When the Capitals drafted center Nicklas Backstrom fourth overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, they envisioned him as their top center of the future. Fast forward almost 11 years, and the 29-year old Backstrom is quietly building a career worthy of the Hall of Fame.
Since his first NHL season (2007-08), the slick centerman has flown under the radar when it comes to media coverage. Despite finishing second in Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year) after his rookie season, recording over 500 career assists, over 700 points, and a 101-point season on his resume, Backstrom is highly underrated, and has not been recognized as one of the game’s best offensive players. And while it may partially be due to the fact he plays with an all-time great in Alex Ovechkin, it may simply be that Backstrom is not the type of person who looks for or embraces the spotlight.
Through 717 games played, the Capitals’ top center has 709 points, including 523 career assists. He is the Caps’ franchise leader in assists and ranks fourth in points, and is the first player in team history to reach 500 assists. He is the first player from the 2006 draft class to reach the fifth century mark in points and ranks first in total points.
With 67 points (21 goals, 46 assists) in 65 games played this season, Backstrom is on pace for 26 goals, 58 assists, and 84 points, which would be his first 80+ point season since the 2009-10 season, when he scored a career-high 101 points. For a player who has averaged almost a point per game (0.99), Backstrom has also excelled defensively, and has a career Corsi rating of 53.7. Both Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz and his teammates have advocated for Backstrom to win the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward.
While he’s always been considered a dangerous offensive player, Backstrom has not been given as much credit as he deserves. Still only 29, he likely has many more productive seasons ahead of him, and when the day comes for Backstrom to be eligible for the Hall of Fame, he may finally get the recognition he so rightfully deserves.
By Michael Fleetwood