His full impact will be on better display next season, when he’s gone through training camp with the Wings, but since arriving March 21, Sundqvist has added energy and a net-front presence. He is adept at using his 6-foot-3, 208-pound frame to screen opposing goalies and doesn’t shy away from getting hit.
“He’s a guy who brings two things to a power play — one, a big body, who can both screen the goalie and win loose pucks, and those are important aspects of a power play,” coach Jeff Blashill said. ” And then two, for us, specifically, he’s a right shot, and we just don’t have a lot of those. So it opens up more different things you can do when you have a right shot and a left shot that are either at the net or on the bumper, or vice versa. He brings those things and he’s done a pretty good job of it.”
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The Wings acquired Sundqvist at the trade deadline, along with defenseman Jake Walman and a second-round pick, in the deal that sent Nick Leddy to the St. Louis Blues. Sundqvist had a goal and an assist in his debut and started getting man-advantage minutes three games in. The Wings were retooling the units after losing top-six winger Robby Fabbri to a knee injury in early March and going without top-line winger Tyler Bertuzzi (unvaccinated) during a trip to western Canada.
“I thought our PP had good chemistry until Fabs got hurt and then Bert didn’t make the trip to Canada, and we’ve kind of lost some of that chemistry,” Blashill said. “If that unit had been healthy, we would have kept them together and a guy like Sunny potentially would have been on the other unit. Now we’re just trying to come up with the best fit and try to come up with some chemistry.”
Sundqvist is signed through next season. Walman is a pending restricted free agent, but he’s made a strong case for an extension, including seeing spot time on the power play. He’s a good skater and deft shooter and has been out at times on the second unit, usually with Filip Hronek, Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen and Jakub Vrana.
“He definitely has the shot to be on the power play,” Blashill said. “There’s more that goes into it, but he has the shot. When he’s on it, he’s got to show us that he absolutely should be, and there’s a difference between guys that can be and guys that make it better.
“Wally might be best on the left flank, where he’s not up top. Up top has more of a facilitation as a player than just a shooter, whereas if you’re on a flank you can be more of just a shooter and it might lend to his skill set better. But we also have Vrana and Zadina there.”
Sundqvist was at the net when the Wings scored on a power play Tuesday against Ottawa, when Bertuzzi got to the puck after it took a bounce off the end boards and popped to the right of the net. Even if he doesn’t have a direct hand in the play, Sundqvist has the size to make it difficult for goaltenders to see what’s happening.
He’s good at even strength, too, where he plays the style of hockey that’s ideal for an energy line — he finishes his checks and can make plays with the puck. Considering Leddy was a pending UFA and that talks about an extension weren’t conducive, general manager Steve Yzerman managed to not only recoup the second-round pick it cost to acquire Leddy last offseason, but he added two players who look like they’ll make the Wings better.
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.