The Ottawa Senators had seven prospects playing junior hockey this year, in six different leagues.
Jared Cowen, D – Spokane Chiefs
Acquired: first round, 9th overall, 2009
Cowen is one of a handful of prospects the Senators brought in to get a taste of playoff life, even if it’s a short one. The 6’5”, 220-pounder made his NHL debut in Tampa Bay. A two-year wait until a permanent NHL job might be realistic, as the offensive side of Cowen’s game really isn’t progressing. He had eight goals and 30 points in 59 games after posting seven goals, 21 assists in 38 games last season, a slight step back in points per game. He was also considered a disappointment at the World Junior Championship, where speedy forwards were able to expose him to the outside, and he wasn’t counted on for important minutes. However, critics often ignore that he’s just 18 and was returning from reconstructive surgery on his right knee. The fact that he put in a solid full season on the knee alone is a good sign. Expect more improvement next year, and possibly even a long early-season look with the Sens before Cowen stars for Spokane and the Canadian World Junior team in 2011.
Robin Lehner, G – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Acquired: 2nd round, 46th overall, 2009
Lehner is Ottawa’s goalie of the future, and also got a taste of pro this season, winning a pair of starts in Binghamton after an outstanding junior debut with the Greyhounds. After being taken ninth overall in the CHL Import Draft, Lehner went on to share the most valuable player award in Sault Ste. Marie. Lehner finished third in the OHL with a .918 save percentage and eighth with a 2.80 goals-against average. He was the CHL goaltender of the week twice, OHL goaltender of the month once and was selected to the OHL All-Star Game. He racked up five shutouts, besting ex-Sen Ray Emery’s previous Greyhounds record. Lehner, listed at 6’4”, 224 pounds, needs to watch his weight to progress as a pro. Although he’s eligible to play in the AHL as a 19-year-old next season because he was drafted out of Europe, Lehner is likely to be back with the Greyhounds for another year of seasoning.
Corey Cowick, LW – Ottawa 67’s
Acquired: 6th round, 160th overall, 2009
Cowick is already in Ottawa starring for the local junior squad, where he put a strong finish on a tough 20-year-old season. Cowick was supposed to make a major impact in his overage year, but was limited to just 27 games after sustaining a shoulder injury in pre-season that kept him out until January. The 6’2”, 205-pounder continued his scoring ways upon his return, tallying 15 goals and 21 points in 27 games. He added 9-3-12 totals in 12 playoff contests, to go with 27 penalty minutes as Ottawa took league finalist Mississauga to seven games. Cowick is likely to sign in the coming days and be ticketed for Binghamton next season, where he’ll look to establish himself as a power forward at the next level.
Mike Hoffman, C – Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 5th round, 130th overall, 2009
Hoffman is another likely signee, although he and the Sea Dogs still have a playoff run to take care of. Selected QMJHL most valuable player after helping Saint John to its first ever first overall finish, the skilled center is establishing himself as a player with a legitimate pro future. Coach Gerard Gallant has compared Hoffman’s shot to Brett Hull’s, and he can also set up teammates, skate like the wind and kill penalties. Hoffman racked up 46 goals (third in the QMJHL) and 85 points (seventh) in 56 games for Saint John, and had four goals and 10 points in nine games through the first two rounds of playoffs. At 6’, 175 pounds, Hoffman might need to beef up a bit and make other adjustments to the pro game. But he has the skills of a top-six NHL forward and will look to continue developing as a 21-year-old next year at Binghamton.
David Dziurzynski, F – Alberni Valley Bulldogs
Acquired: Free agent, 2010
New to the stable of Senators prospects, the 20-year-old was a bit of a surprise signee straight out of the BCHL. Rather than allow the skilled forward to play a year of NCAA and attract more attention, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray snapped the overager up on a three-year entry-level deal and will hope to watch him develop at Binghamton. The playmaker tallied 21 goals, 74 points and 79 penalty minutes in 57 games, then added nine goals and 19 points in 13 playoff games. The 6’3”, 205-pound Dziurzynski also played two seasons in the Alberta Junior League, where he once amassed 185 penalty minutes in 54 games. His mix of toughness and skill should bring an intriguing ingredient to the Binghamton lineup next season.
Jeff Costello, LW – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Acquired: 5th round, 146th overall, 2009
The captain in Cedar Rapids is off to Notre Dame next season after two campaigns in the USHL. He tallied 29 goals and 48 points in 54 games, building on his totals of as a rookie. He tied for sixth in the league in goals, fifth in power-play goals (11), and sat second on his team in plus-minus (plus-18), and third in points. Costello also grew increasingly comfortable with the physical game, more than doubling his penalty minute total to 149. The 5’11”, 202-pounder will be a 20-year-old freshman next season. Costello will need to round out his overall game which is not as advanced as others his age.
Brad Peltz, LW – Boston Jr. Bruins
Acquired: 7th round, 190th overall, 2009
The son of billionaire Nelson Peltz is a bit of a mystery. The Sens drafted him after he missed an entire season with an infection. He then ended up playing in the EJHL as a 20-year-old, with a commitment to make the jump to Yale University next season. Peltz, listed at 6’1”, 175 pounds, had 19 goals and 34 points in 45 games with the Jr. Bruins. Don’t expect to see him in Ottawa any time soon.