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Player Evaluation: Viktor Stalberg

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  By Tony DeFrancesco

PHOTO / SMI
You may as well call last season a breakout campaign for Viktor Stalberg. The speedy forward complied 22 goals, 21 assists, and plus-6 rating in 79 games, improving by 19 points compared to his previous career-high that was set in 2010-2011. All of this while spending very limited time on the power-play (approx. 35 minutes the entire season) and ending the season 4th on the Blackhawks for even-strength points. Stalberg also saw less time on the ice than forwards such as Marcus Kruger and Dave Bolland; while seeing nearly 6 minutes less of ice time than Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews.

Blackhawk fans have been slightly harsh on Stalberg ever since he was acquired, but I think that is more to do with the frustration that the potential is there and more is expected. Over his tenure as a Blackhawk it's clear that Stalberg possesses an asset to his game that very few in the NHL can rival: his combination of size and speed. At 26 years old, he is entering the prime of his career and should continue to improve his shot and offensive zone awareness which will provide the Blackhawks with another dangerous threat on the wing for the upcoming season.

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The only drawback to Stalberg's production this season will be dependent on how effective rookie Brandon Saad can be right off the bat. Coupled with Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa; Viktor Stalberg might find difficulty setting his anchor on the top two lines and could be bumped to a bottom-six role. If that happens, don't expect him to set any career-highs in his point totals, but as last years evidence points out -- he really doesn't need much time on the ice to produce -- all that matters is that he has the right linemates supporting him.

Last year Stalberg finished 5th on the Blackhawks in points per 60 minutes (edged out ever so slightly by forwards Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane) but he also was 3rd on the Blackhawks as far as quality of teammates. To his credit, Patrick Kane was 1st on that list and Jonathan Toews was 4th. To be a good player you have to have quality teammates and if Jonathan Toews is that high on the list then we can assume he fed off Stalberg as much as Stalberg fed off him. He's productive in that role, and if he continues to produce, I have a hard time seeing a rookie edge him out right off the bat.

Chemistry plays an important role in Stalberg's effectiveness on this team, he's a hit in the locker room and certainly has gained the teams respect over the last two years. I wouldn't call him a leader as high of a degree as someone like Toews or Seabrook, but he has a character role similar to the respect that Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien had in their Chicago tenure -- a guy you can plug anywhere in your line-up without complaint. As that has proved in the past, players of that capability are invaluable. He fills a piece of that character lost on that Cup team and for such a low price, he should be safe from the trade market.

At this point, expect Stalberg to stay on the top two lines and have a productive year.

PREDICTION: 80 GAMES | 26 GOALS | 23 ASSISTS | 49 POINTS | PLUS-7

Non-traditional stats gathered at behindthenet.ca (points per 60 minutes and quality of teammates)
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