth skating defenseman with great puck moving ability, Negrin looked like a surefire mid-round steal. Unfortunately for both Calgary and Negrin, the only consistent part of his professional career has been injuries. Negrin could still salvage a decent career in hockey, but those types of turnarounds are rare.

Keith Aulie, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – 4th round, 116th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
Games Played in NHL: 55

Yet another pick acquired through trade, Darryl Sutter moved both of Calgary's 5th round picks and acquired Keith Aulie in the 4th round. Standing at 6'6 tall, Aulie was a force on the blue line in junior with the Brandon Wheat Kings and had a reputation for laying out punishing hits. Two more years in Brandon saw Aulie improve not only on his defensive play, but also saw him contribute offensively which was something of a surprise from a young man that had already been labeled a shutdown defenseman. Aulie's tenure in junior finished off on a high note in 2008-09 with being selected to compete for Team Canada in the World U20 championship where he won a gold medal.

Half a season after starting his professional career in Abbotsford, Aulie was packaged in a trade along with Dion Phaneuf to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sent to Toronto's AHL affiliate, Aulie played only five more games before suffering a season ending shoulder injury. In 2010-11, as well as the current season, Aulie has bounced up and down between the Marlies and Maple Leafs.

With imposing size and a good hockey IQ, Aulie is a prototypical defensive defenseman. It is unlikely that his skill set will translate into much in the way of offense at the NHL level, however his mix of size and skill are more than enough to make him a valuable asset at any level. It is likely Aulie will find himself with a full time NHL job sooner rather than later.

Mickey Renaud, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) – 5th round, 143rd overall
Status: Deceased
Games Played in NHL: 0

As if for an encore of the moves made in the previous round Darryl Sutter again pulled the trigger on a draft day deal trading both of Calgary's 6th round picks to acquire Mickey Renaud in the 5th round. Mickey Renaud was the son of former NHLer Mark Renaud and showed a mix of strong leadership and two-way play. Renaud projected to develop into a solid depth center with outstanding penalty killing abilities. Tragically, in February of 2008, Mickey Renaud died suddenly at his home in Tecumseh Ontario at the age of 19. Windsor Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel described the event as "the biggest tragedy in Spitfire history."

C.J. Severyn, LW, US National U18 (NTDP) – 7th round, 186th overall
Status: Bust
Games Played in NHL: 0

With their final selection in 2007, the Calgary Flames selected physical winger C.J. Severyn from the U.S. National Under-18 Team. After graduation from the NTDP, Severyn joined the Ohio State Buckeyes where he continued both his hockey development and his education.

Over the course of his four-year career at Ohio State, Severyn never managed to put up big offensive numbers, but saw plenty of playing time in the bottom six and continued to play a physical style. After leaving the Buckeyes C.J. Severyn has since continued his hockey career with the Utah Grizzlies

Severyn, even when drafted, projected as a long shot depth player at best. Seen as average in most areas of his game, he was never able to make a solid impression on the Calgary Flames organization and has dropped off the prospect radar.

Article was written by Kevin Mattinson.