There is no need to find a specific role for Sean Bergenheim.
Through the first half of the season, the Lightning left wing has smoothly adjusted to anything thrown his way.
“He’s worn all the hats,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “We’ve put him in every situation and he’s done the job. He’s relentless. When you’re relentless in whatever you’re doing you have a tendency to be there at the right time or ahead of time. That’s what I like about him.”
Bergenheim, 26, has scored seven goals, assisted on eight, been a pesky fore-checking threat and handled checking-line duties with aplomb. Special teams when needed? No problem. He started the season playing with center Dominic Moore, spent some time with Nate Thompson
and Adam Hall
and, recently, has blended well with Vinny Lecavalier and Simon Gagne.
The most important thing is Bergenheim’s speed and style mesh with Boucher’s high-pressure system.
“I enjoy playing it,” Bergenheim said. “I love the transition style.”
Bergenheim said he knows he can do even more. He has learned a lot in his hockey journey, building his still-improving two-way game by spending time in many diverse places.
The Helsinki, Finland native was a big-time scorer in his youth, producing eight goals and 12 points in eight games during the 2002 Under-18 World Junior Championships to help the Fins win a bronze medal. That same year Bergenheim won a Finnish League championship with Jokerit and was drafted 22nd overall by the New York Islanders.
When he got to Long Island, Bergenheim said he was given a role as an energy player, making the team for 18 games in the 2003-04 season. But he always thought he could provide more to a team at the highest levels. After a brief return to Finland with Jokerit, Bergenheim spent most of the next two seasons playing for the Islanders’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He put up solid numbers with 40 goals and 76 points in 116 games.
Bergenheim said the next season was very important for his career and it was not in New York. He played nine games in Russia before moving on to Frolunda HC of the Swedish Elite League.
“In Sweden, I took the next step by scoring more and playing in that role,” Bergenheim said. “That gave me a lot of confidence. I believed I could do it at that level.”
Bergenheim said he had a great time playing in Sweden and produced 16 goals and 17 assists in 36 games for Frolunda before returning to the Islanders. Back in the NHL, the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder scored 35 goals and 69 points in three seasons. He had a NHL career-best 15 goals in 2008-09.
It was still time for him to move on to another challenge.
“I had felt that for a little while,” Bergenheim said.
Lightning Vice President and GM Steve Yzerman targeted Bergenheim and there was mutual interest. Soon, they had a one-year contract signed.
“I can honestly say that I came to the team I wanted to come to,” Bergenheim said. “I felt the team could use a two-way player like me.”
It didn’t take long for Bergenheim to make an impression on his teammates. He had an assist on opening night and three goals in the first eight games including a nifty move on a breakaway against the Islanders.
The first thing you notice is the flying Fin’s speed, but he has been in the right place at the right time on defense with a plus/minus rating of plus-2. Boucher said guys that can play defense as well as Bergenheim and chip in 15 or 20 goals are rare in the league.
“That’s the great thing about him,” Hall said. “He’s got all the tools he needs to play on either side of the ice. We rely on him a lot. He’s been such a key player for us.”
Bergenheim said he’s happy he has had the opportunity to play with several different teams in different places. It has helped him learn to adapt quickly to new teammates and experience different cultures.
He was one of the first players to start skating in informal practices. The fresh start in Tampa was invigorating for Bergenheim.
“I’m just so motivated to play here,” Bergenheim said. “It makes playing more enjoyable and you play better, too. For me, after having a few tough years [on Long Island], it’s a great feeling right now. I always have felt very welcome here.”