Dallas Stars Impact Player #5: John Klingberg
He'll look to avoid the sophomore slump and improve upon a 40-point rookie performance.
John Klingberg is an interesting man.
Err, is the baby-faced Swede a man?
Yes, actually, the internet confirms it at 23 years of age. But what a young 23 it seems after the unheralded prospect was drafted 131st in 2010 and stashed in Europe for a time. Who could possibly have predicted the extent to which he would blossom upon his arrival in North America?
He always makes me think of Ralph Strangis, for one.
Ralph takes with him so much in his for-now broadcast retirement. My favorite among the lot was his annual appearance in the preseason press box, gleefully bereft of any telecommunicative charge. He had a personal favorite every year and he was, perhaps, less-than-shy about it. Two seasons in a row it was Klingberg. A full season and a half before any of the rest of us could spot it, at least.
To quote one of our own here on Defending Big D, he "was a magical power play unicorn as a rookie" (unsubstantiated claim) owing in part his concurrence with masters Tyler, Jason and Jamie on the man advantage. His patience and smooth deliveries evoked imagery of a former Star, comparisons to whom are as premature as they are unfair to the young man.
For now. Very interesting indeed.
Jim Nill certainly seems to be a fan, however, and after a pretty small sample size too. He handed the rookie a seven-year extension with a cap-hit of just over $4 million until the year 2022. This after Klingberg rang up 40 points in just 65 games played (a 50-point pace in a full 82). He led all Dallas defensemen in scoring at the age of 22.
His impact this season could be no less dynamic, but he could be in for an interesting start as the pairings work themselves out. Next to a true shut-down type his totals could soar. As things stand today the Stars don't have any of those. Musical-pairings in October on the coaching staff's part could diminish his offensive value while the team searches for its new normal.
What he really gives you at the best of times, however, is a sense of comfort. While John Klingberg is on the ice things are usually going well. They've moving in the right direction. We have to parse NHL play-by-play and go out of our way to quote obscure statistic websites to say that about most- That they keep things moving in the right direction. With Klingberg one doesn't have to. With Klingberg one tends to remember exactly how he did it. He gives you that fuzzy feeling.
Will he stumble in this, his sophomore season? There's a lot of historical evidence that says he might, and confidence is a funny thing at all levels of athletic competition. He made some mistakes last season. He was a rookie. He's just going to be a sophomore with other NHL teams now having books on him. It's going to happen.
His worst enemy could be his health. Training camp at the end of the week will yield a first round of observations, and chief among them could focus on Klingberg's weight. He's wiry. At 23, he wasn't where you'd like him to be last season in the tough Western Conference. Adding weight is key as he continues to mature both mentally and physically. The West isn't getting any lighter.
At his best, Klingberg is as dynamic offensively (relative to his position) as are Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. That makes him a terrific microcosm of the Dallas Stars as a whole: Talented and offensively inclined, but in need of proving they can strike a sustained balance between offense and defense over the full 82. It's a lot to ask out of a second-year player.
He set a high bar, and signed a big contract. Now it's time to go about living up to expectations as the most interesting defenseman in the world.