The Penguins have completed their preseason slate of games. The only thing left to do now for the coaching staff and management is to select the opening day roster – which must be submitted to the NHL by 5 p.m. on Oct. 7.
Most of the talk heading into Penguins’ training camp regarding the team’s roster centered around who will play among the Top-6 forwards.
But another question, which is just as important, is who will be on the Bottom-6.
After reviewing the Penguins’ roster from last season, new general manager Jim Rutherford wanted to improve the team’s Bottom-6 group. Via trades and free agent signings, Rutherford bolstered the team with players like Nick Spaling, Steve Downie and Blake Comeau.
But one player that shouldn’t be ignored to fill such a role is 20-year-old Oskar Sundqvist.
Sundqvist, the Penguins’ third-round pick (81st overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft, is exactly the type of player to fit on a third and fourth line. He plays a physical game, likes to agitate his opponents, has an attitude on the ice, crashes the net and will fight in the corners and on the boards.
“Play hard, simple, go to the net,” Sundqvist said of his style.
But during the preseason, he’s even chipped in offensively. In five contests, Sundqvist had two goals, three points and 11 shots.
“He’s had a very good preseason,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “Every game, no matter where I seem to play him, if he’s with very experienced players or he’s in more of a checking situation, he seems to have responded.
“He’s a very good prospect. I mentioned the other day, I really thought out of this camp, he’s a guy that took a big step. He’s got size, he’s good both ways, he’s responsible, so he’s going to be a very good player for this organization.”
Sundqvist (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) has played his entire career in Sweden for the Swedish Elite League (SEL) team Skelleftea. He saw his first action on the smaller ice surface during training camp and in the preseason. But after the first game, Sundqvist adjusted to the limited space.
“It took one game and the adjustment wasn’t a problem,” Sundqvist said. “The first game I felt a little bit lost. But it was pretty easy for me.”
Over the next few days as the Pens map out their roster, Sundqvist is a name that will be a part of the discussion. Should the team keep him on the roster? Send him to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League? Or return him to Sweden?
“We talked about it the other day, and he’s led to a lot of conversations between our coaching staff and management,” Johnston said. “We’ll have some tough conversations over the next few days as to what we do now.”
Sundqvist has forced his name to be a part of those conversations. He’s done the best he could in his audition at training camp and in preseason action. Now all he can do is wait and see where his next step will be.
“It’s been a good training camp for me. Everything has been good,” Sundqvist said. “If I’m going back to Sweden or staying here for a couple of weeks, we’ll have to wait and see.”