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Silfverberg on track for big future with Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Jakob Silfverberg is delaying his NHL debut for another year and will return to Brynas of the Swedish Elite League (Ottawa Senators photo).

Jakob Silfverberg isn't quite convinced his time is at hand.

Even if others in the Ottawa Senators organization can't wait to find a spot for him in the National Hockey League team's lineup.

"I am as sure of him being an NHL player as anyone in this organization," said Pierre Dorion, the Senators' director of player personnel, who raves about the Swedish winger's game and the impact it'll have when Silfverberg makes his Ottawa debut. "I can tell you this guy is an NHL hockey player. He plays a north-south game, he's strong down low, he's got good skills and good (hockey) sense.

"He can play the power play, but he also plays the penalty kill. He's a versatile player. For a European, he competes, he's strong on the puck and shoots it well."

But Silfverberg, who led Brynas IF Gavle with 18 goals in 53 games last season, believes he needs one more season with his Swedish Elite League team to prepare himself to make the jump to the NHL. So the 20-year-old winger will delay his move to North America for one more year.

"I feel like, for myself, that I need to get bigger and stronger, and better in every aspect of the game," said Silfverberg. a second-round pick (39th overall) by the Senators in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. "The Swedish Elite League is a very good league for development, so another year there and then I'll come over and try to make the team."

Dorion can point specifically to the one thing that will be a difference maker for Silfverberg, who's taking part in his third Senators development camp this week.

"The one thing that's got to pick up is his quickness off the mark," he said. "If he can work on that ... that'll determine where he plays in the NHL. If that quickness off the mark can be just a tad better, he's a top-two line player. If not, he's a third-line player."

The 6-1, 187-pound Silfverberg is aware of all of that and considers it a priority in terms of his development in the season ahead.

"I'd like to improve every aspect of my game but, in particular, I think my skating can be better," he said. "And also, my stickhandling. I'll focus a little more of that and try to make that stuff better."

Silfverberg got a sense of what it'll take to compete at the NHL level in early May, when he represented Sweden at the 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championship in Slovakia. The Swedes rolled through the tournament until the gold-medal game, when Scandinavian rival Finland scored a shocking 6-1 triumph.

"When the season started, I wouldn't have even imagined making the world championship team," said Silfverberg, who made his worlds debut in Slovakia. "But I tried to work hard and ended up on the (Swedish) team and I was very happy about that. It was a great experience.

"The first couple of games were pretty tough. You felt a lot of cross-checks and stuff like that. But the longer the tournament went, the more you got used to it. I think I managed to keep up pretty well at the end of games ... when you look back, a world championship silver is very good and I'm happy about that. Right after the final, it was kind of hard, but that's how it is."

Since he made a scouting trip to Sweden earlier this year, Dorion has been convinced that another Swede, defenceman David Rundblad, is ready to make the jump to the Senators and the NHL. But Silfverberg provided an eye opener, too.

"When I came back from my trip in February, I was really excited about David Rundblad because of the offensive upside," he said. "But I was also really excited about the hockey player Jakob Silfverberg can become ... He took just a huge stride forward last year toward becoming an NHL player. He's really close to the NHL."

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