WRITTEN BY- SensProspects
Editor’s Note- One last time, I’d like to turn it over to SensProspects to provide us with some final impressions from Sens Development Camp which wrapped up over the weekend.? We are incredible lucky that he decided to stop by our corner of the internet to provide some much-needed distraction during a difficult off-season.? Reading through this, it was easy to forget the chaos that has surrounded this organization over the last year.? Despite all the drama, it’s clear that the team’s prospect pool is in better shape than it has been for years.? You can follow SensProspects on Twitter here and subscribe to his YouTube channel here.
While the past few months haven’t been full of good news for the Sens and their fans, last week’s annual prospect development camp brought with it some much-needed optimism and excitement, if only for a few days. With a nice mix of raw talent and others who are on the brink of full-time NHL duty, Ottawa’s prospect pool hasn’t looked this good in a long time.
The last few days of dev camp are always my favourite. The red/white scrimmage and 3-on-3 tournament offer great chances to see how prospects perform against their peers, not just in drills. I remember being blown away by Ryan Dzingel at the 2015 scrimmage, while Drake Batherson really registered on my radar for the first time after last year’s (rather uneventful) red/white game.
As the 3-on-3 tournament is a little less structured and somewhat of a skill exercise compared to the scrimmage, I’ll focus on thoughts from the “real” game on Friday night, mixed in with some 3-on-3 tournament and general camp observations. In case you missed either, I’ve compiled highlights from the scrimmage here and the tournament here. If you’ve got more time on your hands, you can watch the full scrimmage and the 3-on-3 tournament (part 1 and part 2), too.
Friday’s scrimmage (rosters and lines here) was different from those in years past. Played at the Richcraft Sensplex in Gloucester as opposed to the KRC in Kanata, fans came out in droves to the east end rink, packing it to ‘standing room only’ more than 30 minutes before puck drop. Even better, it was a real game with 3 periods, full lineups, and actual power plays (although I did love the breakaway chase that would follow a penalty in years past). Logan Brown highlighted some deficiencies with the old format in an interview earlier in the week, saying it felt like a bag skate, with each squad only having 5 or 6 forwards for the 2 period game.
Angus Crookshank looked really solid out there, playing LW on the Team White’s 4th line. Despite being buried in the lineup, Crookshank recorded 1G and 2A in a 6-3 win. He got to smart spots, used his speed and vision, and created chances that didn’t end up on the score sheet. Unfortunately, Crookshank couldn’t participate in the 3-on-3 tournament due to “educational commitments” (Aaron Luchuk being the other prospect who couldn’t play in tournament, due to a broken hand). I think Crookshank’s speed and skill would have shone in that format. Angus gets my vote for 1st star in Friday’s scrimmage. The 2018 5th rounder was picked #126 overall. The year before, Ottawa took Drake Batherson with pick #121. Just saying… I’m very keen to see how Crookshank looks at the University of New Hampshire (NCAA) next season.
Probably the least-known goaltender at camp was 2017 6th rounder, Jordan Hollett. Last season was his first with Medicine Hat (WHL), and Hollett missed significant playing time for the second year in a row due to injury. Maybe it’s a chip on his shoulder, or maybe it’s just because it was only a single period sample size, but Hollett was nothing short of spectacular in the 2nd period. He stopped numerous point blank chances, a breakaway, and a penalty shot. Looking at the rosters, Team Red would have been the odds-on favourite to win the game. Hollett allowed just 1 goal in his 20 minutes of action, giving Team White the time they needed to bury some insurance goals early in the 3rd period en route to a 6-3 win.
I think Markus Nurmi deserves an honourable mention too. He picked up 1G and 1A on his 20th birthday, and looked to have some solid chemistry with Filip Chlapik. The 2016 6th rounder is coming off an impressive Liiga rookie season playing against men, and I think it’s worth mentioning that he’s one of only a handful of guys dealing with significant time change to be at this camp, coming from Finland. Think back to how much of a crutch the time zone difference was cited as by Sens players/media following their Swedish series with Colorado.
I won’t go into as much detail on these guys, mainly because they’re more well known entities, but Colin White (1G), Drake Batherson (1A), Alex Formenton, and Filip Chlapik (1A) were noticeably a step ahead out there, showcasing a blend of speed, skill, and confidence. Looking ahead to September as things stand right now, I think White spends the most time in Ottawa out of this group. Batherson and Chlapik should do well in the AHL while bouncing between Belleville and Ottawa, while Formenton will ultimately end up back in the OHL with London, possibly after another brief stint in Ottawa.
