As an organization, the Ottawa Senators were able to gain invaluable experience during the recent playoff season. The NHL club exceeded most predictions and made the playoffs in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season. Many observers credited a portion of their success to a core group of young players who played a major role in the Binghamton Senators championship run in the 2010-11 AHL playoffs.
The Ottawa Senators received playoff contributions from many of their young players including Jared Cowen and Colin Greening who played in all seven games of a hard-fought first round series versus the New York Rangers. Cowen gave the team some quality penalty kill minutes and did his best to make life for opposing forwards unpleasant. At times his inexperience was exposed but these are the growing pains most young defensemen go through. Consistent with the regular season that saw him playing with a number of linemates and often in various roles, the 2012 playoffs for Greening offered more of the same.
Finally cracking the Ottawa lineup during the last quarter of the season, Jim O'Brien continued his inspired play by adding some much-needed jump to the Senators offense both off the rush and on the cycle and playing a role in their effective penalty-kill rotation.
A couple of prospects not expected to make a contribution until next season were given opportunities to showcase their talent during the NHL post-season. Mark Stone suited up for game five and registered his first NHL point setting up Jason Spezza's winning goal with a precision feed in traffic. Swedish Eliteserien Golden Helmet recipient Jakob Silfverberg got to skate in games six and seven with Ottawa; playing in a number of line combinations.
Binghamton's fabled run in the 2011 Calder Cup playoffs did not get a chance to repeat this season as the rebuilding Baby Sens finished fifth and out of the playoffs in the AHL East Division following a 64-point campaign.
After finishing first in the Atlantic Division with 103 points in the regular season, the Elmira Jackals were bounced from the second-round of the playoffs in five games, losing to the eventual Kelly Cup champion Florida Everblades.
Rugged winger Corey Cowick notched two goals and led the club with 26 penalty minutes while improving power-forward Jack Downing managed one assist in the four games he played. First-year pro Louie Caporusso missed the entire post-season with a season-ending finger injury suffered in April.
The biggest statement made by a Senators prospect in the CHL playoffs was by Stefan Noesen who registered a five-point game among his seven goals and 14 points in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Although he sustained a hand injury which kept him out for all but the final game in their second round matchup against the Kitchener Rangers, the winger was easily the most dangerous player and led the Whalers during their playoff run.
Shane Prince likely capped off his 2011-12 season with the Ottawa 67's by managing seven goals and nine assists in 18 post-season games as his squad made it to the OHL East Division Finals before bowing out to the Niagara Ice Dogs.
In the QMJHL Ottawa-born Jean-Gabriel Pageau had 14 points in the Chicoutimi Saguenéens playoff run which ended in the Semi-Finals while Jakub Culek produced 11 points for the Rimouski Océanic who were knocked out by the powerhouse Saint John squad in the Finals.
Out west, forwards Mark Stone capped off a stellar regular season with the Brandon Wheat Kings with six points in eight post-season games. Though far from the 123 points he managed in 66 regular season games, Stone was still among the top point-getters for the Wheat Kings, who struggled to consistently find the back of the net in the post-season.
Spokane Chief forward Darren Kramer appeared in 12 of their 13 post-season matches, managing three goals, three assists, and 20 penalty minutes. The Chiefs eventually lost in the second round to the Tri-City Americans.
Finally, defenseman Jordan Fransoo was part of the first-year Victoria Royals' surprise playoff appearance and will return to the WHL and look to take on a bigger role with his club next season.
Jakub Silfverberg followed up an impressive regular season by earning playoff MVP honors based on his 13 goals and seven assists in 17 Swedish Eliteserien playoff games. His 13 tallies surpassed the record held by countryman and now teammate Daniel Alfredsson and enabled Brynäs IF to win their 13th playoff championship and first since 1999. Given the improvement he's shown, the Senators will give him every opportunity to earn a roster spot in Ottawa next season.
Senators' number one prospect center Mika Zibanejad and teammate Fredrik Claesson were part of the ill-fated Djurgården Kvalserien playoff experience. Djurgården finished third in the six team playoff and were relegated to HockeyAllsvenskan (Division II) for next season.
The Senators were able to sign sophomore forward Cole Schneider from the UConn Huskies in the Atlantic Hockey Association fresh off his First All-Star Team nomination. The college free agent suited up for 11 games with Binghamton fresh off signing a two-year contract and registered two assists while also seeing time on the powerplay. The 21-year old is expected to play a larger role with the Baby Sens with his good hockey IQ, natural ability to create offense and determined play highlighting the overall skill set he brings.
The Senators signed two QMJHL prospects recently in Jakub Culek and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Culek was a 2010 draft pick who after a down season in 2010-11 bounced back with 13 goals and 27 assists in the 2011-12 regular season. He'll be expected to compete for a spot in Binghamton. Pageau on the other hand is a skilled but undersized forward who split the 2011-12 season with the Gatineau Olympiques and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and finished with 32 goals and 33 assists in 46 games.
Two NCAA defensemen in Ben Blood and Chris Wideman were also inked to entry-level deals. Blood was initially signed to an amateur try-out contract and appeared in four games with the Baby Sens before signing a two-year entry-level contract. Wideman was also signed to an entry-level deal though he did not appear in any games for the Baby Sens. The two defensemen have contrasting styles, with Blood a tough stay-at-home type and Wideman more of a two-way puck-mover.
The organization also signed two other prospects, Darren Kramer and Frederik Claesson. Kramer inked a three-year entry-level contract recently and will be looked to take over the policeman role with the Baby Sens. Claesson was also signed to a three-year entry-level deal with the expectation he'll be in the Baby Sens lineup for 2012-13.
Finally, the Senators have relinquished the rights of 2010 draft pick Marcus Sorensen. An offensively talented but undersized forward, Sorensen toiled for much of the past two seasons in Sweden's lower leagues.