Dallas Stars’ John Klingberg quietly becoming elite NHL defenceman

Most NHL teams don’t expect to get an elite NHL defenceman with a fifth round draft pick (131st overall) and the Dallas Stars were no exception when they took John Klingberg out of Sweden  in 2010. However, the 25-year-old from Gothenburg has been a pleasant surprise for the club. At just 5-feet-11-inches tall and 165 lbs as a junior in his homeland, Klingberg has grown to a solid 6-foot-2 and 180 lbs. and is now one of the Star’s alternate captains. He’s also a bargain for the team at the moment with a salary of $3.5 million per year.

Klingberg’s game improved after being drafted as he more or less remained in Europe until the 2014/15 season when he dressed in a 10 games for the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League (AHL). Between 2010 and 2014, the young defenceman’s skills, stamina, and skating were noticed by Swedish hockey officials and he was suddenly found himself playing for the country’s national team. Klingberg racked up four goals and eight assists in his 10-game stint with the Stars’ AHL team and it was no surprise when he got the call up to the NHL.

He proved he wasn’t just a flash in the pan as he was one of the league’s top rookies in 2014/15 with 11 goals and 29 assists for 40 points in just 65 games and was a plus-5. He led rookie defencemen in scoring and came in sixth in Calder Trophy voting for rookie of the year and was named to the league’s All Rookie Team as a reward for his fine play. The blueliner didn’t suffer from the sophomore jinx as he racked up 10 goals and 48 assists for 58 points in his second season with a mark of plus-22 in 76 games. He also led the league as he was on the ice for 132 goals for. His production dropped off slightly last season with 49 points from 13 goals and 36 assists in 80 games while going plus-2. However, he’s back on track again this campaign with six goals and 34 assists and is plus-9 as of Jan. 15th.

Overall, Klingberg’s played in 264 regular-season games and has chipped in with 40 goals and 146 assists for 186 points and is plus-41. Twelve of his 40 career goals have been game-winners and he leads all NHL defenceman in assists and scoring this season and is tied for 31st in overall scoring. Therefore, being named to the All-Star Game in Tampa, Florida on the Jan. 27/28thweekend shouldn’t have come as a surprise to NHL fans. John isn’t the first member of his family to play in the NHL, but he’s the first to play in an All Star Game. His older brother Carl Klingberg played a dozen times between 2010 and 2015 with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise.

But while Klingberg treats Dallas fans to his exceptional skills game after game, he’s rarely mentioned in conversations regarding the James Norris Trophy. However, he did come in sixth in voting for the Norris Trophy for the 2015/16 season. This is a bit of a surprise considering the right-handed defenceman’s arguably just as good as Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, PK Subban of the Nashville Predators and the Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karlsson. But considering his age, Klingberg will almost certainly improve his game even more as he learns the ins and outs of playing defence in the world’s top hockey league.

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