Some thoughts on Patrik Berglund and prospect development in the Blues' organization...

NOTE: I originally posted this over at The Asylum (STLToday, for those just arriving)... but thought it would get more attention, and a better class of people commenting on it, over here...

Poster "forgetyerskatesdream" at The Asylum wrote:

"Let me make sure I have this correct. When a young player such as Perron, Oshie, EJ, Polak plays well it's in spite of Murray, and when a young player struggles it's because of Murray. Is that about right? Unreal."

And poster "croschek98" replied:

"I think the difference is the above mentioned guys spent time at a lower north american level of hockey. Also, for 3 out of the four, they still see family through out the season. Let us not forget no matter what their situation or income, they are still just kids."

The bolded parts above are the keys here, IMO.

Berglund is very talented and has a world of potential, but he jumped from (essentially) the Swedish version of the AHL (the Allsvenskan) straight to the National Hockey League in one season.


I think spending a year in Peoria at the start of his career last year would have done him some good... but in this organization, there seems to be a stigma attached to sending young offense-minded European players (Shkotov, Zakharov, Söderberg) to the AHL.

Sending young Euro defensemen doesn't seem to hurt -- see the Pola'ks and Junlands of the world for examples -- but for some reason, the forwards, and especially the skilled forwards, don't seem able or willing to take the journey to the NHL by steps.

Having Lars Eller in Peoria now, and thriving, is a step in the right direction towards changing this mindset for both the organization and their Euro forward prospects.

Getting Jori Lehtera there last season for a cup of coffee at the end of the year ( 7 GP, 0-1-1, plus 1, 2 PM), and in the playoffs -- where he performed more than adequately with a goal and an assist in seven games -- was also a positive move.

I'd expect -- or at least hope -- to see Lehtera, Simon Hjalmarsson, and possibly Sergei Andronov in Peoria next year, taking the first step towards the NHL future that likely awaits all three of them.

One hopes that they will follow Eller's example and understand that assignment to the AHL is really a necessary step in the player's adjustment to the North American game for all but the most elite of young European players -- the Overchkins, Kovalchuks and Zetterbergs of the world.

Keep in mind also that Zetterberg, at least, didn't come over until he was 22 and had already had the experience of five pro seasons in Sweden... three in the Allsvenskan and two in the Elitserien.

It may not be too late to get Berglund's development back on track by sending him to Peoria; let him get some premium ice time with scorers like Eller and Palushaj, with solid two-way guys like Chris Porter and Brett Sonne. Let him get his confidence back, because that's all that he seems to be lacking at this point.

He's had a year or more to adjust to the North American game and lifestyle already, so that's not the issue.

The issue is that Berglund needs to find and develop all the parts of his game, and what seems to be being emphasized here in St. Louis under Murray is only the defensive side and awareness.

This is important; it's absolutely important. But Patrik Berglund is not going to make a living in the NHL as a defensive shut-down guy the way a Jay McClement can. Berglund is a power forward, a scorer, and a playmaker... and that part of his game isn't going to be developed under Andy Murray, or at the NHL level, at this time.

Better, long-term, for his career to let him go to Peoria and work with a coach like Davis Payne who has experience, and success, working with young players and developing those aspects of their game.

Let him play -- consistently -- with the best offensive talents on the team; he won't get to do that in St. Louis... and justifiably so, because he hasn't yet earned it consistently with his play at this level.

The AHL's purpose is to turn prospects into players. Berglund is really only halfway to being a player at this stage; let him go the rest of the way by taking a trip about two hours north and staying there a little while.

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