Nicklas Backstrom is the most talented player to come out of Sweden in a long time. He has seen a tremendous development during the last year. His goal was to become a regular on Brynäs’ SEL roster. Not only did he crack the roster, he quickly became the number one center and eventually the top player on the team alongside goaltender Johan Holmqvist. His performance in the SEL got him the Rookie of the Award.
He was expected to be a key player for Sweden in the World Junior Championships, and he was. What was not expected was the fact that he made the Swedish senior team and competed in the World Championships in Latvia in May. Bäckström played the last four games and although being held scoreless, he was among the top Swedish players in those four games getting great reviews from all experts watching and attending the tournament.
2006-07: On his Swedish Elite League team Brynäs IF, Backstrom upped his production by 14 points from the 2005-06 season, in which he was voted the Rookie of the Year. Backstrom had 12 goals and 28 assists in 45 games, averaging almost a point per game.
Bäckström has constantly been compared to fellow Sweden Peter Forsberg. While Bäckström lacks the same aggressiveness’ and edge that Forsberg has to his game, there are some obvious similarities. Both have excellent hockey sense and both are very skilled playmakers. Bäckström sees openings that few other can and his slick flip passes have become a trademark of his. He feels very comfortable in the role of setting up power plays and although his passes may seem quite risky at times, he is almost always successful. Another resembles with Art Ross Trophy winner Peter Forsberg is the way Bäckström protects the puck. He is, although not being the strongest of players, very tough to knock the puck off. He protects it well, especially along the boards, and usually comes out with the puck while defensemen are hanging on his back.
When it comes to goal scoring, Bäckström kind of suffers from the same dilemma as most Swedish players. He rather passes the puck than shoots. A shame, since he is a pretty decent goal scorer. However, his release needs improvement and could be more accurate, but more so powerful. One of Bäckström’s greatest strengths are his soft hands and fine technical skills. It really does look easy when he is moving the puck and he stickhandles very smoothly through traffic. He would be an even better puck carrier had he been a better skater. Bäckström is not really slow on his skates, but he lacks that extra gear and his acceleration could use improvement.
Looking at his defensive game, he is already very solid in his own end. An excellent penalty killer that backchecks hard and helps out his defenseman. As for his physical game, he is not a hitting machine, but has a small edge to his game. Once in a while he delivers a decent hit, but he is not the kind of player that is seeking good opportunities to play the body.
Backstron has developed into a top offensive player in the NHL.