THE NEW GUYS
Although he was held off the scoresheet, Brady Tkachuk showed flashes of dominant skill, great playmaking vision, and hard-nosed play throughout the game. I thought he was particularly great in the 1st period, trailing off just a bit as things went along. In both the scrimmage and tournament, he often used his size and wingspan to protect the puck for long periods of time. Personally, I’d like to see him start the season in Ottawa before getting assigned to London (OHL) before he appears in 10 NHL games. To quote Shane Bowers on Brady’s Instagram post after being drafted: “Smell ya BU”.
Fellow first rounder Jacob Bernard-Docker didn’t do anything to bring fans out of their seats, but that’s probably what we’ll come to expect from him. I thought he looked very calm and smooth out there, jumping into the rush at a few really smart times. He had a great scoring chance in the slot off one of these rushes in the dying seconds of the 3rd.
Much has been written about Jonny Tychonick’s personality (he described his playing style as “outgoing”) and that was reflected in the scrimmage. Multiple times when heading back to collect the puck from his own zone, Tychonick held his hand up and yelled at goalie Joey Daccord to leave the puck alone so he could get it himself. He used clever footwork to create space for himself at the line on the PP, and showcased some offensive flash when Team Red was down 6-3 and risky plays were more appropriate.
No one was more snakebitten on the night than Jonathan Gruden. Stopped point blank off a beautiful cross-crease pass, and again on a penalty shot, he just couldn’t buy a goal against Jordan Hollett. You can tell he’ll need a couple more years to develop, but has a strong toolkit.
If Jakov Novak ever becomes a noteworthy prospect, his shot is going to be the horse he rides to get himself there. He’s got an absolute laser when he has the time to get it off. Definitely some work to be done on his skating, though.
The first thing I did when the Sens took Luke Loheit with their final pick of the 2018 draft was to search for his name twitter. The prevailing clip that popped up was one of Loheit absolutely demolishing a defender at the Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament. That footage was still fresh in my mind when he went for a huge hit early in the 1st period, missing and nearly taking out the recipient’s knee. He showed some promising skill during drills, so I’d expect him to have a big year for Penticton (BCHL) next season.
We got a glimpse of all 5 goalies during Friday night’s scrimmage, with their usage broken down as follows:
1st: Gustavsson (RED) vs Hogberg (WHITE)
2nd: Hollett (WHITE) vs Gustavsson/Daccord (RED)
3rd: Daccord (RED) vs Mandolese (WHITE)
Rough outing for Filip Gustavsson in this one, allowing 3 goals in one period to Team White. He’s still the Sens goalie of the future and looked unbeatable at times throughout the camp, especially in one-on-one drills. I’m excited to watch him develop in Belleville this coming season.
Joey Daccord loves to challenge shooters. Not a surprise, but he played the puck more than anyone else on the night.
Love how large Kevin Mandolese looks in the net, but he’s definitely got work to on mobility and positioning. I noticed a handful of drills where he had to repeat exercises, often followed by a conversation with fellow goalie-giant Marcus Hogberg.
We’ll see how things shake out this summer, but I don’t think there’s a lot left for Christian Jaros to show at the AHL level. Hopefully he can stay healthy this coming season. We would have seen much more of him down the stretch in Ottawa if he hadn’t been sidelined with injuries. As advertised, he delivered some big hits and put himself in good spots for offensive chances. Worth noting that he made a couple bad coverage choices on D and his skating isn’t amazing.
I think a lot of people will pull their hair out watching Logan Brown when he lands a full time gig in the NHL. There’s a fair bit of Jason Spezza to his game. His natural movements just seem so slow, but they are intentional and often quite effective. He was strong in the faceoff dot but I was hoping to see a little more production from him in the scrimmage.
Hello Todd Burgess! It was great to see Todd chip in with 1G and 1A playing on the 4th line alongside Angus Crookshank. Burgess missed the entire season after the Sens picked him back in 2016, and then he only put up 1G in his first season of NCAA action with RPI last year. Intriguing player if he can turns things around, but it’s a bit of a longshot at this point.
Alex Formenton is crazy fast. Nothing new there, but it’s still something to marvel and each time you see it. By all accounts, Formenton was putting on a clinic at Monday’s 3-on-3 tournament. When he was drafted, of the main knocks against him was that he had speed to burn, but not the highest ceiling when it came to skill and hockey sense. Good to see more and more signs that these tools are catching up to his feet.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Christian Wolanin play more games with Ottawa than Belleville this coming year, but there are definitely some gaps and lapses in his game that could be refined in the AHL playing top minutes.
Coming off a poor season with Connecticut (NCAA), I thought Miles Gendron gave a good showing this week at what will probably be his last dev camp with the Sens. Drafted in the 3rd round back in 2014, Gendron is a converted forward who regressed a bit this past year. UConn had a strong D corps, but it was surprising to see him healthy scratched a few times, and he played at least a dozen games as a 4th line winger. His skating has always been highly touted, and it shone through at camp – more so than in any of his previous trips to town. (His most noteworthy moment at last year’s camp was getting high sticked, losing teeth, taking a penalty shot and then leaving the game for repairs.) Gendron was recently named UConn’s captain for his senior season with the Huskies, so I wouldn’t expect the benchings or time at forward to continue.
