Not that David Rundblad imagined it turning out that way a year ago.
The ink had barely dried on his first National Hockey League contract with the St. Louis Blues when he received word he’d be moving to a team north of the border — a North American border, that is.
Now it’s the Senators — who sent their first-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft for the Blues to acquire Rundblad — that are ready to reap the benefits of the skills owned by the native of Lycksele, Sweden.
“At first I was very surprised,” Rundblad, the 17th overall selection in the 2009 entry draft, said about the trade “But now I feel very good about it. Ottawa is a good team and a good organization, and this is a good opportunity for me.”
In the eyes of Senators hockey management, that opportunity is right around the corner. Pierre Dorion, the team’s director of player personnel, returned home from a recent scouting trip to Sweden convinced that the 6-2, 189-pound Rundblad can make an impact in Ottawa next season.
“He will play for us (in Ottawa) next year and his impact will depend on how much stronger he gets over the course of the summer,” said Dorion. “I met with him and I told him ‘you have nothing more to prove here. All you’ve got to do is bring a championship to your team (in Sweden) and after that, you’re going to be an Ottawa Senator.’”
Rundblad is in his third season with Skelleftea HC of the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien) and has emerged as an elite defencemen. As a 20-year-old, he is the SEL’s leading defensive scorer with 44 points, including 10 goals, and currently ranks third in overall league scoring.
“David is a puck-moving defenceman,” said Dorion. “His strengths are his poise, hockey sense, and skill level — his passing, his ability to join the rush, create offence from the back end and get the shot on net.”
The possibility of suiting up in Ottawa next season excites Rundblad, who has spent little time across the pond in North America.
“I’ve played in two world junior championships here (2009 in Ottawa and 2010 in Saskatchewan), so I’ve maybe spent two months total (in North America).
“I played with many (of the Swedish players) on the national team. I played with Erik (current Senators defenceman Karlsson), so I know him well. He is a good guy and a skilled player. I like the way he plays.”
“He will play for us (in Ottawa) next year and his impact will depend on how much stronger he gets over the course of the summer. “I met with him and I told him ‘you have nothing more to prove here. All you’ve got to do is bring a championship to your team (in Sweden) and after that, you’re going to be an Ottawa Senator.’” - Pierre Dorion
With his offensive finesse, Rundblad has already earned comparisons to the Senators’ all-star defenceman, who also spent his junior years developing in Sweden. Karlsson, along with the Senators’ Swedish-born captain Daniel Alfredsson
, played with Frolunda HC in Goteborg before coming to Ottawa.
“Yes, I would say we are similar players,” Karlsson said when asked about the Rundblad comparisons. “He’s a very good offensive (player), and I think he’s improved his defensive game a lot too … he’s a guy that contributes in a lot of ways.”
Just as his predecessors, Rundblad will need to accustom himself to the NHL’s smaller rink size, faster pace and more intense style of play.
“He will have to get stronger to maintain a higher pace throughout the game,” said Dorion. “NHL players are probably more consistently strong than players in the Swedish Elite League so in his ability to defend, he’ll have to use his body more, which will require more strength.”
The quality ice time — particularly his time on the power-play unit — given to Rundblad by Skelleftea head coach Anders Forsberg, a former Senators scout, has allowed him to develop as a player, and he continues to exude a quiet confidence that has kept him at the top of his game.
“I don’t talk too much in the locker room,” said Rundblad. “My teammates would say I’m a quiet guy.… I just want to work hard and always stay humble.”
Rundblad is eagerly anticipating the opportunity that awaits him with the Senators next season.
“Of course I’m a little bit nervous, but it’s a challenge and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “I’m ready to take the next step.”
Senators management is equally anxious to get their prized prodigy on the ice.
“I think we have expectations that he’ll contribute and help us win,” said Dorion. “When he’s in control of the puck, good things will happen. He’s just going to help us be a much better team next year.”