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Sens' Swede trio suggests bright future in Ottawa

Monday, 10.31.2011 / 9:00 AM / Player Profiles

By Erin Nicks - NHL.com Correspondent

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Sens' Swede trio suggests bright future in Ottawa
Trio of Swedish youngsters has hope high in Ottawa
Ottawa may be Canada's capital city, but the Senators are experiencing a renaissance with a definitive Swedish flavor.

With Daniel Alfredsson leading the way, Ottawa has stockpiled a handful of young players from the captain's homeland who appear ready to make to make an impact with this franchise.

Rookies Mika Zibanejad and David Rundblad have joined third-year player Erik Karlsson in the Sens' dressing room during the early days of the NHL season.  Zibanejad was drafted in the first round (No. 6) in the 2011 Entry Draft, while Rundblad was drafted No. 17 by St. Louis in 2009, and was acquired by Ottawa via trade for the No. 16 pick in 2011.

Zibanejad, a center, and Runblad, a defenseman, will be key building blocks in the rebuilding of the club, as the Sens are hoping to benefit from the Swedes' known mobility and skillful puck handling.

The Senators, however, have decided to wait at least a year before finding out the full impact of Zibanejad. After more than a month with the club, Zibanejad heard the news he feared: He was being sent back to Sweden for another year of seasoning.

Yet, even with that setback, it is impossible to imagine a scenario in which Zibanejad won't join Runblad and Karlsson in the near future as cornerstones for the club for the next decade.

SWEDE SUCCESS STORY

Ten years ago, Sweden revamped its hockey development model. Today, the NHL is reaping the fruits of that labor, with more talent to come.
And, that process started this past September with training camp, and continued into October's early-season games.

It's been an adventure for the newcomers, from getting used to a new city, to an adjustment in ice size. But the latest Senators admit to finding an additional level of comfort in their new home, simply by coming into a room where players can converse in their native tongue.

"In my first weeks here, it was easier to talk to (Alfredsson and Karlsson) in Swedish and ask them anything," Rundblad said. "Especially Alfie, he's been here so many years now, he knows a lot about everything, so of course it's easier. It's really helped me out."

Zibanejad's thoughts echoed those of his new teammate.

"If you need anything, or need to ask anything, you can go to Daniel or Erik because they've been around a while," Mika said. "It's comfortable to have them around. We talk in Swedish on and off the ice, and just having the ability to do that really helps."

As the leader of the team, the responsibility of showing younger players the ropes falls upon his shoulders. But in the case of his countrymen, Daniel Alfredsson has been willing to go the extra mile, even having Karlsson stay with him during Karlsson's rookie season.  As he enters the final stages of his career, the 38-year-old Alfredsson realizes that he has a job to do in aiding the progress of the young Swedes.


"We're doing everything we can to help them," Alfredsson said. "They're going to be the future of this team. A guy like Mika who knows how to play the body and is so strong with the puck, and David, he can really help out on the back end making the outlet passes that the guys need. Watching them both, you know that they are capable of having a lot of success.  Erik, he has a nose for the net and getting to play in the All-Star Game last year -- he's already done so much. The way things have gone, rebuilding and all, you have to look at him as a veteran."

Karlsson, taking a page from his captain, is already letting his voice be heard.

"Me and the younger guys, we're here to learn," Karlsson said. "But we want to help this team win. We want to be a part of this."

Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff