Nicklas Backstrom: Selke Candidate?

In the mind of at least one person whose opinion on the subject matters insofar as official recognition is concerned, Nicklas Backstrom was the best defensive forward in hockey in 2008-09; that is to say that one voter for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, given annually "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game," gave his first-place vote to the Caps pivot.

Backstrom didn't receive another vote of any kind (second- through fifth-place), and finished tied for 28th in the polling. This time around, however, you can expect the young Swede to garner significantly more attention and finish much higher, and with good reason: in just his third season in the League, Nicklas Backstrom has established himself as one of the game's premiere two-way forwards.

As a point of reference, let's compare Backstrom's 2009-10 numbers to last year's top-five finishers in Selke voting:


Player +/- Team GAA 5-on-5 GAON/60 5-on-5 QC 4-on-5 GAON/60 4-on-5 QC SH TOI/GP
Nicklas Backstrom 33 2.75 2.18 0.053 7.02 -0.366 1:04
Pavel Datsyuk 34 2.93 2.30 0.038 7.35 -1.522 1:36
Mike Richards 22 2.83 2.35 0.048 5.34 -2.502 3:12
Ryan Kesler 8 2.60 2.35 0.039 6.79 -2.902 3:19
Henrik Zetterberg 13 2.93 2.57 0.058 6.14 -1.329 1:49
Mikko Koivu 2 2.40 2.41 0.079 3.81 -1.635 2:43

Backstrom certainly fits in with that group; his five-on-five numbers compare favorably, but his shorthanded numbers - both in ice time and effectiveness - lag a bit behind those compiled by last year's "elite." Those PK numbers are creeping upwards, however, and with shifts like the one he had on Thursday night, that trend likely will continue (especially as Bruce Boudreau seems inclined to play one - but not both - of David Steckel and Boyd Gordon on a nightly basis).

Throw in the fact that Backstrom is 11th among NHL forwards in blocked shots, has a 1:1 giveaway-to-takeaway ratio playing in an up-tempo offense and has even gotten his faceoff percentage up to just about 50%, and that he's near the top of the League in scoring (a factor that has somehow crept into Selke consideration) and it's likely that Nicklas Backstrom is a name that will be on the ballot of more than one Selke voter this time around... with good reason.

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