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The perfect complement
Mats Sundin, Henrik Zetterberg, Markus Naslund, Johan Franzen and the Sedin twins (Daniel and Henrik) have followed Forsberg as scorers and playmakers.
Now there's Backstrom.
Although a different type of player than Forsberg, Backstrom is quickly becoming a celebrity in his homeland after posting 157 points in his first two NHL seasons. A Swedish reporter is spending eight weeks in the District chronicling Backstrom.
“He could be huge because he comes from a city that loves hockey,” Caps center and countryman Michael Nylander says.
Backstrom grew up in Gavle (population of about 100,000), which hugs the Baltic Sea on Sweden's east coast, 90 minutes northeast of Stockholm.
The second of Anders and Christine Backstrom's two sons, Nicklas was immediately drawn to hockey by following his father to senior league games. Anders was a former Rangers draft choice who played professionally in Sweden and is now a real estate manager; Christine works in social services.
“When I was 2 or 3, my parents said I would walk around the house in my skates,” Backstrom says. “I was so excited to skate, I didn't want to take them off. There were scratches on the floor everywhere. I slept with my skates on.”
Backstrom also played soccer, floor hockey, golf and tennis until age 14, when he began concentrating on hockey. Two years later, he moved into his own apartment in Alvkarleby, 20 minutes from his parents' house, and made his professional debut for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League. Some veterans were twice as old as Backstrom.
In 2005-06, he became a regular for Brynas, scoring 26 points in 46 games. And the Capitals had the fourth choice in the draft.
'Maybe it's now'
European scout Mats Weiderstal began tracking Backstrom as soon as the Caps first saw him play at the world juniors in December 2004 and January 2005.
“We had him pretty high in the draft, and his stock went up fast that year,” general manager George McPhee says. “We thought a lot of him at the world juniors, and I knew about 15 minutes before the draft that we were probably going to get him. It was pretty nice to sit there for the first part of the draft knowing the guy we wanted would be there.”
Backstrom, meanwhile, had no idea of the Caps' interest. He didn't attend the NHL scouting combine that spring in Toronto because he was playing for Sweden in the world championship.
“When I saw [Weiderstal] go up to the stage, I was like, 'Maybe it's now,' ” Backstrom recalls.
The Caps had found the playmaker to team with Ovechkin, but they remained patient. Two days after the draft, Backstrom told McPhee he wanted to play one more year in Sweden.
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