It's no secret who the most underrated player on the Washington Capitals is.
Nicklas Backstrom is an elite player both offensively and defensively. Yet, his offensive play is always overshadowed because he plays with the best goal scorer of his generation. His defensive play is overlooked because...he plays with the best goal scorer of his generation.
For many, the hockey conversation in Washington begins and ends with Alex Ovechkin, ignoring a player who is a superstar talent in his own right in Backstrom.
But those who have to play Backstrom know just how great he is.
Several hundred NHL Players were surveyed regarding their opinions on more than 20 hockey-related questions during the NHLPA meetings in January. Among the questions asked was who is the most underrated player?
Wouldn't you know it, Backstrom was named No. 1. You can see the full poll results here.
Backstrom was named the most underrated by 8.6-percent of players edging out Jaden Schwartz (6.8-percent), Nikita Kucherov (6.2-percent) and Aleksander Barkov (6-percent).
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In his 11-season NHL career, Backstrom has recorded 777 points (204 goals, 573 assists) in 799 games. That leads all players drafted in 2006, a draft year that included Phil Kessel, Jonathan Toews, Claude Giroux, Jordan Staal and Brad Marchand. Backstrom has more points than any of them. Kessel is the closest with 725 points. No one else has even reached 700 yet.
Expand that list to all players drafted in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and Backstrom is still in the top five, behind only Ovechkin (1,107), Sidney Crosby (1,097), Evgeni Malkin (914), and Anze Kopitar (807).
There seems to be a tendency by some to discount Backstrom's assist totals because he has been playing alongside Ovechkin. That is like discounting how great a wide receiver Jerry Rice was because he played with Joe Montana. Backstrom is without a doubt one of the best setup men in the league and while he may owe some of his success to Ovechkin, Ovechkin undoubtedly owes just as much of his success to his Swedish center.
"[Backstrom's] got elite hands," Barry Trotz said in 2017. "He's one of the best passers that have played the game. You look at how many passes and how he makes it and how he runs the power play and his poise and his patience. He's an outstanding player, playmaker, as good as anybody."
What Ovechkin can't take away from Backstrom is the fact that he is a 200-goal scorer in his own right. Ovechkin also has nothing to do with how good Backstrom is on the defensive end of the ice.
As good as he is offensively, Backstrom is just as good defensively as a shutdown forward. He is one of the top penalty killers on the team and ranks third among Caps' forwards in shorthanded ice time. When the Capitals matched up against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs in 2016, Backstrom was able to limit Sidney Crosby to just two assists in six games.
If you think Backstrom has simply ridden on the coattails of Ovechkin to big numbers, then you're just not paying attention.