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Silfverberg's dream season about to hit new heights

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward prospect Jakob Silfverberg was the dominant player in Sweden's Elitserien this season, earning MVP honours for both the regular season and playoffs. His team, Brynas IF, won the league championship for the first time since 1999 (Photo by Matthew Healy/OSHC).

In almost every way possible, he is the toast of Swedish hockey.

Especially in his hometown of Gavle, where they are no doubt still celebrating the magical run by Brynas IF to its first Elitserien crown in more than a decade.

Indeed, Jakob Silfverberg could pack up his equipment for the summer and continue to bask in what had to rate as a dream season for any player in his homeland. Winner of the 'Golden Helmet' as regular-season MVP and the playoff MVP award, all of it for a Brynas squad that last ruled Sweden's top hockey league in 1999.

"It's huge," the 21-year-old Ottawa Senators prospect said of a title run that should make him a hometown hockey hero for years to come. "Everybody loves us there now and they're very happy for us. It's hockey fever in (that) town now and I was very glad to be a part of it."

But Silfverberg, a 6-1, 187-pound forward who broke Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson record for playoff goals by notching 13 this season, isn't done yet. He has crossed the pond and thrown himself into the middle of another city which is catching its own dose of playoff fever. And he's ready and willing to make an impact on the Senators' playoff drive.

"I'm very excited and happy to be here," a smiling Silfverberg said while surrounded by a crush of media in the Senators dressing room earlier today. "I had a great season at home and I'm very happy we ended up winning the championship. It's pretty great there, but now I'm happy to be here and looking forward to what's coming (next)."

Much as he enjoyed the dream season in Sweden, he knows it could get even better yet.

"It's a dream that I had as a child to play in the NHL," said Silfverberg, a second-round pick (39th overall) by the Senators in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. "I'm not there yet, but hopefully I get to play tonight. You never know. It's a dream come true to be here and I'm very happy and excited."

He arrived in Ottawa on Sunday afternoon, spent the night breaking bread and watching playoff hockey with fellow Swede Erik Karlsson, then turned in for a solid eight hours of sleep. It was a fresh Silfverberg who hit the ice at Scotiabank Place for the Senators' pre-game skate in advance of tonight's Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final against the New York Rangers (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200).

While Senators head coach Paul MacLean hadn't yet "formally decided" after the morning skate to insert him into the lineup, Silfverberg's 2011-12 hockey resume clearly had grabbed his attention.

"He's been the best player in Sweden," said MacLean, who is surely considering the addition of Silfverberg to the mix in a potential series clincher for the Senators. "MVP of the regular season, MVP of the playoffs. His team just won the Swedish Elite League and he was the best player. I like that."

Naturally, Silfverberg has already sought out the advice of the greatest Swede of them all in the Senators dressing room. And captain Daniel Alfredsson's words have already hit home.

"He was just saying enjoy my time here and not think too much about the game," Silfverberg said of their conversation during the pre-game skate. "Just try to be as positive as possible and have fun."

Last summer, Silfverberg was the standout player during the Senators' annual development camp that involves most of the organization's top prospects. While Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray tried to convince him he was already NHL-ready, Silfverberg believed he needed another season back in Sweden. He's convinced it was the right decision.

"When you look at it now, I'm very happy that I did go back," he said. "I've grown a lot, not only as a hockey player but as a person. It's been a big step for me in my maturation and I'm very happy I went home. I've got a lot of self-confidence from things that happened there."

Not that he ever could have imagined it turning out exactly the way it did.

"I felt we had a good team, if you looked at it on paper," said Silfverberg. "But it's not always (what you see) on paper that counts. You've got to work very hard and that's what we did. It paid off at the end and I stood there as a champion when the season ended.

"I'm happy that I stayed and I learned a lot. That it could be as good as it was ... I could never imagine that."

What he can imagine is carrying that success to Ottawa, both now and in the future.

"I have a lot of self-confidence and I hope to bring it over here and play the way I did at home," said Silfverberg. "But you never know. You've got to take it one day at a time and one game at a time. Hopefully, I can play here as I did at home ... I've got a lot of confidence from my coach (at Brynas). He believed in me the whole season, gave me a (top role) on the shifts and let me play a lot of power play. I got a lot of confidence from my coach and had very good teammates."

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