Note: This is SB Nation NHL’s top 25 players under age 25 series! We’ll be covering each player from No. 25 to No. 1 over the next few weeks leading up to training camp time. See the complete list and information on how the rankings were compiled.
Washington Capitals fans know Filip Forsberg as that one player that got away. That one player traded unceremoniously for Martin Erat — who is no longer in the NHL — and Michael Latta, recent free agent pickup by the Arizona Coyotes. That one player who now holds up one of the tent poles for the Nashville Predators as a rising star in the NHL.
While we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, the trade that brought Forsberg to Nashville in 2013 is a key part of his origin story. Forsberg was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft for the Capitals, then less than a year later he was traded in a move derided by fans as a panic trade to bolster the team for the postseason. Even though the trade still looks horrible in hindsight for the Capitals, it’s hard to know what Forsberg would have developed into if he stayed in Washington.
Luckily for Predators fans, he didn’t. Forsberg has been a mainstay in Nashville’s offense since 2014, and since he’s put up three consecutive full seasons of 82 games. At 22, Forsberg has two seasons of 60-plus points under his belt and he nearly reached that mark again last season with 58 points, good enough for third best on the team. In total, Forsberg has 191 points in 264 NHL games, almost certainly proving he’s the real deal as an electric offensive player.
Last season, Forsberg spent most of his time as the Predators top-line winger alongside Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. The trio was one of the NHL’s most productive lines, according to Left Wing Lock, as together they totaled 40 goals-for while on the ice with one another. Forsberg benefited greatly possession-wise from both Johansen and Arvidsson, as the 22-year-old winger had a CF% above 55 when playing on the top line, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Though Forsberg’s numbers were slightly down last season, some of that could be contributed to his career-low power play numbers. In his first two full NHL seasons, Forsberg posted 19 and 23 power play points respectively. Last season, Forsberg had just nine power-play points in only one minute less of ice time. The Predators were middle of the road in the NHL with an 18.9% success rate on the power play and no individual player had above seven goals with the man advantage, so Forsberg’s declining numbers there shouldn’t be too concerning.
In five total NHL seasons, Forsberg is a career 12.1 shooting percentage player and has the makings to continue to put up 60-plus points on Nashville’s top line. Sorry, Capitals fans.
Forsberg spent time in both the Swedish SuperElit league, where he put up 41 points in 42 games, and Allsvenskan — Swedish hockey’s second-highest league — where in 91 total games he had 51 points. In 2011, Forsberg had two standout tournament performances in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the World U18 championship tournament, where he helped Team Sweden to a silver-medal finish.
Despite being drafted by the Capitals in the 11th overall position in 2012, Forsberg never played in their organization, as he was loaned back to Leksands IF, his Allsvenskan team. When traded to the Predators, Forsberg played in only five games in 2013 before spending most of the following year in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals, putting up 34 points in 47 games.
Forsberg became a full-time member of the Predators during the 2014-15 season, where in his official rookie year he posted 63 points in 82 games. He finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting that season, but he was chosen for the NHL All-Star Game as the only rookie to be named to the tournament as a non-injury replacement.
In 2016, Forsberg was named to Sweden's 2016 World Cup of Hockey roster after a stellar 64-point sophomore season. That previous offseason, Forsberg signed a six-year, $36 million deal to keep him signed on through the 2021-22 season.
Forsberg clearly is the Predators best winger alongside 23-year-old Arvidsson, though the former has a more consistent resume with three years of full-time NHL experience. It’s not hard to surmise Forsberg will be centering the Predators’ top line for the foreseeable future unless a drop off in production comes to pass.
His production certainly could take a dip, as any hockey player’s can, but Forsberg has proved his consistency over his time as a forward in the NHL. A big reason for his consistency is that Forsberg has stayed extremely healthy so far in his NHL career, a benefit not all young stars have.
Last season, Forsberg’s average time on ice dipped to 18:31, about a half-minute drop from his career-best sophomore season. That likely could be contributed to the Predators rolling more solid offensive lines last season, but nearly 19 minutes a night is a fine starting point for a first-line winger. And good thing too, as Forsberg is a career 55.4 CF% player at even strength on a positive-possession Predators team.
Is this ranking too high or too low?
Considering Forsberg’s high offensive skills and his position as a top-line winger on the Predators, you could make the case that this ranking is too low. Which is a fair point, as Forsberg is quite a valuable piece on a real strong Predators team.
It’s hard to find knocks on Forsberg’s offensive game considering his consistency, but given the amount of talented young players the NHL possesses this ranking almost feels right. Though once this list is all over you could likely fit him into the top 10, a No. 12 ranking is not too shabby all things considered.
Highest rank: No. 6
Lowest rank: Not ranked