The 2017 NHL All Star Game rosters were announced yesterday and Flames centre extraordinaire Mikael Backlund was not included. The only representative from the Flames in LA will be star forward Johnny Gaudreau. No Gio. No Tkachuk. No Backlund. You could make the case that Mark Giordano and Matthew Tkachuk were long shots and I wouldn’t argue with that. Gio, while playing very sound defence, isn’t lightning it up on the other end of the rink. And I’m not sure if you noticed, but defence isn’t exactly a top priority in the new 3 on 3 Round Robin tournament. Tkachuk? While he’s an interesting thought, he’s just a rookie and he doesn’t have the star power that Auston Matthews or even Gaudreau and Connor McDavid had right away. That’s not to downplay young Matthew’s contributions because he’s been as advertised and more. He’s easily one of the Flames Top 5 players and he’s barely old enough to have a beer.
But Backund? Mikael Backlund 100% deserves to be at the All Star Game and his stats back it up: 27 points in 43 games. Backlund anchors Calgary’s top line (best, not numerical), plays on the PP (leads the Flames with 5 PPG), is a PK machine and with his partner in crime Michael Frolik, is one of, if not the best on the forecheck. But it gets hairy when you look at who Connor McDavid selected to represent the Pacific Division with regards to offence. Bo Horvat. Ryan Kesler. Jeff Carter. Joe Pavelski. Johnny Gaudreau. That’s uphill sledding right there for Backlund. Out of all of those players, the only one he statistically matches up with is Gaudreau (each with 27 points), but Johnny Gaudreau has played in 10 less games than Mikael Backlund. Personally, I’d replace Kesler with Backlund just because Kesler is.....well....nevermind.
Is Mikael Backlund deserving of a trip to the ASG? Absolutely. But with what’s in front of him stat wise and with bigger, more recognizable names, Backlund won’t be heading to LA alongside his teammate Johnny Gaudreau. Will he ever get there? Sure, why not. If Backlund keeps playing the way he has, people will start to take notice and maybe in the not so distant future Backlund will take the ice with the best players from the NHL at an All Star Game.