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Nicklas Backstrom 2014-2015 Preview and Projections

Mar 16, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (19) watches the puck go in the net after a goal by Washington Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer (not pictured) against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at Verizon Center.

Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sports

After begging the series with Karl Alzner yesterday, today we’ll take a look at what to expect this season from alternate captain Nicklas Backstrom. Barry Trotz has never coached a center as talented as Backstrom, so I’m expecting very big things from Backstrom in 2014-2015.

Nicklas Backstrom’s 2013-2014 Season In Review

Nicklas Backstrom was his usual self in 2013-2014. Another season, another borderline point per game pace. Backstrom finished with 79 points (18 goals, 61 assists) in 82 games, the fourth time in his career that he has played all 82 games in a season (he also played in all 48 games of the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season). He set a career high with 38 assists on the power play.

There were, however, some bad things about Nicklas Backstrom’s 2013-2014 season. While he did have those 38 assists on the power play, he only had 23 assists at even strength, his lowest total in a full season, including the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season. He also finished with by far the lowest +/- of his career (-20) and set a career high in penalty minutes (54).

 Best Moment From 2013-2014

Nicklas Backstrom had the game-winning shootout goal to help the Washington Capitals finally beat the San Jose Sharks in San Jose.

Worst Moment From 2013-2014

Nicklas Backstrom was not able to play in the gold medal game at the Olympics thanks to a positive drug test (which he appealed and he later received his silver medal). Also, any moment that he was on the ice at even strength (though that could be said for just about anyone on the Capitals).

What To Expect From Nicklas Backstrom In 2013-2014

I have very high expectations for Nicklas Backstrom this season. I expect him to be at worst a little under a point per game player because, well, he’s played in 495 career games, and he has scored 494 points. He’s been one for his entire career, and usually one does not begin to decline at 26, so expecting this from Backstrom is completely reasonable.

So how can he make sure he does that? By playing better at even strength. If he plays as well at even strength as he has in the past, a 90-100 point season is plausible, especially if he can continue to be stellar on the power play. Considering he’ll be alongside Alex Ovechkin on power plays, that shouldn’t be difficult to do.

I expect Nicklas Backstrom to be a better two-way player this season. I think Trotz is going to help Backstrom stop being underrated as a two-way center, and ensure that he is where he belongs: in the discussion for best center in the NHL.

Bold Predictions

I actually have three for Nicklas Backstrom. They are quite lofty, but I think he is capable of doing each one.

  1. Backstrom has always been a fantastic at worst passer. His goal scoring though? Outside of a 33 goal season in 2009-2010, he has only passed the 20 goal mark in a season once (in 2008-2009). In the 2013-2014 season, Backstrom will score more than 20 goals.
  2. As I stated earlier, Nicklas Backstrom has been underrated for most of his career. I believe that this will change this season. Backstrom will end up in the top 15 in Hart Trophy Voting AND finish in the top 5 in assists. He’ll also finish in the top 10 of the Selke Trophy voting for best defensive forward. Extremely lofty expectations, but with the help of Barry Trotz, entirely possible for Nicklas Backstrom. The Selke is entirely plausible thanks to the Capitals’ lack of proven centers. I think this will lead to Backstrom facing a high quality of competition.
  3. Nicklas Backstrom will score more than 90 points this season. If he does that, the second bold prediction is practically a given.

Next up: Jay Beagle

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