Contrary to popular belief, the Washington Capitals do have more players on their roster than just Alex Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom has quietly taken his place amongst the best centers in the game today. He seems to be under the radar, but players, coaches, and real hockey fans definitely know who he is.
82 – 14 – 55
82 – 22 – 66
82 – 33 – 68
Durable? Check. Productive? Check. Already near the top of the league in scoring, and he’s still yet to hit his prime. With the supporting cast around him, he’s got potentially for one hell of a stat-filled career.
Profile: Backstrom is from Sweden, where his father was a professional player for 10 seasons. He represented his country in the 2006 World Junior Championships and the 2006 world Championships. As the youngest Swedish player ever in that tournament, he played up on the first line, and helped the country win Gold. That same year, the Caps selected Backstrom 4th overall, but he decided to spend one more season in Sweden before signing a 3 year entry-level contract. He didn’t flourish until an injury to Michael Nylander allowed him a chance to play on the top line. And of course, playing with AO will make anyone look pretty good. He put together a pretty stellar campaign, finishing second in Calder Trophy voting. The following two seasons saw a growth in production, and a top-10 finish in NHL scoring. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, he lead Team Sweden in scoring, when he notched 6 points in 4 games.
What makes him special?: Nicklas Backstrom has a lethal combination of speed, quick hands, and vision. He can back a defenseman down and create a scoring opportunity for himself, although he’s more likely to set up teammates. He creates space because he can think quickly when he has the puck, and doesn’t allow defenders to cover him easily. When he’s got the puck, his head is always up, on a swivel, looking to make a play. He’s not afraid to shoot the puck either, which will always keep players guessing about what he’ll do next. It’s not a given that he’ll just lay it off, when he can easily fire away and make any goalie look stupid. Overall, he’s a gifted playmaker; you don’t put up the ridiculous passing numbers that he has by accident. He knows exactly when and where to feed his teammates so they can fire a shot off. Backstrom was a big cog in the Capitals offensive machine this past season.
Jersey Worthy: With the Caps becoming relevant again in the nation’s capital, their red sweaters have become a big-time seller. Of course #8 is the most popular, but for people looking to stand out, 19 isn’t a bad choice either. Backstrom recently signed a 10 year extension, ensuring that he’ll remain a core player for a very long time.
Hate factor: Medium. He plays for an offensive juggernaut, with a group of guys that are pretty cocky. He’s not a dirty player, but he’ll always have to get involved in a few scrums that Ovie is sure to cause.
- PK Subban
- Drew Doughty
- Carey Price
- John Tavares
- Steven Stamkos
- Dustin Byfuglien
- Tyler Myers
- Paul Stastny
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