Chris Pondy/Icon SMI)
Chicago Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg just completed his second full season in the NHL and put up a career high 22 goals and 43 points in 79 games. For the first time since a U-20 performance in 2005, Stalberg was nominated to represent his native country in international play once the Blackhawks were knocked out of the playoffs. This was a nomination he didn’t hesitate to accept.
The 6-3, 209-pound forward has had little trouble adjusting to his new linemates and the pressure of playing in front of the home country crowd, having collected three goals, four points and a plus four rating in seven tournament games heading into the final preliminary group game against Latvia.
After a clear-cut 5-2 victory against Germany, Hockey’s Future managed to grab Stalberg for a few postgame words.
Hockey’s Future: This was maybe the first time you’ve ever played a game against the country of Germany. What were you’re impressions of the team?
Viktor Stalberg: I think they’re a pretty good team. They played very smart and stayed within their capabilities. They obviously need to play defense against a team like us and then take advantage of when we turn the puck over. They did just that tonight. I think they got some good looks when we, well, simply messed up. They took advantage of our bad passes or bad passes, whatever, and that’s how they had to play it. So yes, I think they did a good job. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could win a few games in this tournament.
HF: Up to now, Team Sweden has won everything. As for you, it seems like you’re getting at least one, one-time blast of a goal in every game. How are you liking your line formation in this tournament (Ed. note: on a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Marcus Kruger)?
VS: It’s been great and tonight was probably our best game. I liked how we played against Denmark too. We’re finding each other well. I think Landeskog and I are similar players out there. We like to skate a lot and shoot a lot. We kind of know what’s going to happen out there, so there’s no unnecessary panicking. We keep moving the puck well and then take it to the net, so I think you can say I’m pretty happy.
HF: You’d surely rather be playing in the Stanley Cup finals at the moment, but that’s not the case. Still, this isn’t a bad alternative being at home and playing a World Championship for your country, right?
VS: It’s a great honor to be representing your country. I’d give up a lot to be back over in Chicago and getting another chance to go further in the playoffs. Sometimes you just run into a hot team and a hot goalie and then you’re out, so the second best thing is getting a chance to win a WC.
HF: You’re probably the only guy on this team who has taken the NCAA route in your career. Do you think this was an advantage for you in getting to the NHL?
VS: For me personally, yes. I think it’s worked out great. It prepared me well and I don’t think many people over here know all too much about the college game. It’s a really good form of hockey. A lot of guys go straight from there to the NHL, so it prepares you well for the pro game. I’m sure happy I took that route.
HF: Would you recommend it to other young Swedes, Scandinavians or other Europeans who are looking for routes to the NHL?
VS: Yes, for sure. I think you get the best of both worlds, namely an academic education and a hockey education. For me, it wasn’t a hard choice. I think more and more guys are going to start taking that route. It just gives you another shot and opportunity in life if you don’t make it in hockey. That education is just such a boost to have.