CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.
Viktor Stalberg enjoyed the best season of his short career. He played in 79 games, averaging just under 15 minutes of ice time per game. He scored a career-high 22 goals with a career-best 21 assists for 43 points -- none in very limited time on the power play -- and finished plus-6 with 91 hits. Stalberg struggled mightily in the playoffs, however, behind held without a goal and just two assists in six games vs. Phoenix. He finished even in the series, but was also penalized four times for eight minutes in Game 5 alone.
Boden's take: The 26-year-old made the kind of statistical jump you'd hope to see in his second full NHL season, for a guy with his skillset: a 10-goal improvement, to go along with a 19-point improvement. He did all that with zero power-play production due to getting very little playing time on that unit.
He has world class speed and uses the open ice to make himself dangerous to opponents. The hands are still a work in progress. They've improved, but since that open-ice skill isn't necessary on the power play, Joel Quenneville probably wants him to take another step there. How many times over the past two seasons have we seen Stalberg race in on a breakaway, but unable to finish? Stalberg even volunteered after the season to be the "net-front presence" the team so sorely needs on the power play. At 6-3, he has the size, but are the hands there? And would the subsequent banging affect the rest of his game?
Myers' take: The Swedish forward set career-high numbers in goals, assists and points. What's more, all of that came at even strength, as the Blackhawks, for some reason, just didn't try Stalberg on the power play that much. His biggest attribute, his speed, served him well; and the Blackhawks kept him among the top lines through most of the season. But it's also what Stalberg learned that made him more valuable this season. A few stints with the checking line helped Stalberg get better at puck possession; although when he had a gaffe there, it was noticeable and, too often, turned into an opposition scoring chance. Still, there is a tremendous upswing with Stalberg as he goes forward.
Boden: It'll be interesting to see if he reports to camp with a little more "dangle" to his game. He's been gifted with a gear that very few NHL players possess. Now it's about the next step to polish his game offensively, plus he must continue to increase his commitment and awareness on the defensive end. He's one of the players who needs to utilize starts and stops more than fly-bys. I wouldn't use him in front of the goalie on the power play. If he takes another step up in his game, he'll get a payday, as he'll be an unrestricted free agent one year from now.
Finally, is Stalberg a "Top Six" forward to join Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp? If Dave Bolland, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell remain a trio, who goes Top-6 and who is fourth line? Daniel Carcillo, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Saad or Michael Frolik? There's a matter of size, protection and skill to consider in those top two lines, as well. That's if we see many, or all, of the same faces come back.
Myers: OK, just about every other player -- or so it seemed -- got a shot at the power play last season. And Stalberg should be given one this coming season. As the offseason began Stalberg said he'd be willing to do whatever it took to get some special-teams time. He's a big body and could be that net presence the Blackhawks desperately want and need. Otherwise, if Stalberg keeps progressing off last year's numbers, he'll be a steady top-six player for the Blackhawks.
How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out the video breakdown of Stalberg's season above.
Up next: Johnny Oduya