The Predators’ soft-spoken scoring star has quickly become one of the NHL’s premier snipers, but he’s also got an all-around game and a burning desire to get back to the Cup final.
Across five games last February, Filip Forsberg couldn’t stop scoring. Draped in the Nashville Predators’ gold, he was like a modern-day Midas, nearly every puck he touched finding twine.
It started with back-to-back hat tricks, which made him the first player in seven years to have caps rain down on him in consecutive games, and reached a point where P.K. Subban recoiled when Forsberg reached out to tap gloves. A wise move, as one should always be wary of the hot hand.
But while teammates marveled at his run, it seemed the best Forsberg could muster was a shy smile, recounting to reporters that he couldn’t remember another scoring streak like it since his youth in Sweden. That paints a perfect picture of Forsberg, a modest and unassuming young player away from the rink but lethal when he’s on the attack and with the puck on his stick.
“He’s more of a quiet guy,” said former teammate James Neal, who watched Forsberg grow from rookie to steady 30-goal scorer over the past three seasons. “He shows his personality a lot when he’s on the ice, the way he scores goals and how exciting of a player he is.”
Forsberg’s lamp-lightning prowess is a product of his shot, which he meticulously developed by firing pucks endlessly during his summers growing up in Sweden. His training methods have evolved over the years, and he’s high-tech now after upgrading his setup with a backstop behind the net. “So I don’t have to get all the pucks I don’t score on,” he quipped. Given he has 90 goals since 2014-15, the 13th-most in the NHL, that shouldn’t be a concern.
Forsberg isn’t a one-dimensional scorer, however. His five-game reign of terror started with a sneaky display of skill, stripping the puck from an opponent and turning a broken play into a goal the other way. Using his hands for stealing pucks before scoring them is an indication of the defensive development in his game. In the Swedish League, Forsberg knew he could cheat offensively and went as far as to say defense “wasn’t really a priority.” But coming over to the NHL, he worked with coaches to improve his 200-foot game. The result has been the opportunity to kill penalties and take the ice in high-pressure defensive situations. That the Predators’ coaching staff entrusts him with those minutes is a point of pride for the 23-year-old and a sign of his dedication to his craft.
Former Nashville captain Mike Fisher, who retired in August, credits Forsberg’s maturity and work ethic for his emergence as a scoring star and team leader. “He’s the type of person that has a good attitude and works hard,” Fisher said. “And that’s what you want.”
Looking ahead to the 2017-18 NHL season and beyond, Forsberg has his sights set on rounding out his game to become a complete player and push the boundaries of his ability. And after coming two wins short of capturing a Stanley Cup last spring, the one thing Forsberg isn’t shy about is making known his intentions for the rest of his career.
“I want to be in this league for a long time,” he said. “And I want to win.”