Ottawa Senators training camp opened on Sept. 13, with 48 players on the roster. The group was divided in two and the players have gone through a rigorous schedule of on and off-ice testing and workouts.
On Sept. 16, the Senators held an intra-squad game at Scotiabank Place that saw over 10,000 fans attend. The two period, 40-minute match had one rule tweak: rather than have players sit in the penalty box for infractions, teams were awarded a penalty shot. The spirited affair was highlighted by a fight between veteran tough guy Chris Neil and camp invite Jeremy Yablonski. Team White defeated Team Black by a score of 6-3. Scoring for the White team were Dany Heatley, Chris Kelly, Jason Spezza, Brian McGrattan, Greg Mauldin (penalty shot), and Patrick Eaves. Scoring for the Black team were Christoph Schubert, Antoine Vermette (PS), and Dean McAmmond (PS).
The first cuts
On Sept. 20, Ottawa announced the reduction of the training camp roster to 35 players. The remaining players in camp consist of four goaltenders, 20 forwards, and 11 defensemen.
Returning to junior were Ryan Daniels, Kaspars Daugavins, and Jim O’Brien. Headed to Binghamton along with new head coach Cory Clouston are prospects Jim McKenzie, Tomas Kudelka, Derek Smith, and Shawn Weller. Also leaving Ottawa for Binghamton are defensemen Greg Amadio, Geoff Waugh, and forwards Tyler Donati, Chaz Johnson, Greg Mauldin, and Jeremy Yablonski.
Ryan Daniels, G
With four goaltenders ahead of him on the depth chart, Daniels returns to the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL. It will be his third year with the team and he should continue to develop as the club’s No.1 netminder. Daniels tended goal for Team Black in the intra-squad game, rotating with Martin Gerber. Despite getting hurt during the warm-up, he had a good showing allowing two goals, one by way of penalty shot.
Kaspars Daugavins, LW
Daugavins will return to the St. Michael’s Majors in the OHL. The 5’11, 213-pound winger took a few shifts for Team Black in the intra-squad game seeing time alongside Antoine Vermette and Daniel Alfredsson. He returned to junior instead of being assigned to Binghamton where he played 11 games at the end of last season, but he’ll likely be back there when his OHL season ends. At just 19, junior is where most of his age group is playing.
Tomas Kudelka, D
Kudelka has made great strides since coming over to North America from the Czech Republic. With 16 AHL games under his belt, this will be his first full professional season. The 6’3, 195-pound rearguard skated for Team Black in the intra-squad game taking shifts with Greg Amadio. He should be a regular top six defender for Binghamton this season.
Jim McKenzie, RW
It was McKenzie’s first training camp appearance after completing three years at Michigan State. The 6’1, 209-pound St. Paul native is a first-year pro having signed an entry-level contract with Ottawa in the off-season. During the Senators intra-squad game, he skated for Team White, rotating on a line with Alexander Nikulin, Mauldin, and Yablonski.
Jim O’Brien, C
O’Brien sat out most of training camp recovering from shoulder surgery. He was able to skate, but could not participate in contact drills or scrimmages. His return to action is slotted for some time in early October where he will suit up for his new team, the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL. The 6’2, 191-pound potential power forward left University of Minnesota in the summer after agreeing to an entry-level contract with Ottawa.
Derek Smith, D
A product of Lake Superior State, Smith was never drafted, but had a tremendous final year and signed as a free agent with Ottawa in the off-season. It was expected that he would need seasoning in the AHL and he will likely be one of Binghamton’s top defenders. The 6’0, 180-pound native of Belleville, Ontario skated for Team White in the intra-squad game alongside Geoff Waugh.
In preseason action, Smith dressed for the first game versus Philadelphia. His partner was slotted to be Matt Carkner, however he suffered an injury early in the game. As a result, Smith saw ice time with Andrej Meszaros, Brian Lee, and Luke Richardson. He also got some power-play time, manning the point with Lee.
Shawn Weller, LW
A product of Clarkson University, Weller had a decent showing at his first training camp. He has five games of AHL experience and should be a consistent contributor for Binghamton this season. The 6’1, 188-pound winger skated alongside Josh Hennessy and Brian McGrattan for Team White in the intra-squad game.
The remaining prospects
When camp opened, there were 15 prospects on the roster, including three goaltenders, three defensemen, and nine forwards. After the cuts, there were eight prospects remaining in camp, two goaltenders, one defenseman, and five forwards.
Brian Elliott, G
With the goaltending tandem set in stone, Elliott will head to Binghamton after camp. He has eight games of AHL experience already and is expected to challenge for the starter position. Elliott was in goal for Team White in the intra-squad game and allowed one goal, a wrister from the blue line.
Elliott saw some action in the pre-season matchup with Washington. He entered the game in the second period, playing 27:44 in total. He looked very sharp allowing just one goal on 14 shots and making some brilliant saves.
Jeff Glass, G
Glass is entering his final year under contract with Ottawa. He is looking to bounce back after an unimpressive 2006-07 campaign. He will compete with Elliott for the No.1 goaltender position in Binghamton. Glass played goal for Team White in the intra-squad game, allowing two penalty shot goals.
Glass is expected to see some action in the pre-season game versus Montreal on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Brian Lee, D
After spending the 2006-07 season refining his defensive skills and adding much-needed muscle, Lee has made a good impression at his first training camp. He is the only defense prospect remaining with the team and he has not looked out of place among the veterans. During the intra-squad game, he skated with Christoph Schubert.
