David Rundblad is, by all means, a good hockey player.
The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman is comfortable carrying the puck and is more than capable of making a good first pass out of the defensive zone. He’s a decent skater, and at a height of 6’2″ he has enough size to not be overly disadvantaged by the physical rigors of the NHL game. Sure, he’s only appeared in five games so far this season due to being a regular healthy scratch, but Rundblad is still good enough to play at the sport’s highest level.
What Rundblad isn’t, however, is a hockey player as good as Vladimir Tarasenko or Kyle Turris.
While that might seem like a completely unfair comparison at first glance (most players in the NHL aren’t as good as Tarasenko or Turris, two of the league’s brightest young forwards), it becomes oddly relevant when you realize that Rundblad was involved in separate deals involving both players. While Rundblad’s strange trade history hasn’t quite reached Viktor Kozlov territory, it’s coming pretty darn close.
Rundblad was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the first round, 17th overall, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft after a strong draft-eligible season in the Swedish Elite League. He was signed to an entry-level contract by the Blues a year later on June 10th, 2010, but in a very surprising move was then traded just over two weeks later at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft on June 25th, going to the Ottawa Senators for the 16th overall selection that year. It’s quite rare to see first round draft choices traded so soon after their draft day, but it is especially uncommon to see them get moved in exchange for a different pick. The Blues clearly thought at the time that the player that they could grab at 16th would end up being better than what they had in Rundblad.
That player, of course, turned out to be Tarasenko, who is now one of the league’s top superstars. He scored 37 goals last season, many of them of the highlight reel variety:
Rundblad’s time in the Senators organization wouldn’t last much longer than his time with the Blues did. He played one more full year in Sweden in 2010-11 before coming over to North America for 2011-12, suiting up for just 24 disappointing games with Ottawa before they shipped him off to the Phoenix Coyotes, along with a second round pick, in exchange for the center Turris.
The Senators at the time were in desperate need of a second line center behind Jason Spezza and decided to take a gamble on Turris, a former 3rd overall draft choice himself but a player that was going through a rocky relationship with the Coyotes. It turned out to be a brilliant move for Ottawa in the long run, as Turris kept improving his game and has now emerged as a legitimate first line center for the Sens. He has 20 points in 23 games so far this season, and at just 26 years of age he still has a lot of good years of hockey left in him.
As for Rundblad’s time with the Coyotes? Once again, disappointing at best. He dressed for a combined 26 games for Phoenix split over three years, spending most of his time with the AHL’s Portland Pirates. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the second rounder that the Coyotes also received from Ottawa was later traded in a package for Antoine Vermette, who had a lot more success with the team.
On March 14th, 2014, Rundblad was traded for the third time in his young career, going to the Blackhawks in exchange for another second round pick. That pick was used by the Coyotes in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft to select forward Christian Dvorak.
Surely Dvorak can’t be so good that he would make it the third time that Rundblad was traded for a lopsided return, right? Well…
While it’s still far too early to put the 19 year-old Dvorak in the same category as star players like Tarasenko and Turris, his ongoing junior career is pretty impressive. He scored 109 points in 66 games last season for the OHL’s London Knights, and has 45 in 21 games for them so far this year. Coyotes writers are already getting pretty excited about him as well, so it certainly seems like he has the potential to be something special.
Now, it should be mentioned that Rundblad himself probably doesn’t mind his odd trade history all that much. After all, he won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks just this past year, something that the overwhelming majority of hockey players never get to do, including Tarasenko and Turris so far.
But if your favourite team ends up trading a 5th round draft choice for Rundblad at this year’s trade deadline, well, you might still want to keep an eye on that player out of morbid curiosity.