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Rundblad eager to get started on NHL journey

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
His arrival has been eagerly anticipated for more than a year.

And not just by the fans and the organization that hope to embrace his many talents in the months and years to come.

"It's a great thing," David Rundblad, one of the organization's top defence prospects, said earlier today as he pondered the significance of beginning his Senators career at the annual development camp this week. "I've dreamt about (the National Hockey League) since I was a little kid and now it's getting closer. So it's great. It's fun."

When the Senators dealt away their first-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft to obtain Rundblad — a 17th overall selection by the St. Louis Blues in the '09 draft — they believed they'd acquired the kind of defenceman who could step right onto their blue line in the 2011-12 season. It's a sentiment that hasn't changed even slightly in the Senators' minds.

Certainly not after a spectacular season in the Swedish Elite League, when the 20-year-old Rundblad racked up 11 goals and 50 points in 55 games in helping Skelleftea reach the championship series. He was named the winner of the Borje Salming Award as the SEL's top blueliner, the youngest player to earn that honour in four decades.

"That shows we've got a really special player in David Rundblad," said Pierre Dorion, the Senators' director of player personnel. "He was an impact player almost every game you saw him, the way he moved the puck and transitioned the puck. He looks like he's gotten stronger. I think he's still got to get stronger and have a big summer, but I still see him in our plans for next year."

Rundblad, a native of Lycksele, Sweden, surely wants the same thing as well.

"I stayed in Sweden for one extra year, so I feel I'm ready now," he said. "I'm here because I want to play in the NHL. Then it's up to me to decide."

The Senators expect Rundblad to ride a learning curve much like fellow Swedish blueliner Erik Karlsson, whose impact on the Ottawa lineup wasn't really felt until the latter half of his rookie season. But Rundblad arrives in the capital with more SEL experience on his resume.

"He's not going to come in and dominate the game and control the game (right away)," said Dorion. "Once he's more established, he'll be able to do that, but I think he's someone who's going to come in and help us generate offence. There'll be some ups and downs with him like we had with Erik in his first year but with David, you're getting a more mature player.

"(Rundblad) is someone who's 6-foot-2, almost 6-3, who's got more range defensively and will be able to break up more plays and help out in that part of the game, too."

While Rundblad and Karlsson are both gifted offensively, the similarities end there.

"Erik is more dynamic, using his quickness and his explosion to skate the puck up," said Dorion. "David is more cerebral. A lot of things are done with his brain and hockey sense. David is more smooth and poised (with his) puck control, while Erik is just more fiery, more of a go-getter."

Perhaps the biggest adjustment Rundblad faces is the grind of the NHL schedule, which is significantly longer than he faced in Sweden.

"It's 30 more games every season," said Rundblad. "It's hard to practise for that, so you've just got to get used to it."

Added Dorion: "The biggest hurdle for him will be physically ... handling the grind of travel in the NHL and of the (number of) games in the NHL and playing against bigger, stronger opposition. For every kid, that's an issue. But he knows he's going to be an NHL player all his life so I think mentally, he'll get adjusted to it. It's just about physically getting adjusted to it."

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