This is the next in a series of stories ranking the 24 most important players on the 2011-12 St. Louis Blues.
Only 23 years old, Patrik Berglund is already entering his fourth season in the NHL. On an established team with real Stanley Cup aspirations, there's a chance Berglund would have learned the North American game in the minors away from the bright lights of the NHL. We wouldn't have seen his on the job training as he learned how to make the best use of his extended reach, soft hands and long skating strides. The Blues and the team's fans hope Berglund has finally arrived to seize the stardom that has been waiting for him the last three seasons. Now is the time for Berglund to step up and be the player we've hoped he could become.
No pressure, fella.
Berglund had a career year in goals with 22, assists with 30 and points with 52. He scored in bunches with 11 games posting two points, accounting for nearly half his point total. It was clear in the second half of the season that Berglund was developing a chemistry with linemate T.J. Oshie. After Jan. 1 he scored 32 of his points and had point scoring streaks of six and seven games during that time as well. It really was a pleasure to watch. Berglund wasn't done.
At the World Championships held in the spring while the playoffs were going on, Berglund suited up for his home country of Sweden. In nine tournament games he scored eight goals and two assists hinting that the confidence he was building down the stretch in St. Louis carried over to international ice.
In the offseason, the restricted free agent signed a two-year contract worth $4.5 million. He got a better deal than Oshie, but not the contract length or overall value of a rising NHL star. He has a lot left to prove to get the contract I'm sure he'd like.
Watching Berglund, it never seems like he's comfortable on the ice. He can skate a little herky jerky and his face and body language always hint at self doubt. It's entirely possible I'm reading too much into it.
If you're looking for any sign that Berglund is taking his game to another level, look at his forearm. Over the summer he got his nickname Bulan tattooed in big script letters with a wispy background. It's hard to miss. Berglund seemed to wilt in the spotlight in earlier seasons. Maybe he's ready for his close-up.
The loudest critics of the Blues (besides us) have said the team doesn't have a No. 1 center on the roster or in the pipeline. They've said the Blues don't have a star player, and as the Penguins and Red Wings and Blackhawks showed, you need star players to win in the playoffs. Berglund is the solution to both those complaints. Hopefully.
There's no meat thermometer that pops out when a player is done cooking and ready for NHL dominance. There's no one recipe to cook that bird. At age 23 Berglund has a long career ahead of him and the physical tools to be the best player on this team. This is the season where he will show if he can do it.