WASHINGTON — Nicklas Backstrom and William Nylander have more in common than their native Sweden, or the fact that they play significant roles in their teams’ playoff hopes. They actually used to lived together and shared some important hockey years under the same roof.
It started when Backstrom made it to the NHL with the Washington Capitals in 2007-08. The 19-year-old former fourth overall pick of the draft was paired with Michael Nylander, 35, then in the twilight of his career, and living with his family in the D.C. area.
“Michael took care of me, and he had his family and his wife there, it was pretty hectic,” Backstrom told the media on Monday morning. “Michael cooked the food and I hung out with the family.”
Backstrom’s time with the family helped develop him into a professional and adult, but his time with the 11-year-old William made an impact as well. Standing in the driveway, Backstrom would test William’s reflexes in the goal with ping pong balls.
“It was cool growing up there,” said Nylander, now a center for the Toronto Maple Leafs. “Me and my brother (Alex), we were in the rink a lot, and at our home, we did a lot of hanging out [with Backstrom].
“It was great having those guys around, and going to the rink, you saw what you wanted to do when you got older, the image of what you wanted to be.”
Backstrom looks back on the time fondly as well. To see William on the ice in this series, not much older than he was when he lived with the Nylanders, is no surprise to Backstrom.
“(William) had a good attitude to hockey, him and Alex wanted to play all the time,” Backstrom noted. “That’s all they thought about, playing hockey. They played outside the house, they watched YouTube clips, they were doing that all the time.
“When me and Mike were there, the kids just loved hockey, you could tell they really wanted it.”