OSHAWA, Ont. —
|Highly touted defence prospect David Rundblad will wear the Senators jersey for the first time as Ottawa opens the rookie tournament in Oshawa, Ont., against the Pittsburgh Penguins (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).
The anticipation has been building for more than 15 months.
Finally, the time has arrived for David Rundblad to begin justifying the enormous faith the Ottawa Senators have placed in him. That it was with good reason that the club surrendered a first-round pick to obtain him at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.
The 21-year-old Swedish blueliner is more than ready to accept that challenge.
"I want to show that I'm a good player and that they didn't make a mistake to trade for me," Rundblad said with an eye toward the National Hockey League rookie tournament that begins here today at the General Motors Centre. "It's going be fun."
Rundblad, the 16th overall pick of the 2009 draft by the St. Louis Blues, will be a centre of attention when the Senators hit the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins today (2 p.m., Rogers TV, Team 1200) in their tournament opener. Senators management, which envisions Rundblad being a part of their blue line in the 2011-12, is anxious to see him perform in North America for the first time. So, too, are the fans who have heard so much about Rundblad over the last year.
"I had a good year last year so of course, (people) talk about me," said Rundblad, who scored 50 points last season for Skelleftea and won the Borje Salming Award as the Swedish Elite League's top defenceman. "But I know what I can do and I have my goals that I want to achieve. The first is to play in the NHL, but it's a long way there and I have to work hard.
"That's why I'm here. I really want to play in the NHL, but it's going to be tough and I really hard to work hard at it."
A gifted offensive talent with a physical edge, Rundblad acknowledges he might need time to adjust to the smaller North American rink. But Senators general manager Bryan Murray, for one, doesn't doubt his prized prospect can make a smooth transition.
"He's a skater, a physical player," said Murray. "I don't think that affects him pretty much."
Added Rundblad: "It’s going to be more intense. The game is faster here than in Sweden, but I’m looking forward to it. I have to work hard to get used to the smaller rink and the more intense games."
After a summer spent working with a personal trainer in Sweden, Rundblad arrived in Ottawa two weeks ago to begin his quest to land a spot on a Senators blue line already crowded with six players on one-way contracts. He knows it's up to him to win a spot on the team, something Murray indicated on Friday he's willing to give Rundblad the opportunity to do.
"It's almost a dream come true," Rundblad said of the chance to get his feet wet at the rooke tournament this weekend. "It's not the NHL yet, but I'm going to work hard to get there. I have to do what I'm best at, do my thing. I have to work really hard on the ice and off the ice. It's going to be tough, but it's a fun challenge."
Rundblad is already beginning to warm up to the idea of living in Ottawa.
"It's not that big, but I'm used to smaller cities," said Rundblad, a native of Huddinge, Sweden. "It's a beautiful city."