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Will Oskar Sundqvist bounce back in the second half?

The Blues’ forward has been sluggish offensively.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Oskar Sundqvist, a Boden, Sweden native, was drafted 81st overall by the Penguins in the 2012 NHL Draft. The Penguins were focused on drafting a right-handed center to bolster their offensive depth, and his work with the Swedish Elite League’s Skellefteå and the Sweden men’s national junior ice hockey team caught their attention.

Sundqvist split his time between the Penguins, the Pens’ AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Blues, and the Blues’ then-AHL affiliate, San Antonio Rampage, before signing a four-year, $11 million contract extension with the Blues on July 21, 2019.

Since then, Sundqvist has settled in St. Louis, but he hasn’t consistently had the best of times. He tore his ACL in his left knee on March 19, 2021, and missed the rest of the 2020-21 NHL season. He recovered, but he recorded just nine points (four goals, five assists) and a -6 rating in 28 games in the following season.

I don’t hate Sundqvist, and I wouldn’t wish for him to be traded after 2022-23. He’s a fun player to watch. He can play physical hockey, chip pucks, kill penalties, and all those things. But he’s not the same player that he was last season.

If Sundqvist wants to justify why he belongs with the Blues, he should bounce back in the second half of 2021-22. He has to be able to play on any of the team’s lines whenever they need him. He has to want to use and do good, if not great, things with pucks. He has battled a torn ACL and sat through COVID-19 protocols, but those aren’t long-term excuses. Either he excels or sinks in the second half.

As of February 10, 2022, Sundqvist has nine points (two goals, seven assists) and a +6 rating in 29 games. adding an assist on Klim Kostin’s goal at 15:37 in the first period in the Blues’ home game against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, February 10. It’s a good start, but it’s not great. He has to keep picking up points, which is a tough task to do in a bottom-six role; but it’s doable.

Hopefully, Sundqvist will continue to silence the critics in the second half. I believe it’d be a great sight to see if he could regain his dominant form.

After all, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby once told Blues broadcaster Joe Vitale, who was also a former teammate of his: “Joe, we never should have gotten rid of this kid. This kid is unbelievable. Wait until you see what this kid can do.”