Ottawa Senators continue to stockpile size and skill at minor-league level

By John Henkelman
Photo: Stephane Da Costa is among the most talented players playing for the Senators AHL affiliate in Binghamton. Da Costa is expected to develop into a top-nine forward at the NHL level over the next several seasons. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

As the defending AHL champions, the Binghamton Senators were expected to build on their success and continue to develop prospects in a winning atmosphere. The playoff roster graduated a number of players and the new prospects assimilated in the lineup have not played consistently well enough. This has led to a 14-20-1-1 team record after 36 games which has them in last place in the East Division.

The Elmira Jackals have fared better currently sitting in first place in the Atlantic Division of the ECHL with a 20-11 record in 31 games so far this season.


AHL

Pat Cannone , C, 25

The Ottawa Senators have a solid prospect in the 5’11 192-pound Cannone who’s signing may have flown under the radar as he was overshadowed by teammates Andy Miele (PHX) and Carter Camper (BOS) for much of his collegiate career at Miami (Ohio). The Bayport, NY native has good offensive upside, plays a responsible two-way game and has slid nicely into the Baby Sens lineup contributing eight goals and 13 assists in 36 games so far – tied for first on the team.

Corey Cowick, LW, 22

Cowick is a classic crash and bang winger through and through. After a rough initiation to pro hockey last season where he split time with Binghamton and Elmira, he’s earned a position with the Baby Sens this time. The Ottawa 67’s alum has contributed three goals and five assists along with his trademark physical play. In order to make it to the next level he’ll have to refine the elements that make him effective in his role, play with discipline and look to sharpen his puck skills.

Stephane Da Costa, C, 22

After initially making the NHL squad after training camp broke, Da Costa was recently sent down to the Baby Sens to get some playing time and the opportunity to further develop. The silky-smooth center has responded with 15 points in his first 15 AHL games including his first pro hat trick and will get considerable power-play time and an opportunity to play with wingers who can capitalize on his offensive creativity. While he posted five points in 22 games with Ottawa, he was held pointless in six consecutive games in November. More quick than fast, there is optimism he’ll be able to earn a permanent spot with the big club with his excellent puck skills and ability to make things happen with his offense. At this point the 5’11 180-pound native of Paris, France needs to get stronger to be more effective.

Kaspars Daugavins, LW, 23

Daugavins has made the most of this, his fourth season of professional hockey. The offensive winger has effectively made use of his puck skills and is finding the score sheet on a consistent basis. After a 4-2-6 start in seven games with Binghamton, he was promoted to Ottawa where he’s showcased his offensive instincts, excellent skating and ability to read the play. Playing with a number of linemates the Riga, Latvia native has produced three goals and four assists in 31 NHL games this season and is making a case for himself to stay with the big club.

David Dziurzynski, RW, 22

Considered a work in progress from the time he was signed, the 6’3 205-pound power-forward the nice size, toughness and soft hands who made the jump for Tier II junior hockey in the BCHL to Binghamton last season is still exactly that. His second season with the Baby Sens began with him being challenged for ice time and producing only two assists in the first 17 games. Since then he’s added seven points including two goals in the last 15 games he’s played although he missed a few games recently with concussion symptoms. With a number players currently injured on the Baby Sens he should have an opportunity to play additional minutes.

Nikita Filatov, LW, 21

The enigmatic Russian made an impact on the Senators organization in a short time showing some moments of the tantalizing talent countered with underwhelming performances where he did not met expectations. This season he looked good with the Baby Sens producing seven goals and five assists in 15 games with a positive plus-three rating and one assist in nine games played in the NHL with Ottawa. After not seeing much ice with the big club he balked at being sent down again to the Baby Sens and opted rather to play for CSKA Moscow in the KHL.

Derek Grant, C/RW, 21

Looking to make an impact with the organization after turning pro and signing an entry-level contract after his sophomore season, the 6’3 190-pound former MSU Spartan offers an intriguing package of size, skills, hockey sense, and work ethic. He’s able to handle the puck well and can make plays in traffic. Grant showcased his deceptive speed and had an outstanding rookie tournament which further endeared him to the organization. Although he uses his size effectively, increased strength and more attention to physical play would go a long way to developing his game. He has 12 points through 22 games so far.


Maxime Gratchev
, LW, 23

Back for a second go-around with the Senators organization, the tenacious Gratchev offers a good two-way game to go along with his strong work ethic. The native of Russia has a quick release to his accurate shot and exhibits good offensive instincts. The challenge for him has been to translate his scoring instincts into points at the AHL level where he’s been scoreless so far this season. This season he’s split time between Elmira and Binghamton while working on his strength and positioning. More quick than fast, he needs to make better decisions with the puck and improve his all-around awareness when he returns from an ankle injury.

Wacey Hamilton, C/RW, 21

His first pro season has been challenge so far for the ultra-competitive Hamilton. Playing mainly on the fourth line in an energy role, the 5’10 170-pound native of Cochrane, Alberta has chipped in with two goals and two assist to go with his 32 PIM this season to date. His signature game is playing on the edge, using his speed and aggressiveness to set the tone. A fan favorite, he will need to emphasize his defensive awareness as evidenced by his minus-nine rating and look to get stronger to play his game effectively.


