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Slick Nick's Historic Helping Hands

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via <a href="http://stanleycupplayoffs2008.com/Assets/Photos/BackstromWSHaction.jpg">stanleycupplayoffs2008.com</a>
via stanleycupplayoffs2008.com

Lost in the (wholly justifable) hype over the season that Mike Green has put together and the ridiculously exclusive company in which Alex Ovechkin finds himself so early in his career is the historic greatness of Nicklas Backstrom's first two NHL campaigns.

Consider that only eight players in NHL history have amassed more assists in their first two seasons in the League than the Caps' super soph. Four of those players (Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Peter Stastny and Denis Savard) are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, with two more (Sidney Crosby and Peter Forsberg) perhaps on their way. The last two (and Gretzky, for that matter) had at least a couple of pre-merger WHA seasons under their respective belts immediately preceding their first two NHL seasons, so their inclusion on this list is somewhat dubious.

Further, only eight players in NHL history have assisted at a higher per-game rate than Nick through the season in which they were 21-years-old (on February 1) - six Hall of Famers (Gretzky, Lemieux, Savard, Dale Hawerchuk, Bryan Trottier and Ron Francis), Sid and Eric Lindros.

We've used this space in the past to discuss Backstrom's remarkable consistency and his poise, but those traits almost detract from the playmaker's raw talent and skill - Nicklas Backstrom is, at 21-years-old, on a trajectory towards greatness.