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GARRIOCH: Ottawa senators will give kids a chance to show where they stand when rookie camp begins

GARRIOCH: Ottawa senators will give kids a chance to show where they stand when rookie camp begins

“The Ottawa senators shifted gears Wednesday afternoon to the next phase of camp for the newcomers.”

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The Ottawa senators shifted gears Wednesday afternoon to the next phase of camp for the newcomers.

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With rookie matches against the Montreal Canadiens scheduled for Saturday at the Canadian Tire Center at 4pm and Monday in Brossard, Que., The 23 players left here are now ready to brace their things for general manager Pierre Dorion, chief scout Trent Mann , VP of Player Development Pierre McGuire, coach DJ Smith and the rest of the staff.

Not only did the players spend an hour doing exercises led by Belleville Senators head coach Troy Mann and his staff, after a short break they went back for another 30 minutes to do special team work.

Among the attendees to keep an eye on are center Shane Pinto and defender Jacob Bernard-Docker, who finished the year senators along with Belleville’s Egor Sokolov, Angus Crookshank, Lassi Thomson and junior forward Ridly Greig.

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There is not a rookie tournament this year because no one was even sure if this season would get underway due to the pandemic. In the past, we’ve seen players come out of these settings to make an impact on the NHL. Like former senators Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa, Mike Fisher and Anton Volchenkov are among those I have seen dominate in rookie games.

Maybe by putting these names here, I’m just showing how long I’ve been around, but those players are types who led the rookie fights and then went into the main camp and pushed for places on the list. Of course, the names have changed over the years, but the challenge of trying to make the opening night list on October 14th remains the same.

No, the next six days are not going to break or destroy these players, but having a strong rookie camp will bode well for their confidence when the veterans join the group on September 23rd. If guys like Pinto, Bernard-Docker, Sokolov, Thomson, Greig and goalkeeper Mads Sogaard can be discriminating in these two games, it will definitely help.

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“It’s definitely going to be the guys that you look like are your go-to guys during the two games,” Mann said Wednesday afternoon. “All of these guys have been able to play some professional games, whether it was in the American Hockey League or the NHL, so they should be the leaders in terms of the guys who are most noticeable when viewed from above.

“The expectation for guys that was just recently drafted is that it will be a bit more of a learning curve compared to a guy like Sokolov who has 35 (AHL) games under his belt or a guy like Pinto who spent the end of the year with Ottawa. You hate to use the word dominate, but they should definitely lead us and must be go-to guys to be successful in these two fights. ”

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Lassi Thomson will be an exciting player to watch in the rookie matches.  He was excellent late last season.
Lassi Thomson will be an exciting player to watch in the rookie matches. He was excellent late last season. Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

Mann has played a role in helping shape some of the youth in this organization. He has worked with people like Drake Batherson, Josh Norris and Alex Formenton to help them take the step to the next level. Some of the players in this camp may need more time in the AHL to get stronger and make better decisions with or without the puck, but they have a chance to play here.

“Last year was a good learning curve for guys like Sokolov and Crookshank who came in at the end of the season,” Mann said. “I’m just really grateful that we had the opportunity to play and let these kids have that experience. They have only played half seasons, but 35 games were far better than the alternative of not being able to play at all or very little.

“There are a number of examples throughout North America of guys who could not play very much hockey last year.”

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Thomson could be exciting to watch in these games. The club’s number 19 overall choice in 2019, he chose to come abroad from Finland last season and was impressive after finding his way in the North American game. Smith especially liked what he saw from Thomson’s efforts in the AHL, and he could put himself in a position to be called up if there are injuries.

“We would definitely like to see him take his game to the next level and I thought his stretch was excellent last year,” Mann said. “We saw progress from game 1 to game 35 with his confidence level, but also with what his role should be and how he should play to be successful.

“There were some matches towards the end of the season where DJ was (in the match) and (Thomson) was our best defender both nights. The DJ called me after because he was very impressed with his playing. That’s what we’re hoping to take in this weekend and move on. Last season, he showed that he has all the tools to be a successful defender at the NHL level, we just have to keep working on his maturity and his consistency. ”

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Twitter: @sungarrioch

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