Senators CHL prospects update

By Sean Keogh

The Ottawa Senators in 2004-05 had only four prospects in the CHL, a low number compared to most NHL teams. Since then, three of those four have graduated, Andrej Meszaros to the NHL, Jeff Glass to the ECHL and Will Colbert to CIS. Only Roman Wick returned to the CHL, where has been joined by three other players. Below is an updated on this year’s quartet of Senators CHL prospects.

Roman Wick, LW, Red Deer Rebels
5th round, 156th Overall 2004, 6’1, 190 lbs, 19

The highest profile Senators prospect in the CHL this year is without a doubt Wick. Like fellow 2004 picks Meszaros and Glass, Wick’s late 1985 birthday made him eligible to turn professional if he had a contract with Ottawa. The Swiss winger attended both the Ottawa camp and that of the Binghamton Senators, before being sent back to Red Deer of the WHL.

In Red Deer, Wick has been given plenty of responsibility. The club’s top returning scorer, he was brought back despite taking up both an overage and import roster spot. After leading all WHL rookies in scoring last year, Wick has started slowly, with only three goals and nine points through 13 games. The Rebels are not particularly strong this season, with only five wins in their first 19 games, which puts more pressure on Wick to be a leader.

Regardless of Wick’s slow start offensively, he remains a very skilled prospect. What he will have to do this year is earn a contract with the Senators by improving certain other aspects of his game, particularly his strength. It is without a doubt a big season for the young Swiss prospect.

For an interview with Roman Wick by Hockey’s Future WHL correspondent Aaron Vickers, click here.

John Wikner, LW, Brandon Wheat Kings
9th round, 284th overall 2004, 6’1, 185 lbs, 19

Considering the NHL’s switch to a seven-round draft, John Wikner could end up being the final ninth round selection the Ottawa Senators ever make. Hopefully for his sake, that’s not the only time he’ll ever be the answer to a Senators trivia question. Drafted out of Sweden, the scrappy winger played last year at home. This year, he has come over to North America to play for a Wheat Kings club whose top returning scorer had 29 points last year.

Making the transition easier for Wikner is the fact that his twin brother Fred, a Calgary Flames draft pick, also came over to play for the Prince George Cougars. Although the Wheat Kings have struggled out of the gate, Wikner has had a solid start, with four goals and nine points in his first 18 games, both ranking him fourth on the team.

Already quite comfortable with the English language, Wikner will get a good amount of ice time the rest of the year, and should only improve. A decent skater with some offensive skills and a willingness to play the physical game, he is capable of handling the bruising WHL style of hockey. Like Wick, Wikner is playing for a contract, although he will need a great season to earn a contract before re-entering the draft.

Cody Bass, C, Mississauga Ice Dogs
4th round, 95th overall 2005, 6’0, 193 lbs, 18

The only Canadian among Senators prospects in the CHL this year, Cody Bass returns for a third season with the Ice Dogs this year. After a strong performance at the Senators rookie camp in September, Bass was named captain of the Ice Dogs after Minnesota top prospect Patrick O’Sullivan moved on to the professional ranks, along with other veterans. What remains is a club that has won only four of its first 17 games, and is easily last in the league in goals scored.

Although Bass is the captain and the top center on the club, he is not an offensive dynamo like former Ice Dogs O’Sullivan, Robbie Schremp and Jason Spezza. Instead, Bass is a shutdown center who does the little things a team needs to win. Unfortunately, on a team starved for offense, he was expected to have more than three goals and nine points at this point in the season. One of the candidates to make Canada’s World Junior squad on the grind line, Bass’s intangibles are undeniable, but he should still be able to improve his offensive output going forward.

Tomas Kudelka, D, Lethbridge Hurricanes
5th round, 136th overall 2005, 6’2, 181 lbs, 18

Yet another European Senators prospect playing in the CHL, Kudelka is a Czech-born import blueliner who was projected to go a lot higher than 136th overall in the 2005 draft. Kudelka joined a Hurricanes team coming off an outstanding 2004-05 season, where they finished third in the Eastern Conference. This season, the club is not quite as strong, with a .500 record through 16 games.

Thus far, Kudelka has received a lot of ice time, particularly on the power play, where he can put his offensive skills to use. A good skater and puck mover with a great slap shot that got him his first goal in the league, Kudelka has been solid but unspectacular thus far. He still lacks strength, and once he becomes more comfortable with the physical play, his confidence and ultimately production should also increase.

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