Mainly due to injuries last season, the Sens were able to find regular spots for rookies Cory Conacher (acquired for rookie Ben Bishop), Robin Lehner, Jakob Silfverberg, Eric Gryba, Mika Zibanejad, Patrick Wiercioch and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, all of whom played much better than most expected. The biggest surprise of them all was Pageau, a hero for all times in the playoffs despite mostly playing on the third line in Binghamton and nearly opening the season in 2012/13 season in the ECHL.
With a farm system that still has a fair share of talent, here are some of the better candidates with a shot to solidify themselves as NHL regulars this season.
Mark Stone – RW, Age 21
Stone is without a doubt my favourite prospect in the system. At 6’3 and 200 pounds, he’s a big, strong player with skill. While his skating is clearly holding him back, Stone is a very smart two-way player with great playmaking ability. Although most people remember him for his 7 goals in 5 games for Canada at the WJC in 2012, he is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. With that skill set he could be a great player to use in front of the net on the power-play.
Stone had a great year in Binghamton, tying Da Costa for the most points on the team despite playing in 4 fewer games and spending most of the year on a defensive deployed second line with Dzuizynski and Derek Grant before being bumped up to Da Costa’s wing on the top line after Silfverberg and Zibanejad were called up. He also only picked up 14 PIM, which is great since the Sens have been taking a few too many penalties the past few years.
Assuming Zibanejad is moved to the wing, Stone is 5th on the RW depth chart behind Ryan, Zibanejad, Neil and Condra, so he would be the first called up after an injury. Furthermore, when he was called up last year he played some LW, which helps his chances even more. My money is on Stone to be the team’s breakout youngster next season.
Derek Grant – C, Age 23
Another big kid with skill and a good 2-way game, Grant lead Binghamton in goals (although he benefited from a high schooting percentage) even though he was used mostly in a defensive role on the team’s second line for the majority of the season.
In an interview with the TEAM1200 in January, here’s what Coach Richardson had to say about Grant's play:
“If you look at (Grant’s) play and his numbers are probably impressive, especially the shorthanded goal department, but if you watched him play now and you watched him play last year… just taking charge as a big centerman, getting physical and being able to play against the top line on the other team every night and do a great job. And he’s got the dynamic part where he can check them so well that when they turn the puck over, he’s dangerous offensively”
The Sens already have a ton of depth at center with likes of Spezza, Turris, Pageau, Smith, Zibanejad and O’Brien, so Grant certainly has his work cut out for him. But if he continues to improve like he has in his last two seasons. and if the Sens have some injuries (especially to a penalty killer) and become in need of a bottom 6 player who's good defensively, he just might be good enough to earn a call-up and maybe even a regular spot in the line-up if he succeeds.
Mike Hoffman – LW, Age 23
A great skater with a fantastic shot, Hoffman has been one of Binghamton’s best players the past two years. While he has plenty of skill, he lacks strength and consistency, and occasionally makes poor decisions with the puck. The acquisitions of Cory Conacher and Clarke MacArthur hurt his chances of getting Top 9 minutes at LW, but Hoffman seems to be a good fit for MacLean’s system, and seems to be pretty close to NHL-ready.
Mark Borowiecki – LD, Age 24
Borowiecki has a lot of intangibles to like. He throws massive hits, fights, works hard and plays mean. On top of that, he was born in Ottawa and was recently named the new captain of the Binghamton Senators. While his physical play and defensive play could be beneficial to the team, Mark is still lacking in offensive and puck moving skill. Due to the team’s focus on puck possession, it might be hard for him to earn the trust of Paul MacLean. On the other hand, the Sens have a shallow D group which really shouldn’t be too hard to crack. After signing a contract that's one-way for 2014-15, it’s possible Borowiecki will play more games than anyone on this list, although I’m not sure that he has the skillset to be anything more than a 6/7 defenseman at the moment.
Shane Prince – W, Age 20
I’m a huge fan of Shane Prince. While he isn’t very strong and still has work to do on his defense, he’s a very hard worker who's a great skater and a ton of offensive talent (check out the second goal he scores in the video). He got off to a slow start last year and spent much of the season playing bottom 6 minutes with Cole Schneider and Pat Cannone, (although he was still getting PP ice-time) but got more minutes later in the season after NHL call-ups and injuries, as well as his own improved play. Regardless, he finished 3rd in team scoring.
Just like Hoffman and Da Costa, with the amount of forward depth this team has it’ll be hard to earn Top 9 minutes, but I’m very optimistic about Prince heading into next season. He should get lots of ice-time in Binghamton, and I think he’ll be one of their top players. I think he’ll get a call-up at some point next season, although it's hard to say how well he'll do mostly due to his size.
Stephane Da Costa – C, Age 24
Time is running out for Da Costa to become the next Adam Oates, let alone an NHL player. Despite being a 0.72 PPG player during the past two seasons in the AHL, Da Costa has failed to find any success at all in the NHL. For a player’s whose game is all speed and offensive instincts, 7 points in 35 career NHL games for an undersized 24 year-old with not much of a defensive game is pretty awful. While Da Costa will most likely get a shot with the team this year and seems to have good offensive upside, with so much depth at C, I have a hard time seeing him sticking with the big club, unless he finally starts producing since his game doesn’t have much else to it.
Cody Ceci – RD, Age 19
While his point totals were great last season, Ceci had an up and down year with the 67’s. Although much of that can be blamed on the team. At the end of the 2011-12 season, the 67’s lost 5 of their 8 leading scorers and all 3 goalies. Stuff like that happens in junior hockey but the fact that they replaced them with a bunch of rookies and a crop of goaltenders who couldn’t stop a nosebleed put Ceci in a tough spot. Being forced to play way more minutes than necessary (especially after Cardwell asked for a trade), Ceci often looked exhausted. I didn’t get to watch him in Owen Sound but it sounds like he did a bit better.
Ceci is fast, has fantastic lateral movements and agility, makes good passes, and has a bomb of a shot that make him very dangerous in the offensive zone, especially on the PP. He’s also very big (6'3, 215 lbs.), although he doesn't usually play physically.
My biggest ciriticism of him is that sometimes he seemed to blow coverage in the defensive zone, but some of that can be attributed to fatigue, and being on an awful team.
Being a right-handed shot certainly helps his chances, because other than Karlsson, the team's only right shots on defense are Gryba and Corvo, neither of whom are really any good. Furthermore having a big frame will help his transition. While I think he’s a great prospect, I'm often skeptical of young defenseman, and with the flaws in his defensive play, I can't really see him making the team next year.
Corey Cowick – LW, Age 24
Cowick is big player who can skate and play physically with great work ethic. On top of that, being a from Ottawa and having played for the 67’s Cowick would probably be pretty well-liked by the fanbase. He spent most of the year on the third line with Pageau and Jessiman, and put up a modest 35 points. Cowick was also a big part of Binghamton’s penalty kill last season. With so many strong wingers in the NHL and even AHL, Cowick is certainly a longshot, especially given his offensive talent.
David Dziurzynski – LW, Age 23
Even though he got 12 games in the NHL last year, I doubt we’ll see much of Dziurzynski this year. He’s only 23 years old and has already put up 3 straight seasons of 20 points or more in the AHL, but other than being physical and working hard he really does not bring much to the table. In a few years he might able to turn into a 4th line grinder of some sort, but I can't really call myself a fan of his.
Nikita Filatov – LW, Age 23
Have a good one everybody.