With Washington's Mike Green
enjoying a breakout season -- 31 goals and 73 points -- and helping revive the Capitals' fortunes, scouts are scouring the globe looking for the next breakout offensive star from the blue line.
More than a few eyes have turned longingly to the small northern Swedish town of Skelleftea, a mining town with rich deposits of gold ore -- so much so that some call it "Gold Town."
is the object of the scouts' affection in Skelleftea, where he just finished his rookie season in the Swedish Elite League. Many of those talent evaluators believe they can strike it rich with the smooth-skating, righty-shooting defenseman.
Hence, Rundblad is rated the No. 6 prospect among European skaters for the 2009 Entry Draft by NHL Central Scouting in its final rankings.
There's little doubt Rundblad should go in the first half of the first round of the 2009 Entry Draft in Montreal in June.
Green went at No. 29 in the first round of the 2004 Entry Draft. But is Rundblad really a Mike Green
in waiting? Rundblad brushes off the comparisons.
"It's not exactly the way I play, but I like the way Mike Green
plays in Washington," he told NHL.com. "I'm not sure if I am his style, but I like watching him."
However, the similarities are undeniably there.
Rundblad is 6-foot-2, the same as Green. Rundblad currently weighs 190 pounds, but there is room for the extra 10 to 15 pounds that Green currently carries.
Like Green, Rundblad is a good skater who thinks offense first and always is trying to key the rush -- be it with a laser-like outlet pass or, just as often, a hell-bent-for-leather rush up ice with the puck glued to his blade.
"I try to play offense," Rundblad said. "I like to stickhandle and keep the puck; but I think I have defense in the (defensive) zone, too. But it is my offense that is No. 1."
Sounds like the defenseman in Washington that has a lot of teams rethinking about how they can build their blue line, doesn't it?
is a teammate of Rundblad's in Skelleftea, another teenager playing a huge role on the team's blue line. This Erixon knows a little about NHL talent -- his father, Jan, spent 10 seasons (1983-93) in the NHL with the New York Rangers
. The younger Erixon also is eligible for the 2009 Entry Draft and is rated one spot below Rundblad.
Erixon knows he is an odds-on favorite to go in the first round of the Entry Draft, but he also knows he is not as offensively gifted as his close friend.
"It's just the way he handles the puck," Erixon told NHL.com. "He's great with his puck-handling and, obviously, he scores a lot of goals, too."
Actually, Rundblad scored no goals this season for Skelleftea. He finished with 10 points, all assists, and a plus-3 rating in 45 games. His 10 points were fourth among the team's defensemen.
But Rundblad has scored at other levels.
Two years ago, with Skelleftea's U-20 team, he had 11 goals and 26 points in 35 games. This season, in a 10-game demotion to the U-20 team, Rundblad had 8 goals and 15 points in just 10 games.
Let's not forget that Green had just 2 goals and 12 points in his rookie NHL season.
Goran Stubb, the NHL Director of European Scouting, said he does not see enough NHL games to be comfortable comparing the European talent he sees with current NHL players. So don't look for Stubb to build up the Green hype.
"It's not exactly the way I play, but I like the way Mike Green plays in Washington. I'm not sure if I am his style, but I like watching him."
-- David Rundblad
But he will rave about what a good player Rundblad is, pointing out that he is not all that steep a fall from a once-in-a-generation talent like Victor Hedman
, who has dominated the Euro prospect talk this season.
"He has a very good shot," Stubb told NHL.com. "He is a right-handed shot and he is used on the power play, even in the (Elite) League despite being a young player. He is a very smart player."
Rundblad is not perfect, though.
"He could be a little more physical in his game, but that is something that he is learning," Stubb said.
In fact, Rundblad has been learning at a prodigious pace this season, competing against players as much as twice his age.
"It's a pretty tough adjustment, but you are getting better playing against (older players)," Rundblad said. "They are strong and much more strategic, so you have to play smarter and smarter. I have to think faster. You can't keep the puck so long; you have to make a fast pass."
That quick pass now is coming more and more naturally, just as is almost every facet of Rundblad's game.
As a result, it's no wonder so many scouts believe Rundblad could be the next strike-it-rich payoff to hail from "Gold Town."