Sens and Coyotes Rookie Camp Analysis

By Scott Petersen

Ottawa Senators:

Ray Emery: Great positioning. Amazing focus, follows the puck very well. Constantly thinking his way through the game. Cuts off angles and gives few holes for a shooter to see. Quick drop to the ice to take away the bottom part of the net. Quick getting back to his feet for possible rebounds. Keeps body square to shooter and uses size to his advantage. Occasionally has trouble if caught going side to side in net. Makes good decisions with the puck. Keeps rebounds to a minimum and shows good control over where puck goes.

Bottom Line: Emery would benefit by jumping to the pro level right now. While he may or may not be ready to go to the NHL level, another year in junior won’t help him as much as being in the pro game would. He has built on last year’s amazing season to further develop his game and needs new challenges to keep his focus sharp. He is a big goalie who uses his size to his advantage. He faces a serious log jam of quality goaltenders in front of him and that’s the only thing that could stunt his development into a strong goaltender in the NHL.

Tim Gleason: Has added strength and is more willing to take the body. Is willing to jump up and lay a hit on an opponent and has added grit to his game, even willing to fight. Offensive instincts aren’t great and sometimes makes bad pinches. Does better in defensive zone than in past and wins more battles in the corners. A decent point shot, could use a little more accuracy and another look to ensure shooting lane is clear before blasting away. Has good overall speed, but lost a little bit of that first-step quickness he had before for adding mass . . . good tradeoff. Didn’t show too much on offence or carrying the puck up ice very often, but did overhandle it a couple times in his own zone or neutral zone. Read well of defence partner.

Bottom Line: Gleason looks like he came to the conclusion he wouldn’t make it as a pure offensive defenceman and put in the offseason work to round out the other parts of his game. As of now, it looks like a good decision. His coaches were more impressed with his style of play at this tournament than last year’s. He added bulk to a frame that holds it well and sorted out his defensive shortcomings over the course of the past year. Gleason looks like with some more work, he could become a solid defenceman with decent offensive abilities. He will probably require a couple years in the NHL as he continues to develop his game, but he’s made leaps and bounds over his tournament of last year.

Brooks Laich: Worked harder than anyone else on the ice. A tireless forechecker and backchecker, he was able to create many scoring chances on the ice. Fights off checks and works the boards well. Great conditioning and never gives up on the puck. Does good work in his own zone. Knows his limits and works well within them. Is not a flashy player but has a few moves. Needs to work on his finish.

Bottom Line: Laich was a definite surprise at camp who did well by outworking his opponents and playing a high-tempo game. It’s hard to judge his upside, but he doesn’t have the offensive ability of a Jason Spezza or Antoine Vermette. Could become a very good third liner with some offensive ability.

Brian McGrattan: Solid hitter with some good speed to the outside. Can find the man driving to the net with a pass. Not afraid to play in traffic. Does good work along the boards. Plays a fearless game that drives opponents crazy and gets under their skin. Is a punishing fighter with solid technique. Would rather stay in the game and play his physical style but will drop the gloves without a problem. Not a bad skater and hard to knock off his feet. Sometimes looks a little bit awkward carrying the puck, but does a good job with it. Could use body to protect puck more often and some work on his stickhandling and carrying the puck at top speed. Makes good passes and can finish on scoring chances.

Bottom Line: McGrattan will never be mistaken for a Sergei Samsonov, but he does have the ability to make opponents and teammates take notice of him. He has the possible upside of a third or fourth line forward who can play and fight. McGrattan should spend a couple years in the AHL and still needs some work on his game, but he is a possible depth player for the Sens.

Christoph Schubert: Finishes his checks well and stays with his man. Will pinch to stand someone up and keep forwards honest. Plays a strong defensive game and works well with his defence partner, Volchenkov, despite the language barrier. Strong positional player and it is apparent he has played at high-level hockey already. Keeps his game simple and effective for the most part and thinks the game well. Won’t get caught running around in his own zone. Has offensive ability and a lot of plays stemmed from his ability to make crisp tape-to-tape passes out of his own end. Works well along the boards. Good point shot and doesn’t panic back at blueline with the puck. Confident player who knows his abilities.

Bottom Line: It would be interesting to see just what Schubert could do at the NHL level this year as he seems to have everything in place to be successful at that level. The problem is the glut of veteran defencemen ahead of him and the probability his partner Volchenkov will get a longer look. However, Schubert could be sent down to the AHL and log plenty of ice time with Binghamton, and that wouldn’t be too bad for him either. He has top-four ability and it shouldn’t be too long before he proves a valuable part of the Sens blueline.

Jason Spezza: Strong and fast. Quicker first step and more agile on skates. Still tries to do too much with puck at times when he should be using his teammates. Prone to losing puck at opponents’ blueline. Uses his body and reach well. Amazing forechecker, uses stick and body positioning to full advantage to block passing lanes and force defencemen into coughing up the puck and/or chipping it away. Sees the ice very well and reads off his linemates. Thinks game at a very fast pace and can make quick, crisp passes. More physical than last year and very strong on his skates. Calm interior, and harder to frustrate than in past. Works hard on the ice at both ends and fights through checks and interference so much it frustrates opponents. Added maturity.