Mike Hoffman
, LW, 22

Expected to be one of the offensive catalysts for the Baby Sens this season, Hoffman has produced a decent campaign to date and is now skating on the third-line and playing some point on the power-play. The slick puck-handler has nine goals and eleven assists in 36 games to rank third in team scoring however his minus-six rating identifies where his two-way game sits. There is no denying the offensive skill set he brings and the desire appears to be there. More attention to defensive responsibilities and increasing his strength will be important factors in the former QMJHL MVP’s continued development. Hoffman received a one-game call-up recently and made his NHL debut versus Carolina.

Jim O’Brien, C, 22

Third-year Baby Sen O’Brien continues to make steady progress and play his strong two-way game. With ruggedness and determination that inspires his teammates, the power-forward has taken on a defensive role this season, tasked with shutting down the opposition’s top scoring line while being groomed as a potential checking line center for Ottawa. A straight line player, the Baby Sens alternate captain needs to continue to work on elements of his offensive game. Currently sidelined with a foot injury, the team will look forward to his return to the lineup, specifically his faceoff prowess.


Andre Petersson
, RW, 21

Petersson is making the transition to the North American sized ice surface this season and has had mostly favorable results so far in this stage of his development. The dynamic winger is tied for the Baby Sens team lead in goals with eight and with six helpers and a solid plus-three rating. The biggest hurdle he faces is size-related as to how his 5’9 169-pound body will hold up to the rigors of playing against physical opponents game in game out. He’ll amaze at times with his puck-handling and speed on the perimeter and definitely has a goal scorer’s mentality. Areas requiring improvement are strength, positional play specifically in the neutral/defensive zones and a tempered individualistic mindset when possessing the puck.

Mark Borowiecki, D, 22

Half of Binghamton’s top defensive pairing, Borowiecki is a mature, physical presence on and off the ice. The 6’1 198-pound rearguard has a two goals and nine assists this campaign to date and is a steadying influence on the team and makes good decisions mostly in all zones. A native of Kanata, ON he grew up very close to the Senators home Scotiabank Place and is positioning himself for a call-up potentially yet this season with his stellar play.

Eric Gryba, D, 23

The Baby Sens rookie of the year last season has continued this season where he left off the last one – providing leadership, toughness and a solid defensive play in his own end. The 6’3 214-pound Boston U grad has already matched his point total of last year with two goals and five assists so far. Gryba still needs to improve his agility and work on his lower body strength but is showing better discipline and making good first-passes out of the zone. The organization has him pegged as a potential third-pairing or seventh defenseman in Ottawa down the road.


Craig Schira
, D, 23

Schira is playing his third season now with the Baby Sens and has played primarily on the second and third pairing. A good puck-handling defenseman with solid passing ability, he is a depth defenseman in the Senators system as his skating, strength and positioning are average at best. The 6′ 196-pound native of Saskatchewan is a team player and has taken on any role asked of him.

Patrick Wiercioch, D, 21

Now into his second year of professional hockey, the 6’4 192-pound Burnaby, BC two-way defenseman has taken on a larger offensive role with the Baby Sens this season while leading their back liners in scoring with two goals and ten assists in 26 games. His minus-eight rating is proof there is still work required in the defensive and transition games where strength and decision-marking need improvement. Wiercioch’s ability to carry the puck, jump into the rush to create offensive mismatches and play the point effectively set him apart from the other rearguards in Binghamton. He’s been recently sidelined after being hit in the throat with a puck and his return timetable is still unknown at this point.

Robin Lehner, G, 20

Lehner is the starter in Binghamton this season and continues to make progress in his development. Coming off AHL playoff MVP honors, he’s working on the finer points of his game – rebound control, positioning and consistency – as he continues to showcase his talents. With good quickness and mobility for his 6’4 220-pound frame, he’s posted a 3.10 goals against average, a .910 save percentage and deserved better than his 6-12-1 record in the 19 games he’s played with the Baby Sens at this point in the season. He has also missed some time with an upper-body injury. Look for him to make a few more appearances with Ottawa this season where he’s already played one game – a win versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

ECHL

Jack Downing, F, 22

College free-agent signee Downing is a first-year pro power forward who offers a physical game with his size and has an excellent shot and a good skating stride. The former UV Catamount assistant captain has split this season between Elmira and Binghamton and needs to gain confidence and work on his skating agility at this point. At 6’3 200-pounds, he has good size and has produced eight goals and six assists in 18 ECHL games but only one assist in 14 games he’s suited up with the Baby Sens. The desire and skills are there now its up to him to put all together and take his game to the next level.


Louie Caporusso
, C/LW, 22

Another first-year player who’s made the jump from the collegiate ranks, the 5’10 scorer from Woodbridge, Ontario has experienced an uneven pro debut. Caporusso’s blend of skill, speed, and relentless intensity has not translated into the success he envisioned yet with Binghamton and he’s currently playing with Elmira where he has seven goals and 11 assists in 15 games. With the Baby Sens he’s suited up for seven games and has yet to earn a point. As with many players adjusting to pro hockey, the shifty forward will simply need to get stronger to play more effectively with and without the puck.