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Chicago Blackhawks: Marcus Kruger, An Inside Look

By Gail Kauchak

Mar 2, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) and Carolina Hurricanes center Riley Nash (20) fight for the puck during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

This post has been in draft form for…well all summer long.   I am extremely happy I didn’t have to delete it.  Considering Chicago Blackhawks fans all believed Brandon Saad would wear red, white, and black for many years to come, I think we were all quite relieved when Marcus Kruger was signed to a one year deal this past Friday.   Stan Bowman finally got it done.  All in one day, he traded Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom, as well as a third-round draft pick, to the Carolina Hurricanes.  In return, he acquired defensemen Dennis Robertson and Jake Massie, and a fifth-round draft pick.  Both players have minimal chances of making the team, so the trade was essentially a salary dump in order to get Kruger signed.

About an hour later, the Blackhawks announced that they had reached an agreement for a one year deal with Kruger, for $1.5 million.   Kruger expressed earlier in the summer that he would be willing to take a short-term deal in order to stay with the Chicago Blackhawks, and this is exactly what he did.  So without further ado, let’s get to know Swedish center, Marcus Kruger.

Kruger was born on May 27th, 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden.  He played for the Stockholm-based Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Elite League for 5 years (2007-2011), before making his debut with the NHL.  In October of 2009, Kruger was picked as one of four nominees for the Elitserien Rookie of the Year.  He started that season with 5 goals and 11 assists in just 13 games.

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Kruger was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2009.  He was picked in the fifth round, 149th overall.  He played most of the 2010-11 season with Djurgardens, but was recalled to Chicago in March of 2011, and played 7 games with the Blackhawks at the end of the season.  His first full stint with the club was the 2011-12 season.  In 2012-13, he spent a little less than half his season with the Rockford IceHogs.  But he was there when it counted; Kruger was on the ice when the Chicago Blackhawks clinched the Stanley Cup in Game 6 of the finals against the Boston Bruins.  As a matter of fact, he was part of the set-up that led to Dave Bolland’s game-winning goal.

With goaltender Corey Crawford off for an extra attacker at the end of the game, Bryan Bickell scored to tie the game at 2-2.  Then Kruger’s line, along with Michael Frolik and Dave Bolland, were sent out on the ice.  The idea was to have this shutdown line stop the Bruins, and force the game to overtime.  But these guys did better than that.   Kruger beat his assigned player to the puck, and passed it back to defenseman Johnny Oduya.  Oduya shot the puck, it was redirected by Frolik, and ended up on Bolland’s stick in front of the net.  Bolland scored just 17 seconds after the last goal, and the rest is history.  Ah, it never gets old.

Ever since the 2012-2013 season, Kruger has been a very important member of the team.  As a matter of fact, Bleacher Report just recently named him the most underrated player on the Chicago Blackhawks.

Being mostly on the fourth line, his role on the team is not to score, but mostly to shut down the offense of the other team.  He often faces the opponents’ top lines.  He has established himself as a strong fourth line center.  Last season, he won 53.3 percent of his faceoffs.   He is also a very important member of the penalty kill.  Kruger has led the Blackhawks’ forwards in short-handed ice time the past three seasons.

Again, Kruger’s main role is not to score.  On other teams he might have more of an opportunity, but when you play with the likes of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, you have to find other ways to shine.  Kruger is best known for his hard-nosed style of play, and winning battles for the puck.  He is constantly getting beaten up out on the ice, but he just gets back up and goes back for more.

That’s not to say that he doesn’t take advantage of his limited offensive opportunities.  Last season, he had 7 goals and 10 assists in the regular season, as well as 2 goals and 2 assists in the playoffs.  His most famous tally was probably when he scored the triple overtime winner against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

Kruger was also fortunate enough to represent Sweden in the 2014 Winter Olympics.  He and his team made a strong showing, and came home with the silver medal, losing to Canada.

Marcus Kruger is the kind of player that the Chicago Blackhawks need in order to be successful.  He is a team player, and he showed this with his play, and the classy way he handled his contract negotiations in the off season.  He could have easily taken more money, or gotten a longer contract with another club, but he wanted to stay with the winning Chicago Blackhawks.  I for one am very proud he is on the team, and can’t wait to see him show his stuff in the upcoming season!

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