When Viktor Stalberg arrived on the scene in Chicago after being traded from Toronto in the Kris Versteeg deal, he showed up as a guy with high speed and high potential. The former University of Vermont forward and Hobey Baker Award finalist came out of college as a big time goal scorer with the Catamounts and showed glimpses of that in his short time with the Maple Leafs.
After a full season in Chicago that saw Stalberg score 12 goals and 12 assists in 77 games, he’s hoping that after two NHL seasons that he’s on the road to becoming a bigger threat on the ice. For the Blackhawks’ sake, they wouldn’t mind having yet another weapon to trot out on the ice.
Chris Kuc of The Chicago Tribune spoke with Stalberg to gauge his thoughts on the upcoming season and what he would like to accomplish.
“There are some spots in the top six and there are some spots in the bottom six,” said Stalberg, who along with teammates Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson helped paint the Indian head logo on the United Center ice Wednesday. “I’m going to do everything I can to take one of those (top spots). If I don’t, I know I can go back and play that more physical game too. It’s good for our team and good for my career that I can play a couple of different roles.”
Stalberg’s blistering speed and offensive skills are the types of things meant to be on a top-six line, but his ability to finish is what holds him back. Stalberg admits that a lot of his shots just didn’t find their way in last season. CSNChicago’s Tracey Myers finds out from Stalberg that when the shots don’t go in, frustrations pick up.
“Anyone who says (the tough times) don’t affect them is lying. Some part of that stretch I was on the top line and it was frustrating because you want to score when you’re there. It was tough,” he said. “But I had a pretty good finish and that gives me confidence going into this year.”
Stalberg finished last season with a 8.9% shooting percentage and getting an uptick in that percentage this season could put Stalberg in as a 20-25 goal guy. Earning the minutes to make that happen will be his challenge.
Taking time to blossom is a lesson he can talk to a teammate about and learning what it takes as Patrick Sharp was slow to bloom into becoming a big time scorer in the NHL. Sharp’s first three seasons were relatively quiet ones with the Philadelphia Flyers and his first in Chicago as well.
Once he found his way, however, he became the key running mate for the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa that we see today. Once Sharp had his first 20-goal season during his first full year in Chicago, he learned to not just pot goals but help others score as well turning him into one of Chicago’s most valuable scorers piling up 60+ points in three of the last four seasons including a career-high 71 last year.
If Stalberg can follow along that sort of path, the wealth of riches the Blackhawks will have going ahead into the future will be disturbing. One thing’s for sure, the fans in Chicago would love to see things play out that way. For Stalberg, he’ll have to keep working hard to make it happen.