Ottawa - Sep. 11, 2011 - The Ottawa Senators rookies opened with two impressive victories in their annual rookie tournament this weekend at General Motors Place in Oshawa. Rookie Corey Cowick had a pair of goals and an assist and Robin Lehner shut the door as the Senator rookies beat the Pittsburgh rookies 4-0 on Saturday.
The Senator rookies followed that up with a 6-5 win over the Chicago rookies on Sunday with Stephane Da Costa scoring a natural hat trick in the second period. The win now has the Senators rookies with a 2-0 record heading into their final game with the Toronto Maple Leaf rookies on Tuesday night.
Robin Lehner looked strong in his outing on Saturday as he shut down the Pittsburgh rookies. At 6-4’ 225 he covers most of the net. But it’s more than just his size that’s impressive, but his style of play. Lehner does an effective job covering the lower part of the ice and always seems square to the shooter. He does a great job of covering the angles and the puck always seems to hit him.
Lehner exudes confidence in the nets and doesn’t seem to be fazed even when his team is under seize, which was rare on Saturday. Last season he won 14 of the Binghamton Senators 16 playoff wins and was awarded the AHL Playoffs MVP award, as well as leading the team to a Calder Cup Championship. The Senators have signed Alex Auld to a contract as the back-up goalie so its likely Lehner will start the season in Binghamton as the starter. It won’t be long until he’s starting between the pipes as the Senators number 1 starter.
Cowick, Da Costa impress
Corey Cowick and Stephane Da Costa have been the most impressive of the rookie forwards so far in the tournament. Cowick’s stock has been going up since early in the summer. Called up from Elmira of the ECHL, the Gloucester native continued his strong play with Binghamton. He’s carried this on now to the rookie tournament with 3 goals in 2 games. Cowick seems to be all over the ice and will warrant a look with the Senators.
What can you say about a guy who scores a natural hat trick? Stephane Da Costa seems to have a nose for the net. The Senators brass is very high on this guy and expectations are that he’ll compete for the big club when main camp opens on Friday. For now, let’s see if he can follow this game up with some strong play on Tuesday night.
One thing opponents have realized so far at the rookie tournament is the size of the Senators defence. At an average size close to 6-3 and 205pounds, the Senators defence is large if not imposing. The key is to see how tough and mobile these guys are. So far David Rundblad has been the most impressive. Having excellent offensive skills, scouts wondered how tough defensively he could be. Rundblad continually handed out thundering body checks and kept his part of the ice clear. He’s also handled the puck really well, so it should be nice to see how he’ll do at the main camp. Cowen and Wiercioch have also used their size effectively. I expect that 4 or 5 of the defensemen at this tournament to be invited to the main camp.
Mika Zibanejad and Shane Prince have continued to impress me. Zibanejad is almost a given to become a solid NHL player. His speed, size and awareness of where the puck is and where his team mates are makes it hard to take your eyes of him when he’s on the ice. Once the main camp starts and we see how he lines up against NHL calibre talent we’ll get a better idea of whether he’ll make the Senators this season or next season.
Shane Prince continues to impress me. The Senators second round pick has used his speed and ability to read the play effectively. He’s been a buzz saw around the ice and has been a little un-lucky around the net, otherwise we could be talking more about him than Cowick. Although, I think he’ll be sent back to the 67’s, the experience and confidence he’s gained should only make him a better player. Impressive in both the summer 3 on 3 camp and this rookie camp he should get an invite to the main camp.
Derek Grant has also impressed me. Attending his first rookie camp, Grant 6-3 197 has been imposing on the ice and his physical play has opened up room for his teammates. Grant signed an entry level contract with the Senators in the spring and finished last season with Binghamton during their Calder Cup run. Grant graduated from Michigan State leading the Spartans in scoring last year.
Evelyn Byng, Viscountess Byng of Vimy (1870 - 1949), also known as the wife of Lord Byng, the twelfth Governor General of Canada and a hero of Vimy Ridge in the First World War, is best known today for donating the Lady Byng Trophy to the National Hockey League in 1925. Lord and Lady Byng were both ice hockey fans, and they attended many Ottawa Senators games. They donated the trophy because Lady Byng appreciated gentlemanly play and good sportsmanship and wanted to encourage and reward it.
Lady Byng awarded the first trophy to Frank Nighbor of the Ottawa Senators. Lady Byng invited Nighbor to Rideau Hall, showed him the trophy, and asked him if the NHL would accept it as an award for its most gentlemanly player. When Nighbor said he thought it would, Lady Byng, much to Nighbor's surprise, awarded him the trophy.
Frank Boucher of the New York Rangers won the trophy 7 times in 8 years. Lady Byng was so impressed that she gave the original trophy to him.
I was saddened to hear the news of the plane crash of the Lokomotiv team of the Kontinental Hockey League earlier in the week. Almost everyone in the NHL knew or had contact with at least one player on the Lokomotiv team and the Ottawa Senators team and fans were no different.
Both Pavol Demitra and Karel Rachunek played for the Senators at one time and Vitaly Anikeyenko was a former draft pick. I remember watching both play for the Senators. I was deeply disappointed when the Senators traded Demitra, which is widely regarded as the worst Senators trade ever. Demitra played in 847games in the NHL amazing 304 goals and 464 assists for a total of 768 points. Rachunek played 4 seasons for the Ottawa Senators (2000-01 to 2003-04) and was constantly a rock on the Senators defence, finishing with a plus record each season.
Thanks to everyone who posted comments last week in relation to my article. Here are the best responses:
“It's going to be a long season in Ottawa I am afraid...last in the NE and out of the playoffs 3 out of the last four years”. Dave Sine
“We all know the Canadians are the class of the east”. William Neal
Thanks for the comments. Remember if you’d like to make a comment and possibly end up in this article e-mail me at email@example.com