Even before he came to North America, David Rundblad already had some precious hockey souvenirs: sweaters from the two world junior championships he played in for his native Sweden, the puck from the first goal he scored in the Swedish Elite League, you get the idea.
But the puck he got Sunday night when he scored his first NHL goal is now the most precious item on the shelf.
No contest. “This one is special because it’s the one I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid,” he said Tuesday morning. “It was sure a relief to finally score.”
With any luck, it will also be the goal that ignites his NHL season, which, to this point, has been one of stops and starts. Maybe more stops than starts.
In Sweden last season, Rundblad was the Elite League’s most-celebrated defencemen. In Ottawa, he’s locked in a tug of war with Brian Lee for the No. 6 spot on defence and for playing time.
That has left both players just hoping to get into the lineup.
Rundblad has played 14 games and been scratched in nine. Lee has played 11 and been scratched in 12. For Tuesday’s game against the Jets, Rundblad was going to play No. 15 and Lee was going to sit for No. 13.
While it’s tough to offer a detailed progress report on a player who has been in and out of the lineup, coach Paul MacLean says he can see signs that Rundblad is feeling more comfortable and gaining confidence.
“I think that was displayed the other night with the confidence he had after missing (the previous five games),” MacLean said. “Just because you’re not playing doesn’t mean you don’t learn about the league and what’s going on, so I think he’s used his time wisely.”