The Frat Pack’s ‘wow factor’

Viktor Stalberg is entering new territory.

Viktor Stalberg is entering new territory.

The 23-year-old hasn’t been cut from a team since he was 16. In fact, having taken the unusual journey to the NHL from Sweden via a full scholarship at the University of Vermont, Stalberg hasn’t really had to try out for any team.

Now the big, speedy right-winger stands on the cusp of a spot with the Toronto Maple Leafs, battling two others from the NCAA ranks he’s come to know as his friends, Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson.

“Off the ice, you’re friends and buddies, but on the ice you’ve got to be the guy who wants it the most,” said Stalberg. “We’re pretty good friends right now. If that happens (only one of them makes the team), good for the guy that makes it. I’m sure the two other guys will get a chance soon.”

Stalberg, Bozak and Hanson — roommates over the summer — have played together for about 10 games already, including rookie camp, and have unofficially been labelled The Frat Pack. Coach Ron Wilson broke them up last night in Buffalo to see how they perform with other players.

“They’re not stupid, they know what our depth chart is,” said Wilson. “We’re not going to have all three.”

But there might be room for one, especially if injuries rear their ugly head. Already Jamal Mayers and Colton Orr — two pegged for fourth-line duty — are nursing minor scrapes. Bozak makes smart, patient, pretty passes. Hanson is a force in front of the net with a heavy shot.

Stalberg has elements of both, but brings incredible speed along with considerable size and strength.

“We — all three — have shown we’re ready to play,” said Stalberg. “It’s a matter of numbers right now.”

A sixth-round pick in 2006, he has a chance to be a positive legacy from the John Ferguson Jr. era, the kind of late-blooming Swede the Detroit Red Wings are famous for cultivating.

“Vik was kind of an underrated player coming into college,” said University of Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, a Burlington, Ont., native. “He’s got that one wow factor, that’s his overall speed.”

 
 
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