Alright, who is this guy and what has he done with Viktor Stalberg?
“Embattled” might be too strong of a word to describe Stalberg, but he has taken his fair share of criticism from Blackhawks fans, many of which would have been perfectly happy with the Hawks cutting the 25-year-old forward loose this past offseason.
The Hawks acquired Stalberg prior to last year in that deal that sent Kris Versteeg to the Maple Leafs. At the time, Stalberg was viewed as a guy with potential, but still a very raw talent. Perhaps too much was asked of him in last year’s season of the Stanley Cup Hangover, as Stalberg’s 24 points were viewed as something of a failure.
There was plenty of uncertainty as to whether or not the Hawks would actually bring him back, but they did on a cheap, two-year deal. At this point, it’s looking like they made the right choice in bringing him back.
Stalberg has bounced throughout the four lines this year, but has primarily been featured next to Jonathan Toews on the top unit. He’s labeled as a guy in the mold of a Luis Mendoza, as he has all the speed in the world, but can’t finish worth a damn.
Even without that finishing ability, Stalberg has put up some pretty solid numbers, with 20 points on the season and a plus-10. His career high, which he set last year, was 24.
With the callup of top prospect Jeremy Morin, the Hawks dropped Stalberg down to the third line, with Dave Bolland and the struggling Bryan Bickell. In the past two games, we’ve seen Stalberg really turn on his game, leaving us to wonder whether or not this is a guy who could be a real asset to the Hawks moving forward.
Against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Stalberg was all over the ice. He fired nine shots on goal, creating several chances, and notched a goal on the stat sheet just minutes after assisting on a Toews goal. He was also a plus-2 for the night.
Stalberg came back on Wednesday against the Habs with a similar performance. He only had one shot, but it found the back of the net, and he assisted on Bickell’s first goal since October.
Now, this apparent hot streak that Viktor Stalberg is on doesn’t mean he’s destined be a star or any sweeping declaration on that level. But he’s showing he can play on any line, with any two guys, and be an asset. If he can continue to improve and play the way we’ve seen of late, Stalberg can be an important piece and a key component of whatever the Blackhawks hope to accomplish this season.