Originally posted on The 6th Sens  |  Last updated 9/4/13
With the opening of the Senators' rookie camp today and the prospects set to embark on a trek to London, Ontario for their rookie tournament, Pierre Dorion, Ottawa's director of player personnel made an appearance on TGOR  this morning to talk about the tournament and its participants. You can check out the full interview here, or via the embed below. As always, my thoughts are in bold. On updating the status of Jarrod Maidens… “Well, just talking with Randy Lee, our Director of Player Development and Hockey Operations, I asked him on the weekend what had happened. All we know is he suffered a setback. He had a great summer. Everything was going well. He went back home and he is going to restart the whole process again. Hopefully one day, he can suit up and start playing again. Obviously, this was… another setback like that at that age is a bit scary, but they (Maidens is) still young and there’s still time to heal. Younger bodies seem to heal better, so I think he’s still a prospect for us. We still have to hope that he’s going to play this year, so we’ll just go onto the next step for him.” It’s tough to discern whether Dorion is downplaying what information the organization has, but who could blame him for not releasing details? Worrying about Maidens the person, should come always before worrying about his hockey development. So giving him the space and privacy to absorb what can only be described as devastating news, is the best thing for him. I hope he gets healthy soon. On his ceiling and what type of prospect Maidens is… “Well, I had at least ten teams tell me after we drafted him that they were thinking of taking him in the first or second round if it wouldn’t have been for the concussion that he suffered that year. I know at development camp, he did some skill stuff and some skating stuff and he blew everyone out of the water. I can safely say that if he’s healthy and strong, he’s a top three line player in the NHL. Obviously the reason why we got him in the third round (because of the concussion); with the bank of prospects we had at that time, we felt we could take a gamble taking him and hope that everything turned out well. Unfortunately, he’s had a few setbacks but if healthy, he’s an NHL player.” Suffice it to say, the Senators knew what they were getting into when they selected Maidens. It was a low risk, high upside gamble and it’s something I’d love to see the organization do ten times out of ten. On a few names that he’s interested in seeing during this rookie camp/tournament… “I think if we’re looking at a few guys, who probably people haven’t heard too much about, I’m looking at a guy like Buddy Robinson. Coming out of Lake Superior last year, he had a great development camp. Big body. Skates. I’m anxious to see how he’s going to do in his first pro experience, even though he played a few games in Binghamton. I’m looking at a guy that we signed also as a free agent, a guy like Andrew Hammond, who we signed as a free agent out of Bowling Green. Both of these guys are a bit older, but guys want to see how they react to their first pro experience. Two other guys that we signed out of college, Ludvig Karlsson, that I know coach Paul (MacLean) talked about yesterday a bit. Coming out of Northeastern, (Karlsson) is 22 years old. And maybe a guy like Cole Schneider, who had a really good second half last year in Binghamton, to see where he is at compared to some of our other prospects.” For those unaware, MacLean was on Team 1200’s In the Box yesterday and mentioned Ludvig Karlsson’s name amongst some of the other often bandied about names (ie. Stone, Zibanejad, Hoffman, Conacher, and etc.) who could be in the mix for a top six role this season. On the benefits of having a rookie tournament relative to just having another development camp… “The rookie tournament is outstanding because it’s games. You get a chance to compete. Development camp is all nice because (everyone’s) buddies. You’ve grown with a lot of these players that you’ve known for two or three years, you get together at development camps, training camps and stuff like that. But when you get a chance to play in games and compete against other teams, and especially, we’re going against Toronto which is our biggest rivalry. We’re going against Pittsburgh, which is the organization that has beat us out in the last few playoffs and we’re going against Chicago, which is the organization that won the Cup. So the past few years, the rookie camps that we’ve been at, they’re always high and competitive games really early in the year. You see a compete level that you get a chance to see only really in the playoffs, so it’s just a great format to see our kids play against other teams’ kids and see where we come out.” On Cody Ceci… “If I can be brutally honest, we had a chance to see Cody play for the 67s early in the year and everyone from management staff to the coaches were at some of the 67s games. And I think after some games, I was in the fetal position in the corner after watching Cody play a bit, but after that, things straightened out. He got much better in Owen Sound, but where his play really impressed me was in Binghamton at the end of the year. For a 19-year old kid coming into Binghamton, stepping up and controlling games, his play with the puck and pushing the play was so good. But what impressed me the most about