Though Oskar Sundqvist
was an unknown commodity to many Penguins hockey fans during the 2012 NHL Draft, he was coveted by Pittsburgh’s management – who couldn’t be happier that they were able to draft the Swedish-born center in Round 3.
“Sundqvist slipped through cracks, which we’re delighted with,” Penguins assistant director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton said at the time. “We got him in the spot we thought we would, but we weren’t sure he would be there. We’re pretty pleased with that.”
Drafted 81st overall by the hometown Penguins, Sundqvist is a big-bodied center who plays a hard-nosed physical style, using his rangy 6-foot-3, 172-pound frame to his advantage.
“I’m a big player,” Sundqvist said. “I always work hard and give it all for my team. I’m always been good at the role I play and I work as hard as I can every practice and game.”
Throughout Penguins development camp earlier this month, the center constantly used his body to his advantage in drills, shielding opponents away from the puck with his frame.
After every drill, Sundqvist was constantly smiling and enjoying himself the best way he can. But while he may be fun-loving and carefree on and off the ice, when it comes to game time, he turns on the competitive edge and a fierceness that made him a coveted player.
“It was really fun. More than I expected actually,” Sundqvist said of camp. “I was pretty nervous from the beginning. I think it went better and better every day and I’m really happy I came here.”
Although physicality is one of his greatest strengths, Sundqvist also displayed an adept scoring touch for Skelleftea Jr. of the Swedish Elite League during the 2011-12 season, scoring 22 goals and posting 54 points in 41 combined games. Despite that, he knows he still needs to improve in other aspects of his game.
“Definitely my skating,” Sundqvist said. “I talked to (Marianne Watkins – skating consultant) and she’s going to talk me through it and practice on stuff like that. It’s great that you can go and talk to someone if you need to. She taught me stuff that I’ve never done before.”
For Sundqvist, playing in an NHL-size area during camp was somewhat of an adjustment for him. The rinks in Europe are normally bigger, so he had to remind himself that he was playing on a smaller space at times throughout the week.
“I didn’t notice before until I was skating backwards,” he said laughing. “It began to feel little to me. Smaller than I’m used to having in Sweden.”
This next season, Sundqvist will continue to play for Skelleftea, a team that has taken him and made him feel at home – just like Pittsburgh has.
“I’m definitely staying (with Skelleftea) this year, that’s for sure,” Sundqvist said. “It’s the best decision for me I think because Skelleftea has helped me so much. I feel like Skelleftea and Penguins are kind of the same. They care about the players and stuff like that. It’s wonderful, actually.”