USA TODAY Sports
Jakob Silfverberg looked like he was ready for NHL action last season, but elected to return to Sweden for another year. It looks to have been a wise decision, as the extra year of experience gave him the confidence and maturity to step into two new situations this year--one in the AHL, the next in the NHL--and to grab hold of the opportunities presented to him.
It looks like the 2009 NHL Entry Draft might end up being among the most important in Ottawa Senators history.
In the first round the team drafted shutdown defender Jared Cowen, who Dave talked about yesterday. In the second round, Ottawa drafted someone who will make an appearance later in the countdown (bonus points for correct guesses in the comments), and the player I'm going to talk about right now: Jakob Silfverberg.
Although he's not being talking about in Calder Trophy discussions, Silfverberg came into the NHL as the most decorated rookie, bringing SEL MVP and SEL playoff MVP honours and an Elitserien championship from last season with Brynas. So it's fair to say that he's pretty far advanced in his development.
Due to the lockout, Silfverberg started the season with the Binghamton Senators. Despite scoring a goal in his first AHL game, Silfverberg started slowly, with just 4P in his first 10GP. Silfverberg himself attributed that to the challenges of getting used to North American style and size of the rink, though, and his skill shined through after a couple of months. In December, Silfverberg went on a tear, including a seven-game point streak where he scored 10P (6G, 4A). His production cooled off a bit in January, but by the time the NHL season began he'd scored 29P (13G, 16A) in 34GP, which still leads the team in scoring despite the fact that he hasn't played there in a month.
His play followed a similar arc in Ottawa, as well, with Silfverberg scoring just one point (a goal) in his first eight games as he seemed to be focusing on simple tasks in order to gain confidence and comfort playing in the world's best league. And it seems like that confidence is growing: He has two points in his last four games, but has looked very strong deep in the defensive and offensive zone, bringing to mind the play of guys like Magnus Arvedson and, to an extent, Marian Hossa. He's a strong, fast, defensively responsible player who may not have the best hands, but he's shown a willingness to fight puck battles and has a wicked shot.
As the season progresses, Silfverberg will be counted on to provide a bit more offence, because Jason Spezza's injury has increased the workload for everyone. One quick way of increasing his production is shooting more. Although Silfverberg is currently fourth on the team in shots taken, he needs to take advantage of his greatest asset--his quick release--to really start producing regularly.
Silfverberg has all the ingredients necessary to become a very good NHL player. He's got good size and an ability to use that to protect the puck; good defensive awareness to make him popular with teammates (especially goalies) and coaches; a rocket of a shot that's already very good even by NHL standards; good speed; a good mind for and understanding of the flow of the game; and good vision to see where his linemates are on the ice. It might take until next season or the year after for him to really put it all together, but not every prospect is as quick to develop as Erik Karlsson. I fully expect Silfverberg to become a very reliable and consistent offensive producer for the Senators, and it sure looks like he's well on his way.