BUFFALO -- Marcus Davidsson hopes a bigger role in Sweden will help him make the jump to North America with the Buffalo Sabres.
The 20-year-old forward was selected by Buffalo in the second round (No. 37) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He signed with Vaxjo of the Swedish Hockey League on May 7 after he had 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 52 games with Djurgardens (in his hometown of Stockholm) of the SHL last season. It will be the first time Davidsson will play for a team other than Djurgardens, having risen through the team's junior ranks.
"I've checked with a lot of Swedish players, how they feel, and I don't see anything bad with staying another year at home where you feel comfortable," Davidsson said during Sabres development camp in June. "Now I moved from my hometown to a new city. But I think it's easier and a better step to do it in Sweden rather than going 10 hours overseas."
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Davidsson (6-foot, 191 pounds) might be at least a year away from coming to North America, but he knows what lies ahead thanks to other Sweden-born players in the Sabres organization, including forwards Victor Olofsson and Rasmus Asplund. Like Davidsson, each extended his stay in Sweden an extra year to further his development.
"Both of them were in Rochester (of the American Hockey League) last year and say the organization is really good and they like the coaches," Davidsson said. "They told me how it is to play here, how many games and such."
The Sabres liked Davidsson's progress at Djurgardens, noting he elevated his offensive game to complement his abilities on the defensive side. They believe the move to Vaxjo will help him even more.
"This is taking him out of his backyard and presenting a little bit more of a challenge on and off the ice," Sabres assistant general manager Steve Greeley said. "A new program, new city, being away from home, I think it's going to help him develop as a person and a player."
Davidsson set career highs in 2018-19 in his first full season at the senior level in Sweden. Djurgardens reached the SHL Final, losing in six games to Frolunda.
Those experiences not only helped him grow his offensive game, but his mental game too.
"I learned that it's pretty easy to bounce back," he said. "If you have a couple of keys to think about, it's pretty easy to bounce back to those. If you have a bad game, you can always think about what you need to do on the ice and the next game will be good."
Although Davidsson will have a new hockey home in Sweden this season, it won't be completely unfamiliar; Sabres forward prospect Filip Cederqvist, selected in the fifth round (No. 143) in the 2019 NHL Draft, will also play for Vaxjo.
"Me and Filip have started a friendship," Davidsson said. "We're really close friends now and I look forward to playing with him. I've seen him on the ice and he looks really good."