A Look at Stars Defenceman John Klingberg

USATSI_8923622_154158418_lowresIf you haven’t taken a good look at Dallas Stars defenceman John Klingberg, now’s as good a time as any. The 23-year-old Swede has 23 points in 21 games, including a league-leading 19 assists.

What’s more, Klingberg is on pace for 90 points. That would put him in line with the most points in a season by a defenceman since Ray Bourque scored 91 points in 1993-1994. While most believe that Klingberg will even out eventually, there are still reasons to be optimistic about his numbers and about where he’s headed.

For one thing, the Stars are playing well. They lead the Western Conference with 34 points and are tied with the Montreal Canadiens for first overall. Only the Habs have scored more goals than the Stars, too, and they are among the stingiest teams in the NHL.

And Klingberg fits in well with the overall plan, contributing on the power play to the tune of two goals and helping fire up one of the league’s most potent and effective offensive units.

“Obviously [my start] has been pretty good offensively. I’ve been having a lot of assists, obviously playing with good players who score goals, and the power play has been good too,” Klingberg said.

Klingberg led all rookie defencemen last season with 40 points in 65 games and found a spot on the 2015 Rookie All-Star Team. He’s shown no signs of slowing down this season and is in fact building on his game overall.

“Well, for me it is his puck management, his decisions when leaving the zone, his decisions in the neutral zone, his decisions sometimes to keep it simple versus making it a real difficult situation for himself,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Those decisions come with living some tough lessons. He’s vital to our attack, so there’s to be mistakes along the way, but those mistakes have been few.”

Many, including Dallas general manager Jim Nill, are comparing Klingberg to Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson. That’s not far off base, as their statistics reveal.

Karlsson has 22 points in 20 games so far, with one power play goal and five total goals to his name. Karlsson does average a little more ice time than Klingberg and seems to fire the puck a little more. He also has more individual scoring chances.

But the picture deepens when one looks at those pesky advanced statistics. Ahead of Saturday’s game against the Sabres, Klingberg had five fewer giveaways than Karlsson and the same amount of takeaways. He’s also proven to be more defensively responsible over time, giving away the puck less than Karlsson in relatively the same amount of time.

There are other interesting statistics at play, like how Klingberg absorbed more hits last season (165) than any other player who skated in 68 of fewer games. He doesn’t dish out a lot of contact, but the numbers show his ability to absorb punishment while making quality hockey plays.

Of course, the Klingberg versus Karlsson comparisons are what they are. The underlining point remains the same, which is to say that the Stars have a dynamo on their hands in this blueliner. Klingberg is logging minutes, creating power play points, working hard in the tough areas, and rounding out into a complete player at an impossibly young age. Keep your eyes on him.


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