From tiny accorns…
Come the mightiest oaks.
Or, at least we hope so, particularly in the cases of Cowen, Cowick, and Wiercioch.
Some may take issue with Murray, questioning his actions as GM, fair enough, but nobody can deny his re-stocking of the larder, and as the adage goes, a GM is judged on years 3 and beyond, not before.
Karlsson, Cowen, Wiercioch, Rundblad, O’Brien, Petersson, Cowick, Butler, Hoffman, Lehner, Silfverberg, Caporusso.
That’s an impressive list of players who, importantly, have shown solid progression in their development. Being a high draft pick is all well and good but, when you’re drafting teenagers, progression is the key…think Brian Lee vs. Wiercioch. Murray and his scouting team has consistently selected players who have, no matter their draft position, shown progression.
There is, however, one exception, Ruslan Bashkirov. Ruslan represents the one and only Russian drafted under Murray’s tenure. Ruslan, a highly talented winger, bolted to the KHL soon after playing a season in the Q, and rumour has it, is now holding out from returning to NA until his twin brother (undrafted) is given a sympathy NHL contract. Too bad, as Ruslan is a very talented winger, and would probably be fighting for a chance to line up along side Spezza this coming season, instead he’ll be toiling another season in the KHL where, to date, he has been less than impressive.
But there is still hope, as Ruslan requested to attend this seasons development camp, and showed his skills while there. Unfortunately, some suggest it was little more than a ploy to improve his bargaining position in the KHL.
But back to the tournament at hand, and the players attending.
The big names to watch will be Cowen, Wiercioch, Butler, Cowick, Hoffman, O’brien and Lehner. These are the players closest to making the Sens, and also those most likely to get injury call ups (except Cowen) should they play well in the A.
From Cowen we want to see improved mobility, and a consistent display of grit and aggression.
From Wiercioch we want to see improved skating, and slick puck transition.
Butler has to show an ability to think the game at an elite level (compared to the competition), he needs to be one of, if not the best, forward on the ice in order to make the Sens out of camp.
Cowick has to show a fierce competitive streak, along with some feisty play, at both ends of the ice, if he hopes to start the process of making a name for himself as a future elite 3rd liner.
If Hoffman wants to climb his way to the top of the “sniper” ladder, he has to do one thing…score. Then, score some more. Since being drafted, Hoffman has developed in leaps and bounds, but scoring in the run ‘n gun Q, then doing the same in the A, is a big challenge. No longer will he be facing 16 year olds, instead his lighter frame will be competing against men, big men. Can he handle the physicality? This tournament will be his first big test.
For Jim O’Brien, a player coming to the tourny after having spent a season in the A, he must impress. He has to dominate, and prove he’s an NHL player, surrounded by, at best, AHL level competition, both physically, and in terms of skill and decision making. He didn’t blossom in the AHL, but it was year one, this is the year he has to show a big leap forward in order to remain a legitimate NHL prospect. It starts today.
And lastly, Lehner, he must look competitive. He doesn’t have to steal the show, but he must not look out of place. As a young goaltender, he has a lot of rope, and time to develop. He will surely see plenty of time in the AHL, and at this point, it’s all about development pace and consistency, not about being NHL ready. Oh yeah, and you can’t teach BIG.