Born November 23, 1987 (age 23) in Valbo, Sweden
Center and alternate captain for the Washington Capitals
For Halloween, let’s spotlight a man with green eyes so lovely they’re practically spooky. You’ll see more on that later. Anyway, Backstrom was raised in an athletic family: his mom played handball in the Swedish elite league and his dad played 10 seasons for a Swedish hockey team, plus his older brother played too, though he just retired. Nicklas was playing for the same team his dad once played for when the 2006 draft came calling and he was selected fourth overall by Washington. However, at first, he turned down an offer to play with the Capitals right after drafting and stayed with Sweden for one more season, jumping to Washington in 2007 with a three-year entry-level contract. He had a little trouble adjusting to the smaller dimensions of North American rinks, but after an injury got him promoted to the first line, then he began to blossom. In fact, he was the runner-up for Calder nomination in his rookie year, behind only Patrick Kane. He only improved in his second season, leading all Swedish-born NHL players as well as all Capitals in points. This earned him the Viking Award for being the best Swedish-born player.
Backstrom was fourth in league scoring in his third year, play impressive enough to get Washington to put him on for ten more years at $67 million. He’ll be rocking the red until 2020! He did experience a production drop to 65 points this last season, but maybe that’s just a little blip and he’ll return to more prominence soon. Team Sweden has also enjoyed his services in international play: the 2005 World U18s (bronze), 2006 and 2007 World Juniors, 2006 Worlds (gold), 2007 and 2008 Worlds plus the 2010 Olympics. Last season for Washington, he played 77 regular-season games, scored 18 goals, got 47 assists and spent 40 penalty minutes. In the Capitals’ playoff run, he played 9 games, scored no goals, got 2 assists and spent 4 penalty minutes. Again, since they have Backstrom in the nation’s capital for almost a decade more, they will continue to enjoy his services!