September 14, 2017

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.

Today’s player: No. 2 Nicklas Backstrom

Nicklas Backstrom has been overshadowed by Alex Ovechkin and underappreciated throughout his career despite being an elite franchise-caliber center. Now it is time to give him his due which is why he comes in at No. 2 on the countdown, one spot ahead of the Great 8.

While there is some concern over whether Ovechkin has begun to decline, there is no such doubt over Nicklas Backstrom who continues to play at an elite level. His 86 points last season led the Caps and ranked fourth overall in the NHL. It was his best season since 2009-10 when he scored 101 points.

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In addition to his offensive acumen, Backstrom is a great shutdown forward and has established himself as the team's vocal leader. It was his words in a team meeting after a Game 4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that seemed to boost the team to force seven games after facing a 3-1 series deficit.

Despite being such an important piece to the puzzle, however, Backstrom may not even play on the top line this season. An eight-year,  .4 million contract for Evgeny Kuznetsov indicates that the Caps see him as a top-line center as well. The question is whether they see him in that role this year or in the near future. Just where Backstrom and Kuznetsov play is one of the stories to watch throughout training camp.

Regardless of where he plays, however, there is no skater who holds more importance to this team.

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
 No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker

 No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
 No. 17 Christian Djoos

— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik
— No. 9 John Carlson
— No. 8 Dmitry Orlov
— No. 7 Andre Burakovsky
— No. 6 Matt Niskanen
— No. 5 Evgeny Kuznetsov
— No. 4 T.J. Oshie
— No. 3 Alex Ovechkin