Cody was: his play without the puck – which needed a lot of room (to grow); his battle level in front of the net; asserting himself against 25 and 26-year olds – guys who have played in the NHL. It was really something, not that we hadn’t seen it, we had seen it more in Owen Sound. But, he really stepped up and showed that he’s going to be a really good NHL player for us sooner, rather than later.” If it makes Pierre feel better, I’m sure there were nights when Cody would curl up in a fetal position after playing in some of those games for the 67s. Despite how miserable some of those nights with the 67s were, the important takeaway from Ceci’s season (a season in which he was still anointed as an OHL second team all-star) is that he elevated his game with each step up the ladder. If he can continue along that developmental path, he’ll join an incredibly young and talented Sens blue line (Cowen, Wiercioch, Karlsson) in short order. On whether the poor play by the 67s affected his play and confidence… “I don’t know exactly what it was. We had Jason Smith talk to him, who’s a player development consultant here who’s played over 1,000 games in the NHL. He was a great defenceman. We had a lot of people talk to (Ceci). I think being the first round pick, it’s the local NHL team that takes him, I think maybe he was trying to do too much. He was playing way too much. He was playing over 35 minutes a game, which makes it tough to do the little things that you need to do to have success. We never questioned Cody’s play with the puck - that is something that will be his forte in the NHL. But, it was doing the little things without the puck – battling, reacting defensively -- which he needed to do. I don’t know if it was too many minutes, too much pressure or what it was, but he just wasn’t playing up to his level.” Always love the Dorion interviews, the blunt honesty is always refreshing. On Matt Puempel… “His season was exceptional last year. Sometimes, you know… he had good stats. I think last year, he went from being a kid to being a man. Every time you went and saw him in Kitchener, he was on the puck, he was battling for pucks, he was scoring big goals, and he was going to the net. We really feel we have a real good prospect in Matt. I don’t know if Matt’s going to make our team this year, I think he’s a longshot. But, the way he progressed last year was really something to see. He played in Binghamton at the end of the year and it was a really good indication of where he is. He contributed, not always with goals, but just with how he played. We think Matt, down the road, has a chance to be a top six forward – someone who can score big goals and play the game the right way.” The key to Puempel’s development, after some injury-plagued seasons in junior, is that it afforded the organization the flexibility to include Jakob Silfverberg in the Bobby Ryan deal. Without that progression, the organization might be too gun shy to pull the trigger on that move; or perhaps they’re less hesitant to pony up the cash to retain Daniel Alfredsson as an UFA. On Mark Stone’s season last year and his status after injuring his ankle last year in the playoffs… “Believe it or not, there was no penalty call on the (slew foot). But that’s pretty much how the series went, but that’s another subject for another day. His ankle is 100%. Mark has always been a guy that trains hard. He was in here by himself in the past two weeks, if I’m not mistaken. Mark is going to compete for a spot on the team. With Mark’s hockey sense, his offensive IQ, his hands, it’s something we’re looking for for goals. The good thing is that he’s 100%. He’s healthy. Last year in the playoffs in Binghamton, he was probably our best forward, so it just shows you that he’s competing for a spot on our team.” With the bulk of Ottawa’s roster under contract, eventually the organization is going to have to move bodies to clear out room for prospects like Stone, Puempel, Prince and Hoffman, or else they’ll package him to fill some organizational need(s). On Curtis Lazar… “We’re obviously very happy to draft Curtis. I think Curtis made a big impression, as you just said, at development camp. Curtis, the way he plays the game, the way he skates, the way he shoots the puck, the way he drives the net, the character he brings to the table, I think he’s someone that… I think we have to be careful of our expectations of Curtis. I think if he has a good rookie camp and has a chance to get into some NHL exhibition games, we’ll have a chance to gauge his progression to play in the NHL. I know he’ll be a very good player down the road, whether it’s next year, this year or three years from now, but I know he’ll be a key component in us having a chance to win a Cup down the road. We’ve always got to be careful. A kid coming in at 18-years old to his first pro camp, it will be good if he does well at rookie camp. But when he goes up in an exhibition game against Phaneuf, we’ll see really where things are.” Translation: the organization is tantalized by what Curtis Lazar brings to the table but don’t have a proper gauge right now of how good he is at the moment. His development sounds advanced for his age, but without seeing him play against pros, even the organization isn’t sure of what it has in Lazar right now. On how do your impressions as Director of Player Personnel change from a guy who you want to draft to a guy who’s