It is their 80th anniversary as the AHL‘s All-Star Classic is back in Syracuse, New York, for the first time since 1998. The best from the American League are on hand this weekend with the defending Calder Cup champions, the Ontario Reign, being well-represented by head coach Mike Stothers and three of his players: Netminder Peter Budaj, captain Vincent LoVerde and the club’s leading scorer, Sean Backman.
For Backman, this is his first All-Star Classic, and it is a deserving one.
So far this season, the 29-year-old has scored 11 goals and 23 assists, leading the Reign in points with 34. He also leads the club with five power-play goals and five game-winning goals. The latter stat is good enough for a third-place tie in the entire AHL. In addition, he leads the league with 137 shots in 40 games.
I recently spoke with Reign assistant coach Chris Hajt about Backman, particularly about being chosen as an all star.
“It is great to see him make the all star team,” Hajt said. “He will be exciting to watch. Being an all star is an honor and know that Sean is excited.”
Despite his diminutive 5-8, 165 pound frame, Backman, the native of Cos Cob, Connecticut, has stepped his game up a few notches this season, filling in for the likes of Michael Mersch and Adrian Krmpe, who were promoted to the Kings and at the World Juniors, respectively.
“Sean has raised his game this year and has been a big part of the teams success,” Hajt noted. “He is a leader on and off the ice. He has played both wings and on the point on the power play which shows his versatility and hasn’t missed a beat with his production.”
The Ontario Reign have entered the All-Star break first in the Pacific Division with a 26-10-3, and Sean Backman has been a significant part of said success thus far. Look for more of the same in the second half of the AHL season.