Prior to this NHL lockout, I had discussed, at pretty decent length, the prospect of the Chicago Blackhawks signing Viktor Stalberg to a long-term contract extension. Obviously, that did not happen before September 15th, despite the flurry of extensions that did take place.
When he was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the summer of 2010, Stalberg was still a very raw talent. He struggled in multiple aspects of his game in his first year, leading to questions over whether or not he’d even be welcomed back for a second season with the Hawks.
His second campaign in the Windy City proved to be well worth the two-year deal he signed last summer, and more. With a salary under seven figures, Stalberg proved to be a tremendous bargain, finishing with career highs all over the board. He totaled 21 goals and 21 assists, while demonstrating improvement in more than just the box score.
We know that Stalberg is blessed with unbelievable speed. He’s one of the fastest players in the NHL, but in his first year, he didn’t have the rest of the tools to mix in with that speed. He was too much Luis Mendoza. All speed and not much else. But that changed last year.
Stalberg learned how to use that speed to his advantage. He was able to set plays up, using that speed to do more than just crash the net, though I wish he’d done that a bit more as well. What he also began using to his advantage later on in the season was his good size as well.
The 6’3″ Stalberg has the perfect frame to make him a weapon on offense in the National Hockey League. That combination of size and speed is rare, and should be a nightmare for any opposing club. But for Stalberg, he’s going to have to prove he can continue to develop that mix, and those tools, and build on last season.
His hands still have some improving to do. He may have had another nice chunk of points had it been for better puck handling in the offensive zone. If he can improve in that aspect and continue to use his great size and speed to his advantage, he has an opportunity to get better and become a very important piece of this Blackhawks team.
As long as it happens before next summer, when Stan Bowman won’t want to pay him anymore.