Hold the phone, Ottawa Senators fans.
Yes, Swedish prospect Jakob Silfverberg is flying here Sunday and will join the team at practice. Yet, it’s time to temper some of the hype suggesting that he’s the second coming of Daniel Alfredsson and that he will have an immediate impact on the opening round round series against the New York Rangers the moment he drapes a Senators sweater over his shoulders.
Silfverberg is fresh from winning MVP honours in the Swedish Elite League, in both the regular season and the playoffs, and he has spent the past couple of days celebrating the league title with his Brynas teammates.
He scored 24 goals and 30 assists in 49 regular season games and added another 13 goals and seven assists in 17 post-season games. No question, his success is a good sign for the future of the team, but there’s little guarantee he will see any game action at all in the current playoffs.
“I don’t know, we’re not there yet,” said Senators general manager Bryan Murray. “That’s not the intent right now. The intent is to bring him over and he’s just another player that’s here, another young player. That’s all.”
The adjustment to the NHL-sized ice from the larger international surface is no small one for a newcomer from Europe, regardless of his skill level. Senators fans don’t have to look too far back to remember that Swedish defenceman David Rundblad arrived here as a highly-touted prospect; a front-runner for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year who was named top defenceman in the SEL last season. Rundblad struggled to adapt early in the season before being traded to the Phoenix Coyotes for Kyle Turris.
Take it from Erik Karlsson, who had his own share of hiccups with the change before establishing himself as a standout NHL defenceman.
“The ice surface is a big difference and the way the game is played here is much more different than it is back home,” said Karlsson. “I don’t doubt that the skill over there is just as good as it is here. There are still a lot of good players playing in Europe, but there are small things that happen here that don’t happen over there and it’s all a matter of how fast you can adjust to it.”
“It’s a big, big difference. But it always helps if he comes here and feels good about himself and we will see what happens from there.”
Murray is also being careful to not overhype Silfverberg, who was originally drafted by the Senators in the second round (39th overall) of the 2009 entry draft, but he does suggest that the 21-year-old Swede would have made the team in training camp if he had opted to stay here.
In retrospect, Murray says Silfverberg made the right decision by playing another year at home.
The Senators are in control of where Silfverberg plays from now on, but if the Senators don’t advance to the second round, he will go back to play for Sweden at the world championships.
ZIBANEJAD TAKES A SEAT
The Senators have also shut down fellow Swedish prospect Mika Zibanejad, who suffered a concussion while practicing with the Binghamton Senators last week. Zibanejad, who practiced in Ottawa on the eve of the playoffs, was expected to play in Binghamton’s final two regular season games last weekend, but collided with a teammate at practice.