Lee has played in both pre-season matches so far. He displayed tremendous poise and excellent passing ability as well as sound defensive skills. He rarely missed on outlet passes and helped transition smooth breakouts. Versus Philadelphia, Lee’s main partner was Meszaros, however, due to injury, he also saw time with Derek Smith. Lee played on both the power play and the penalty kill. Against Washington, he saw ice time with Lawrence Nycholat and Christoph Schubert and was a mainstay on the second PP unit.
Cody Bass, C
A prototypical defensive-minded checking forward, Bass is one of the remaining candidates for the fourth line. He has played smart and kept things simple so far in camp, impressing with his heady two-way play. He lined up with Danny Bois and Dean McAmmond in the intra-squad game.
Bass played in Ottawa’s second pre-season game, skating on a line with Hennessy and Brian McGrattan. He played just 8:27, recording three hits.
Nick Foligno, LW
Foligno was regarded as one of Ottawa’s top prospects, but had an unimpressive slow start to camp. He skated regularly on a line with Antoine Vermette and Daniel Alfredsson during the intra-squad game, but had a lackluster performance. New coach John Paddock singled him out as a player who needed to step up.
Foligno responded extremely well in pre-season games. He has played in both games thus far and has recorded five points, currently leading the team. He has displayed tremendous skill and poise with the puck. He works hard and cycles the puck well down low. His first goal came on the power play in the first pre-season game. The second was a highlight reel goal off a breakaway. Foligno skated with Chris Kelly in both games and has also played with Shean Donovan and Patrick Eaves. He has been a mainstay on the power play.
Josh Hennessy, C
Ottawa’s top prospect has little left to prove at the AHL level, but has yet to assert himself at training camp. Coming into camp, he was expected to take a roster spot, however his sub-par performance and the impressive play of other prospects has put this in jeopardy. During the intra-squad game, Hennessy showed flashes of offensive brilliance, particularly on the play that led to Brian McGrattan’s game-winning goal. His trio also included Shawn Weller.
Hennessy has played in both pre-season games thus far. His role has been mainly that of a checking/energy fourth line forward and he has seen limited ice time. Brian McGrattan was a linemate in both games, and he also played with Cody Bass, Justin Mapletoft, and Denis Hamel. Hennessy was used as a penalty killer but did not see any time on the power play.
Alexander Nikulin, C
Arriving from Russia and barely speaking a word of English has been difficult for the 6’1, 192-pound center, but Nikulin has made a good impression thus far. He is one of the leading candidates for an open roster spot and has hinted that he is open to spending time developing in Binghamton if need be. After a terrific rookie tournament performance, Nikulin has been equally impressive thus far in training camp. During the intra-squad match, he skated on a line with Jim McKenzie and Greg Mauldin.
Nikulin played in the second pre-season game versus Washington. He did not look out of place skating on the team’s second line with Antoine Vermette and Daniel Alfredsson. He saw regular shifts on the power-play as well. Nikulin did not look out of play and displayed good puck moving skills.
Ilya Zubov, C
Offensive flair is the name of the game for Zubov, who has transitioned nicely from Russia thus far. He has made efforts to play a more physical game and adjust to the North American style, however he is still better suited as an offensive forward than a grinder. As such, it may be more difficult for Zubov to crack the lineup, though his first impressions have been very good. During the intra-squad game, he skated with Tyler Donati and Chris Neil on a line that was terrific in the offensive zone.
In Ottawa’s pre-season opener, Zubov played on a line with Chris Neil and Dean McAmmond. He scored the games first goal, which turned out to be the game-winner, as he followed up on Neil’s shot to put home the rebound. Zubov showed a very sneaky ability to find open ice and get into scoring positions. He had several scoring chances and created offense for his linemates. He also saw time on the power play.
Battle for roster spots
Forwards – The biggest news during the first week of training camp was the re-signing of center Mike Fisher to a five-year pact. Ottawa’s core group of forwards is set, but there is still room for at least one prospect. The most notable opening is on the fourth line. At this point in camp, the leading candidates for forward positions are Foligno, Nikulin, and Hennessy. Zubov, a more offensive-minded player may be better suited on a scoring line, but he hasn’t looked out of place alongside Chris Neil and Dean McAmmond. The other forwards still competing for the remaining spots include Denis Hamel, Justin Mapletoft, Niko Dimitrakos, and Brian McGrattan. There is also still the possibility of Christoph Schubert playing as a forward.
Defense – The only question mark left is whether or not Schubert will be a full-time defenseman. If he plays forward, there would be a spot open in the top six. Holding the inside track for this position is veteran Luke Richardson. Journeyman Lawrence Nycholat is a likely candidate for the seventh/eighth depth defenseman position. The only remaining prospect is Brian Lee, who has played extremely well in camp thus far, but is still a long-shot to make the roster because of the depth chart. The former University of North Dakota standout has made a very good impression in his first training camp.
Goal – There is no question that one of Ray Emery or Martin Gerber will be the team’s starting goaltender. This leaves no room for any of the Senators’ goaltender prospects unless an injury occurs. Elliott and Glass remain in camp to get experience but are destined to make the trip to Binghamton where they will battle for the No.1 position.
Josh Hennessy suffered a mild shoulder separation and will be out for 1-2 weeks.
Tuesday, September 18: Ottawa, 4 @ Philadelphia, 1
Thursday, September 20: Washington, 4 @ Ottawa, 5
Saturday, September 22: @ Montreal, 7pm
Monday, September 24: @ Toronto, 7:30pm
Tuesday, September 25: vs. Philadephia, 7pm
Saturday, September 29: vs. Montreal, 7pm
Sunday, September 30: @ Washington, 5pm
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