After an exciting summer of trades, signings and all-around positive developments, the Ottawa Senators get down to the actual business of playing hockey games this week.
This Friday through Monday, the Senators will be playing in the Prospects Challenge, a six-team rookie tournament at LECOM Harborcenter, the Sabres’ practice facility in Buffalo. Competing teams include the Senators, Sabres, Penguins, Devils, Bruins and Canadiens. Although they won’t face New Jersey or Pittsburgh, the Sens’ freshmen will be taking on rookies and prospects from three of their Atlantic Division rivals: Boston, Montreal and Buffalo.
The tournament is the biggest part of the Sens’ annual rookie camp, which begins here in Ottawa on Thursday before they shuffle off to Buffalo.
Prospects Challenge Schedule
Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins
Fri, Sep 16 at 3:30-6:30 PM
Ottawa Senators vs Montreal Canadiens
Sun, Sep 18 at 12-3 PM
Ottawa Senators vs Buffalo Sabres
Mon, Sep 19 at 1:30-4:30 PM
Streamed on Sabres.com
The Sens have invited 26 players to this year’s camp and tournament – three goaltenders, eight defencemen and fifteen forwards.
The roster features three first-round NHL draft picks – Jake Sanderson (5th, 2020), Ridly Greig (28th, 2020) and Tyler Boucher (10th, 2021). But the most notable inclusion is forward Shane Pinto. Like Sanderson, Pinto is a lock to make the 2022-23 NHL team this season. In fact, Pinto was expected to be a key contributor after making the Sens last year, before suffering shoulder injury October 21st against San Jose, just four games into the season.
Pinto then tried to come back three weeks later and re-injured his shoulder without contact. The simple act of trying to win a faceoff finished off his shoulder. And from there, it was off to surgery, with a long rehab.
After almost a year off, the Sens clearly want Pinto to play as much as possible leading up to the regular season. With his health restored, rust is the only thing that will keep Pinto from dominating the opponents he’ll face this week in Buffalo.
There is risk to star prospects in tournaments like these, particularly ones like Sanderson, Pinto, and Ridly Greig, who are coming off injuries. Each team in the upcoming tournament will have a few roster-fillers with almost no chance of making the NHL. And, as rookies do, they’ll desperately try and get noticed any way they can. If that means taking runs at opposing players who are making them look bad, that’s what they’ll do.
Some of the other top prospects very much on the Sens’ NHL radar include (but aren’t limited to) Zack Ostapchuk, Viktor Lodin, Angus Crookshank, Roby Jarventie, Tomas Hamara and Mads Sogaard.
The rookie camp and tournament will be run by Belleville Senators’ head coach Troy Mann and his staff. The three Sabres’ games, including Monday’s finale the Sens, will all be streamed on the club’s website, Sabres.com. The Sens have not yet firmed up plans for streaming coverage.
The Senators’ 2022 rookie tournament roster:
Goaltenders: Kevin Mandolese (Atlanta – ECHL, Belleville – AHL), Jakob Robillard (Sherbrooke – QMJHL), Mads Søgaard (Belleville – AHL, Ottawa – NHL).
Defencemen: Xavier Bernard (Atlanta – ECHL, Belleville – AHL), Jorian Donovan (Hamilton – OHL), Maxence Guenette (Belleville – AHL), Tomas Hamara (Tappara U20 – SM-sarja, KeuPa – Mestis, Tappara – Liiga), Zachary Massicotte (Shawinigan – QMJHL), Ben Roger (London – OHL, Kingston – OHL), Chandler Romeo (Hamilton – OHL, Sarnia – OHL), Jake Sanderson (North Dakota – NCHC).
Forwards: Tyler Boucher (Boston University – H-East, Ottawa – OHL), Angus Crookshank (Did not play), Philippe Daoust (Saint John – QMJHL, Belleville – AHL), Ridly Greig (Brandon – WHL, Belleville – AHL), Roby Jarventie (Belleville – AHL), Carson Latimer (Edmonton – WHL, Prince Albert – WHL), Zakary Lavoie (Mississauga – OHL), Viktor Lodin (Timrå – SHL, Belleville – AHL, Ottawa – NHL), Kyle McDonald (Windsor – OHL, North Bay – OHL), Jacob Newcombe (Chicoutimi – QMJHL), Zack Ostapchuk (Vancouver – WHL), Shane Pinto (Ottawa – NHL), Milo Roelens (Sherbrooke – QMJHL), Reid Valade (Kitchener – OHL), Dalyn Wakely (North Bay – OHL).
By Steve Warne