Ottawa Senators boast gritty and skilled group at minor-league level

By John Henkelman
Photo: In his first season of North American professional hockey, goaltending prospect Robin Lehner has shown a great deal of poise. The Swede is currently representing his country in the 2011 WJCs. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The Ottawa Senators‘ organization had made a commitment to improve the development of their prospects in the minor pros and now have a number of their higher-end prospects playing for their AHL team in Binghamton. Looking to return the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time since 2004-2005, the Baby Sens are presently receiving key contributions from many of their prospects.


AHL

Bobby Butler, RW, 23

This highly sought after college free-agent signee has not disappointed with his dynamite shot, natural goal-scoring ability, great offensive instincts and impressive play in his own end. The sizzling start to his season led to a brief call-up to Ottawa in early December and he continues to lead the AHL in rookie goal-scoring including five game-winning goals among his tallies. Strength and making quicker decisions with the puck will be the keys for him to work on to strive for his next NHL opportunity.

Erik Condra, RW, 24

Last season’s top scoring rookie in Binghamton is continuing to build his offensive resume scoring points with his great skating and excellent passing skills. While there is room for improvement in his defensive game and play along the boards, Condra is also contributing as the top plus player on the Baby Sens. He could stand to get stronger on the puck but is making the most of his opportunities and could very well be fighting for a spot on the big club next season.


Kaspars Daugavins, LW, 22

To say Daugavins has not had a good start this season would be very accurate. His effort level has not been where it needs to be and he’s been passed by many other players on the depth chart, sitting out games as a healthy scratch. While not without offensive skills he still needs to shoot more and make this most of this season which incidentally is the last year of his entry-level contract.

Colin Greening, LW, 24

A natural center, Greening has slid nicely into the left wing spot on a line with Corey Locke and Bobby Butler playing physically and consistently winning puck battles in his first year in the pro ranks. Relying on his skating, determination and slap shot to contribute offensively, improved puck-handling and better offensive vision is needed for him to take the next step in his development.


Jim O’Brien, C, 21

The most improved prospect playing with the Baby Sens this season, O’Brien is giving the organization a reason to believe their former 1st round pick can return the value they expected when drafting him in 2007. One of their leading plus minus players, he’s contributing in all zones this season with his scoring prowess, defensive-play and continued success in the face-off circle.

Zack Smith, C, 22

After starting the season in Ottawa, Smith has been up and down a couple of times as he fine tunes his offensive game and continues with the gritty play and toughness we have now come to expect. He leads by example with his work ethic and drives to the net in the offensive zone when possible. At this point he’s the likely first call-up for a bottom-six forward role with the big club.

Roman Wick, LW, 24

As expected Wick underwent a period of adjustment to the play in the AHL and is now starting to find his game with 13 points in his last 21 games. Surprisingly he appears to have found somewhat of a physical component in his game and has developed some nice chemistry playing mostly on a line with Jim O’Brien and Erik Condra.

David Dziurzynski, C, 21

This season has been a work in progress so far for this potential power forward. The jump from the CJHL to the AHL was expected to present Dziurzynski with a steep learning curve and it has. Although his recent play has improved and he is a key face-off man, his development from a raw, unrefined player will need to continue for him to have a future as a genuine prospect.

Mike Hoffman, RW/LW, 21

The transition to the pros has been a challenge so far for this gifted stick-handler who also boasts a great shot. While he adjusts to the higher-level of competition and fights for playing minutes he needs to focus on improving his game all-round – better defensive presence, determination to get to the dirty areas and getting stronger both on and off the puck.

Jason Bailey, RW, 23

The 2010-11 campaign has not exactly been a good one for Bailey who’s become a healthy scratch on many nights and has contributed little offensively, with his defensive play average at best. He’s been given little time to showcase his best attributes – his work ethic and puck-handling – as he’s been passed on the depth chart by prospects with more upside and skill.

Eric Gryba, D, 22

A defensive kingpin, Gryba is starting to get his game going after an initial adjustment period from playing at the college level. With his ever improving coverage in the defensive zone, to dishing out big hits and a willingness to drop his gloves as needed, he’s beginning to make his mark on this team playing on a pairing with Geoff Kinrade. So far this season Gryba has dropped the gloves five times, including a bout with Flyers prospect Marc-Andre Bourdon.

Craig Schira, D, 22

One of five Saskatchewan natives on the squad, Shira is still developing his pro game and learning much offensively from his defensive partner Andre Benoit. With room to improve in all aspects of his game, he has consistently demonstrated good decision-making and positioning.

Patrick Wiercioch, D, 20

Lik
e many young prospects Wiercioch has found the jump to the pro ranks a challenge while playing each game against bigger, more highly-skilled players than he had dominated previously. A minus-10 so far, he’ll need to use the remainder of the season to build his confidence and display the fine offensive skill-set he has.

Geoff Kinrade, D, 25

A bit older and more mature than the other defensive prospects on the Baby Sens, Kinrade is easily the best skater of the group. His offensive contributions both even-strength and on the power-play have been welcome. Strength and intensity are the two main things that he needs to improve.

Robin Lehner, G, 19

The future appears to be bright for this big, skilled, confident goaltender. This Swede has had a quietly good first pro season and will get an opportunity to play for his country in the upcoming WJC in Buffalo. He’s played in ten games with Binghamton and two in Ottawa so far this season acclimating himself very well to the pro game. While Barry Brust remains the starter with the Baby Sens based on his stellar play, Lehner has been brilliant in some of his games as he works on his overall consistency and overall concentration while playing against mostly men. With the Baby Sens, Lehner has a 3-5-1 record, a 2.69 goals against average, and a .913 save percentage.


ECHL

Corey Cowick, LW, 21

Another prospect who has struggled to keep up with the pro game, Cowick is now playing with Elmira after one game and fight with Binghamton. A physical, tough player with fine talent as a junior, he needs find his game as he’s done little with the Jackals up to this point in the season.

Andrew Sweetland, LW/RW, 24

This big forward has had a good start to his season with fifteen goals to date with Elmira. Sweetland will need to improve his skating and continue to score for an opportunity at the next level.

Related Articles