Photos by Chris Gordon.
Saturday, Filip Forsberg will play at Verizon Center for the first time. Caps fans eagerly awaited this moment when he was drafted 11th overall in 2012. But in March of 2013, Forsberg was sent to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. It was a bad trade from the start, made worse when Adam Oates ran Erat out of town. Ever since, it’s been a sore spot for Caps fans. This season, the wound has been ripped open. Through 75 games, Forsberg has 56 points and is in the running for the Calder Trophy. While Caps fans still miss him, it seems Washington never made much of an impression on Forsberg, who laced up for the Capitals just once, during the team’s 2012 Development Camp.
“From coming here, things turned out in a way that no one really saw coming,” Forsberg said Friday, when he visited Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the first time since the trade. “They’ll always be a part of it, but obviously I never really made anything for the Capitals.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who coached Nashville last season, credited the young Swede’s success to the time he spent in the minors last season, a decision Trotz largely made.
“At the time, it wasn’t a popular decision,” Trotz told reporters, “but it was a good decision because he had to grow up, stand on his own a little bit in Milwaukee with the stuff you do in the minors, growing up, and it was really, really helpful for him.”
That decision, however, kept Forsberg’s supreme skill off an NHL roster for most of last year, and its merits are still being debated. On Friday, Forsberg was noncommittal.
“I wanted to play more and I thought I deserved to play more as well,” Forsberg said. “It’s his decision to make to put the best team out there. Obviously at the beginning of the year I didn’t play as good as I had to to be up here.”
Now nearly three years after being drafted, Forsberg has turned into a star. His 22 goals would put him second on the Capitals behind Alex Ovechkin. His Predators are battling for the Presidents’ Trophy.
“Even though he was over in North America last year, this is the first time he’s really been counted on to play 18 minutes a night, and they’re big minutes against good players,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think he’s handling it well.”
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