Backstrom gets 1,000th
by Andrew Podnieks|11 MAR 2022
Nicklas Backstrom (left) became the sixth Swede to reach the 1000-point milestone in the NHL.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom made history Wednesday night in Edmonton when he became just the sixth Swede to record 1,000 NHL points. He is the 93rd player in league history to reach 1,000, and only the second in Capitals’ history after captain Alexander Ovechkin. 

Backstrom joins Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Henrik and Daniel Sedin as the only Swedes among those 93 to reach the historic milestone. He achieved the mark first by getting point number 999 on a first-period goal. The 1,000th almost came on a power-play assist on a goal by John Carlson in the second period. The Oilers challenged the play for offside, however, and video review confirmed it. No goal. No 1,000 just yet.

Nevertheless, Backstrom finally got the needed point in the third period when he set up T.J. Oshie for a goal.

"Obviously, it means a lot," Backstrom said after the game. "It's a big milestone, so I'm very happy about it."

“What an amazing achievement,” Oshie gushed. “Guys just hope to play a game in this league and then you hope to play 100, you hope to play 1,000. And 1,000 points – that's only for the few elite. So it's super impressive.”

Backstrom was developed in the Brynas system in Sweden first as a junior and then in the top level. He was drafted 4th overall by Washington in 2006 but stayed home for one more year before joining the Capitals in 2007. During his time in Sweden, he helped the junior team win bronze at the 2005 U18 tournament, and in 2006 he was the youngest player on the historic gold-medal team at the World Championships after it had won Olympic gold just a few months earlier. Backstrom also played at two World Junior Championships, in 2006 and again a year later. 

Never the biggest player or the fastest or the strongest, Backstrom knew early on in life that his success would be based on his skating and his hockey smarts. He focused on passing and seeing the ice, and that meant even as a rookie he was put on the Capitals’ top line with Ovechkin, a pure scorer. The pairing worked wonders, and Backstrom had 55 assists in his first season, finishing second in Calder Trophy voting behind Patrick Kane.

The first three years of his career saw significant improvement, and he went from 69 to 88 to 101 points. In all, he has had nine seasons of at least 50 assists, and his tendencies are easily observed in his career stats to date – 263 goals and a whopping 737 assists. Still, he is a gifted scorer and has six seasons of 20 goals or more, climaxing in 2009-10 when he had 33. But now, after 15 seasons with Washington, he is the team’s all-time leader in assists and one of the most successful Swedes in North America and internationally. 

Beyond all the regular season success, Backstrom’s Capitals have made the playoffs every year but one (2013-14). And in 2018, the Capitals, after several heart-breaking exits, finally went all the way and won the Stanley Cup. After receiving the trophy as captain, Ovechkin turned and handed it first to Backstrom, a huge compliment in the all-important order of handing the trophy around on ice. That summer, he took the Cup home to Valbo, Sweden, to enjoy with his family. As a kid, he had played hockey at the Valbo Ice Hall, and it has since been renamed NickBack Arena.

Backstrom’s career with Tre Kronor is equally impressive. He has played at five World Championships, winning that gold in ’06 and again in 2017. In fact, in 2017 he scored the gold-winning goal in the penalty-shot shootout against Canada. He also played at the 2016 World Cup and two Olympics, in 2010 and 2014, winning a silver in the latter after being controversially banned from the gold-medal game because of a failed doping test (from which he was later exonerated). And if you tally up all his international appearances, the same pattern as scorer-passer emerges. In 62 total games, he’s had 16 goals and 38 assists.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Backstrom played in his 1,000th NHL game in the regular season. He is still only 34 and on a Washington team that is once again a solid Cup contender, so the final chapter of his career is far from written. But today, Backstrom can celebrate a special milestone, an achievement made by so few among the thousands who have skated in the NHL.