in your system… “Not really. We see a lot of the players that we’ve drafted a lot over the course of a season. I think we get to know them better and you get a better impression of how much they want it. I think you get to know them as a human being, but (impressions) don’t really change over. You know, some guys come into a development camp or a rookie camp and they’ll struggle because it’s their first pro experience. But they’ll go back to junior and have a certain comfort level. And what’s good about a rookie camp, a lot of these guys are only coming to their second rookie camp because we didn’t have one last year. I think our impression doesn’t really change. You always want to see a compete level in your prospects that, I wouldn’t say is second to none, but is better than other teams’ prospects. But, it doesn’t really change from what we saw in a rookie’s draft year to what we saw at development to what we saw at rookie camp. But things change over the course of a season. Like if we take a guy like (Jean-Gabriel) Pageau (for example), who last year I think was fighting to make a spot on Binghamton and then he ends up being called up, is a sparkplug a bit for (us) and then has a good playoff season, I think things like that, when players have that kind of success in such a short span of time, that tells you something that they could be special players.” It’s an interesting comment on the production of a player in such a small sample size. Senators fans who watched Patrick Eaves play during his rookie season know how unreliable small sample sizes can be for projecting future worth, but there are some underlying metrics that suggest Pageau can be a positive contributor, even when he’s not scoring goals or putting up points. On who gets credit for Pageau… “No, I’ll say Bryan Murray. He’s the GM and I’ve told this story many times. I brought Bryan to see… obviously Pageau was playing against Drummondville that year and it was (Sean) Couturier, so I brought Bryan to see Couturier that year. And then it was Saint John versus Gatineau in the finals and Bryan turned to me and goes, and Bryan’s not a big fan of small fan of small players, if we know Bryan Murray very well. He turned to me and goes, ‘Pierre, you can have everyone else on the ice. I’ll take both 11s.’ One was (Jonathan) Huberdeau and the other was Pageau. I knew I had the green light to take (Pageau) when we thought it would be the right time.” For what it’s worth, here are the other players who didn’t wear number eleven in this series: Zack Phillips, Stanislav Galiev, Tomas Jurco, Nathan Beaulieu and Simon Despres. On the rationale for inviting Pageau to rookie camp… “Well, I think it’s just, with a guy like Pageau, even though he had a great playoffs for us and finished the year well, I think he’s someone that had only one rookie camp under his belt. He’s someone who was fighting to make a spot on the American (Hockey) League team last year. He barely played any NHL games. We just felt for him, starting the season with the kids, and he’s still on his entry-level deal, wouldn’t be a bad thing for him.” It wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. Not that the kid’s head isn’t on straight, he’s worked hard to get where he is – making the ascent through the organization’s system in short order. By inviting him to camp, you’re sending the message to him that his place on Ottawa’s parent roster isn’t guaranteed and he’ll have to continue to work hard to build off of last year’s momentum. On Chris Driedger and the season that he had last year… “He had a tremendous year last year. They were probably, if you talked to anyone in Calgary last year, he was the main reason they went to seven games versus Edmonton in the (WHL) Conference Finals. He had a tremendous year. I think when he got back (to Calgary from development camp), I had the chance to talk to his coach Mike Williamson, he came back a bit immature thinking that everything was going to be easy. He just had a quick turnaround and he said, ‘I’m going to be the guy here. I’m going to be the hardest worker in practice.’ He just led his team. Unfortunately, what people don’t know is that, I’m not sure he would have been one of the three final guys (for the Team Canada World Juniors). He was hurt at the camp, which is one of the reasons why he barely played in development camp. But we think he’s got a chance to be one of Canada’s World Junior goalies, if not the starting guy. He plays and he beats Brent Sutter regularly when Calgary plays Red Deer, and I think they know how good he is. We’re expecting big things out of Chris, and I think he could surprise a lot of people by being on Canada’s World Junior team.” Throw in other names like Hammond, Magnus Hellberg, Francois Brassard and Robin ‘freaking’ Lehner in addition to Driedger and the organization is loaded with depth at the goaltending position. Besides the depth on its wings, goaltending is one of the organization’s biggest strengths for what feels like the first time in this organization’s modern existence. On Darren Kramer… “It’s a role that he could play. With Darren, it’s always trying to work on his foot speed and puck skills. I think he has enough hockey sense to play that role down the road; it’s just improving every year. He took a step last year, but this year is a big year for a guy like Darren Kramer.” Neat.  
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