Two-way threat: Rydstrom a weapon at both ends of ice for Islanders

Jason Malloy
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Filip Rydstrom is bringing a lot to the table in his second season with the Charlottetown Islanders.

The 19-year-old Swedish centre has nearly doubled last year's point total through the same number of games while remaining one of the team's most reliable players in his own zone.

"He's a big body and when he's banging and crashing he's very effective," head coach Jim Hulton said Thursday.

While his defensive game was known from last season, Rydstrom has shown the ability to chip in more offence this season.

He has 15 goals and 22 assists in 48 games.

He has played on the power play and centred the top line for stretches of the season following Kameron Kielly's injury and Filip Chlapik's trip to the world junior championship.

"When Kam got injured and Chlap was gone for a while (the staff) told me you have a chance here to prove yourself and I did my best," Rydstrom said.

He pointed to feeling more comfortable on and off the ice in Year 2 in Canada for the improved productivity, but also seeing more ice time.

"He really blossomed this year, and I think a lot has to do with his confidence," Hulton said. "He carried us for a long stretch of time."

A component of Rydstrom's game that makes him so valuable to the Isles is his prowess in the faceoff circle.

The centre has won 519 of his 886 draws (58.6 per cent).

"He's arguable one of the top-five faceoff guys in the league," Hulton said. "It's a hidden element that a lot of fans may not appreciate, but coaches sure do because possession is everything in our game."

Rydstrom takes pride when he skates into the circle.

"I think it's a really important part of hockey," he said.

He wasn't tipping his hand to the secret of his success other than attributing it to a lot of practice and working with centres like Kielly.

Rydstrom has skated with a variety of wingers this season. Lately it has been Oliver Cooper and Bradley Kennedy.

The coaching staff envisions it being a line that can grind teams down low, similar to how Rydstrom, Cooper and Ross Johnston did last season.

Cooper said Rydstrom is a key component to the Islanders lineup.

"He's a guy we rely on to shut other team's top lines down," he said. "We're lucky to have him."

The line will likely see one of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's top lines tonight when the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles come to town for a 7 p.m. contest at the Eastlink Centre. The teams also play Saturday at 7 p.m. in Charlottetown.

The Screaming Eagles have scored 196 goals, the fourth most in the league. They have snipers like Evgeny Svechnikov, Maxim Lazarev, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Michael Joly, Clark Bishop and Massimo Carozza.

"This is a good test this weekend because we don't want to start trading rushes with the high-powered offence of Cape Breton," Hulton said.

It was not known Thursday if Dubois would be available tonight after playing in the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospect Game in Vancouver.

The Islanders (19-22-5-2) are chasing the Screaming Eagles (24-20-4-1) and know they have to take care of business in the head-to-head meetings if they want to catch their division rival.

Rydstrom is looking for to this weekend's game and noted his parents are in town to see the games. They were at Thursday's practice.

Organizations: Islanders, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Eastlink Centre BMO CHL NHL

Geographic location: Canada, Charlottetown, Cape Breton Vancouver

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