Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is a player who, whenever possible, tries to avoid the spotlight. A quiet and humble player off the ice, the 28-year old Backstrom lets his play ON the ice do the talking for him.
Backstrom’s talent and elite play have been known by Caps fans since he entered the NHL NINE seasons ago, and since then he’s appeared in zero of the six All-Star games that have been played since the start of his rookie season in 2007-08 (the 2013 game was cancelled due to a lockout). This year, however, things are changing.
Backstrom was selected by the NHL to participate in his first ever All-Star Game in 2016 and he’ll be joining seven-time All-Star teammate Alex Ovechkin, goalie Braden Holtby (also in his first ASG), and head coach Barry Trotz, who will be coaching the Metropolitan Division team. After nine years, Backstrom will finally get the recognition he rightfully deserves.When asked what his reaction was, Backstrom calmly said, per the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshadyan:
“When I first got the call, I was kind of surprised.” When asked why he was surprised, he replied: “I’ve never been to an All-Star Game before.”
In a poll given to NHL players earlier this season, Backstrom was named the most underrated player in the league. Opposing coaches and some media (outside of Washington) have also recognized his talent, but it’s non-Capitals fans that don’t see how elite of a player Backstrom is. In his career, Backstrom has averaged 18 goals, 53 assists, and 71 points a season. This season, Backstrom is on pace for 25 goals, 55 assists, and 80 points. What’s even more impressive is that, barring an injury, Backstrom will have played 79 out of 82 games; the three missed were a result of offseason hip surgery. In comparison, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby (also a centerman) has played two more games than Backstrom but is on pace for just 26 goals and 68 points.
But it’s not just the offensive side of the game that Backstrom excels at. His passing abilities are at an elite level and he plays an outstanding two-way game; so much so, that Trotz has lobbied for Backstrom to be considered a candidate for the Selke Trophy, which is awarded to the best defensive forward in the game.
After years of being snubbed, Backstrom will finally be recognized for the elite talent that he is. And though it took nine years, the rest of the league will finally give him the praise he so rightfully deserves.
By Michael Fleetwood