Bottom Line: There is no reason Spezza shouldn’t start this season in the NHL. A veteran corps of centers and forwards lay in front of him but none of them have his kind of potential and skill. As the tournament went on, he moved further away from the individualism that forced mistakes at the blueline during the beginning of the tournament and helped his teammates step up their level of play. He made a line click and dominate its shifts. His physical stature helps him go up against most anyone on the ice. Spezza has improved his overall game and could still learn, but only through experience and not through any fault of his own. He should be on the Senators this year and in the future, will definitely be a first-line center who can swing the momentum of any game.

Antoine Vermette: Very quick feet and effortless skater. Has great hand-eye coordination and has some good moves with the puck. Good at coming across the net with the puck. Very opportunistic and dangerous around the net. Often doesn’t show enough with the puck during his shifts and could be more creative on the rush. His shiftiness allows him to avoid big checks and physically imposing defencemen, and has put in the work to handle himself well enough in the corners. The physical game doesn’t come naturally to him, but he appears to be working on it. Plays it both ways hard. Good passer and speedy forechecker.

Bottom Line: Vermette will likely be headed to the AHL this year. He missed almost a full year last year and despite all the work he put in this offseason, his game showed some rust at top flight. He owns an NHL quality quick, powerful stride and handles himself fairly well in the rough going but it sometimes shows that he hasn’t played a lot of top-flight games over the past year. His speed and style of game could also lend well to a possible shift to the wing, which may eventually be something the Senators might want to experiment with in the AHL. He has top-line potential and a year or two of further development in Binghamton should help him reach that.

Anton Volchenkov: Very hard hitter who likes to let it be known he’s on the ice. Makes solid pinches to lay the body and catches many forwards off guard. Not afraid to venture into the offensive zone, whether it be to forecheck, create an open passing lane or jump in for a shot on net. Great stability and lower body strength. Keeps good positioning in front of own net. Makes quick decisions with the puck and strong passes. Doesn’t make too many mistakes and plays strong positional hockey for the most part. Likes to be involved in the play. Thinks the game well. Shot could be harder for a man of his strength but not bad. Odd time gets caught out of position trying to do too much, but not too bad. Could use another step of quickness, but good overall speed and is like a freight train at top flight.

Bottom Line: Volchenkov is NHL ready now and has few flaws in his game that were discernible at the tournament. His well-rounded game and penchant for throwing crushing hits lends well to the next level and should allow him to battle hard for a spot on the Senators this season. He has a tough battle ahead with a deep defence of veterans to crack and the possibility his partner, Christoph Schubert, could steal an available spot from under his nose. Volchenkov is a future top-four defenceman for the Senators, it’s just a matter of when that future is.


Ben Eager: Very good north-south speed and can beat defenders to loose pucks. Strong on skates and does a decent job along the boards. Makes questionable decisions with puck and doesn’t like to hold onto it too long. Doesn’t think the game well in defensive zone. Can get lost in the play. Displays hands of stone at times. Didn’t fare too well in his fights and could’ve picked his spots better. Didn’t gel with his linemates and had a tough time out on the ice trying to put anything together. Good conditioning and rarely looked tired on the ice.

Bottom Line: It’s too early to say whether Eager will make it or not in the NHL. His ice time wasn’t anything to write home about, but the time he did spend on the ice was less than impressive. Eager has some of the intangibles necessary to eventually make the next step, but he’s lacking badly in experience and game smarts. Practices saw Eager continuously out of position in defensive coverage drills and pulled aside to go over the finer points of the game. It will also take him time to develop the type of body that will be successful as a scrapper in the NHL. He is a long-term project with little upside, but could become a speedy fourth line banger and checker if he ever develops a mind for the defensive game.

Fredrik Sjostrom:
Quick, especially down the wings on a break, but doesn’t use speed enough. Struggles handling the puck sometimes and loses it trying to do too much. Has quick release, but could use more power and accuracy. Not strong enough on skates, gets knocked down and taken out of play fairly easily. Increased his physical play as tournament went on and became more effective. Only gives brief glimpses of ability and often disappears from the game altogether. Could use better conditioning to allow exceptional speed to stick out more later in the game. Does fairly well at both ends of the ice.

Bottom Line: Sjostrom has some of the intangibles of an NHLer, but his hands haven’t caught up to his speed as of yet. He would also do well to add a few more moves to his repertoire and learn how to stagger his speeds a lot better in an attempt to catch defencemen sleeping, or trying to close the gap on him too early. He’s not that easy to hit, but he could be stronger and shiftier. Sjostrom is still a couple years away from the NHL and he’ll need to do some work to further develop his game to that level. He could develop into a solid, speedy third-liner like Todd Marchant, but will need huge improvement in his offensive game to move any higher up the ranks.

Jeff Taffe: Player who’s very smart with puck and controls it well. Good vision on the ice and makes good decisions. Backchecks hard and can turn it back up ice in a hurry. Stickhandles well in traffic and manages his body positioning well to take advantage of opportunities in front. Upped his physical play and aggressiveness as the tournament went on. Chippy with his stick; overuses the lumber instead of relying on his body strength and body positioning. Quick release on his shot, which is accurate. Passes well and uses his linemates.

Bottom Line: Taffe has the ability to make a serious run at a spot in the NHL right now. He has the versatility and maturity in his game to assume a variety of roles with a team, and though he’d be likely to start his duties on a third line at some point, his upside should see him on a second line as he gains experience. Taffe will be a player, it’s just a matter of a timeline of his first appearance in a Coyotes uniform and where he’ll eventually settle in.