30 yrs. old
6'4" 219 lbs.
2006, 25th-overall (STL)
Acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Blues, July 1, 2018
Career stats: 694 games | 168 goals | 154 assists | 332 points | +10
Yesterday, in what might be considered a reach, we put rookie Rasmus Asplund at third-line center in this roster-building exercise. Asplund has the two-way acumen, skating and stick skills, as well as the mental makeup and on-ice vision to do the job and do it well. However, at only 20 yrs. old and with a projected one-two center punch of 21 yr. old Jack Eichel and 19 yr. old Casey Mittelstadt, the concern wasn't so much about Asplund's attributes as it was about his age and inexperience in North America as well as the overall youth down the middle.
The obvious option for this edition of the Buffalo Sabres would have been to put 30 yr. old Patrik Berglund and his 10 years of NHL experience in the three-spot behind Eichel and Mittelstadt at center. With his two-way game and solid faceoff skills, a grey beard like Berglund could add veteran stability down the middle and carry much of the two-way load that was lost when Ryan O'Reilly went the other way in the trade with the St. Louis Blues. Berglund might also be looked at to take some pressure off of Mittelstadt in the top-six for brief stints.
It's a sound logic that could very well come to fruition. However, there are a number of factors that could (should?) lead Berglund to a role as winger/mentor on a line with fellow Swede, Asplund.
Buffalo GM Jason Botterill has touted the versatility of the forwards he has and Berglund certainly fits that description. He was drafted out of Sweden as a big center with a solid all-around skill set who could score, set up and be a two-way No. 2 or No. 3 center for the Blues. But by the end of the 2013-14 season, St. Louis had loaded up at center pushing Berglund to the wing.
As his career progressed expectations were lowered and as he moved down the depth chart his production was moving to near career lows. Despite his struggles and his name in the rumor mill as early as 2014, Berglund did manage to score a career-high of 23 goals in his 2016-17 contract year and he ended up signing a five-year extension just before the 2017 trade deadline. Yet the inconsistencies and subsequent rumors still persisted and when he was injured to start the 2017-18 season, the natives were getting restless.
"Patrik Berglund should have been traded during the offseason," wrote Dan Buffa in a scathing piece for SB Nation, St. Louis titled, 'The disappearance of Patrik Berglund should baffle no one." Buffa rips Berglund as "ordinary" and "a decent yet unremarkable talent" that could use a change of scenery in his February 11, 2018 piece and his thoughts were echoed when Berglund was given a C-rating by Todd Panula of fansided's Bleeding Blue.
"The fact that St. Louis Blues fans are still wondering what the real Patrik Berglund is and can accomplish," wrote Panula at the end of last season, "is quite astounding. He is 29 and just played his 10th NHL season.
"He gives you just enough to think there is more in there. He disappoints you just enough to figure there is no way he will reach his full potential. Then the juicy middle ground is normally where he falls."
All of this is not to bag on Berglund for who he is or the path his career has taken. And it might be best to mention that bloggers (myself included) have a tendency to get overzealous and may or may not have the proper insight at to why a player may or may not be performing up to expectations. More to the point, it was intended to highlight what Berglund is at 30 yrs. old and why he might not be the best choice as the third line center in Buffalo. When you factor in that his set-up skills may have been overrated, that he never was the fastest skater to begin with and add in that he's offensively streaky while his defensive game might be a little more suspect than originally thought, perhaps having him on the wing might not be that bad of an idea.
In his 23-goal season Berglund played in all 82 games for St. Louis and scored on at a 15% shot-rate. The year prior his shooting percentage was 12.5% and last year it was a career-high 15.2%. In all three of those seasons Berglund's goal to assist ration was roughly 2:1. The guy can still shoot the puck but as his assists and his minus-12 the past two seasons might indicate the Sabres might be better off having a player like Asplund dishing to him as opposed to Berglund trying to set someone up.
It would seem as if Berglund would be a great mentor for Asplund and his versatility to play wing effectivley could give Asplund the requisite time down the middle to develop as a center. Conversely, Asplund's hockey IQ and on-ice vision could be very helpful in getting Berglund to another 20-goal season.
How it all plays out is up in the air as there's a lot of competition in the bottom six and we're really not sure how far Asplund can take it during training camp. He has all the tools and if he continues to impress, or impress even more, then he could crack the lineup and do so as their third-line center. If that's the case, Berglund would be forced to move to Asplund's wing. Which isn't such a bad proposition.
Building the 2018-19 Buffalo Sabres roster:
LW, Conor Sheary
/ C, Jack Eichel
/ RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Jeff Skinner
/ C, Casey Mittelstadt
/ RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Patrik Berglund
/ C, Rasmus Asplund
LHD, Marco Scandella
/ RHD, Rasmus Ristolainen
LHD, Rasmus Dahlin
/ RHD, Zach Bogosian
G, Carter Hutton