During Pierre Dorion’s interview before Friday’s scrimmage, he highlighted Andrew Sturtz for his high level of intensity and competition through the first 3 days of drills. That much is evident when you see him out there, he’s always giving 110%. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by Sturtz during the scrimmage. Paired with 1st rounders Logan Brown and Brady Tkachuk on Team Red’s 2nd line, it seemed like the puck kept skipping off his stick. He did throw a pretty big hit on a much taller player, though. We’ll see what he can bring to Belleville next season.
Honourable mention to Parker Kelly who was rewarded with a 3 year ELC last year after coming to Sens dev camp as an undrafted invite. I didn’t see much of him this year, nor did I think he was particularly noticeable during the scrimmage, but he was named he co-winner of the Jonathan Pitre Hardest Working Award along with Brady Tkachuk. He’ll likely be back for a dominant senior year with Prince Albert (WHL) next season.
One more prospect to watch this coming season is 2016 5th rounder Max Lajoie. Lajoie is a beautiful skater who spent all of 2016-17 with AHL Belleville, despite being just 19 when the season started, fully eligible to have played with eventual WHL champs Swift Current. I’m hopeful that incoming coach Troy Mann will use him in more situations than Kurt Kleinendorst did.
If you read either of my earlier posts about this year’s dev camp, it should come as no surprise that I’m leading with Luka Burzan here. Although he picked up an early goal off a fortunate deflection, the play leading up to it showcased his impressive skill and speed. He strips the puck, keeps it on his stick, and separates with some quick feet to create the opportunity. Throughout the game, his separation speed was noticeable. Hope to see him at the rookie tournament in September.
Worst player in camp? Chase Stewart, hands down. He’s the definition of a one dimensional player – apparently a hell of a fighter. I counted at least 3 somewhat predatory hits (that to his credit, he probably let up on). He made some poor passes and clearing attempts, fired a slap shot off Colin White’s foot in the dying seconds, didn’t bury a golden scoring chance, and was a pretty poor skater. He’ll be in the ECHL or EIHL in no time.
East coaster Gregor MacLeod picked up a goal when one of Markus Nurmi’s shots went in off him. Otherwise, he jumped on the ice early and kneed Max Lajoie in a somewhat scary looking play, earning a penalty.
One guy who impressed while doing nothing eye-popping was defenceman Yanni Kaldis. I noticed a couple simple but effective plays, at both ends of the ice. He was on Team Red’s top D pair, next to Christian Wolanin. Something to keep an eye on.
One of the shortest guys at camp was 5’9 defenceman Graham Lillibridge, a USHL grad who’s heading to Yale (NCAA) next season. I thought he didn’t look out of place during many drills and was much more noticeable at the 3-on-3 tournament than in the scrimmage.
Local product Ryan Kuffner led Princeton (NCAA) with 29 goals in just 36 games last year, but couldn’t find the back of the net during the scrimmage. He did force a turnover that led to a goal. He looked better during 3-on-3 tournament with Team Green, alongside Colin White.
GUYS WHO WEREN’T THERE
A couple months ago, Filip Ahl mentioned to a Swedish paper that he’d been in contact with the Sens and might come over to North America this season. After signing a one year deal a few weeks after that with Tingsryds AIF of the Allsvenskan, I think we can assume the 2015 4th rounder’s time with the org is up, unless there’s an unreported injury he’s dealing with.
Newly acquired defenceman Julius Bergman, included in the Mike Hoffman deal from San Jose, was mentioned by some as a notable absence. I’d just lump him in with Andreas Englund, who seems to be training quite a bit in Sweden this offseason per his Instagram stories. Both guys have 2+ years of pro experience in North America, an arbitrary measuring stick I came up with, but one that qualifies pretty much everyone at camp this year other than Gabriel Gagne, who was QMJHL eligible when he spent his first pro season split between the AHL/ECHL.
Surprised to see that Kelly Summers seems to be done with org. He put up a career year with NCAA Clarkson but was not signed to an ATO to finish out the season with Belleville, nor was he brought to camp. A 2014 7th rounder, the Sens still have a few weeks left to sign him, but it appears he’ll be let go. Off ice issues were likely the main factor here.
Francis Perron’s season ended early because of an injury that was never formally announced by Belleville, eventually being revealed on his personal Instagram account. I’ve noted that it was a wrist injury that needed surgery, but can’t track down a source at the moment.
Thanks again to Chirp for having me, I hope you’ve enjoyed my coverage of Sens Dev Camp over the past week. I’d love to hear any questions, comments, or feedback you have about camp or any prospects in the org. See you in the comments!