Wednesday, September 21, 2005

And then there were 27

The Sens trimmed their roster today by 20 today, leaving them with 27 still up with the team. No unexpected names are on the list of those cut.

The players were:
G Jeff Glass
G Kelly Guard
G Mike Mole
D Brennan Evans
D Neil Komadoski
D Tomas Kudelka
D Neil Petruic
D Jan Platil
F Cody Bass
F Danny Bois
F Brett Clouthier
F Joe Cullen
F Chris Greene
F Jeff Heerema
F Gregg Johnson
F Matt Marquardt
F Grant Potulny
F Charlie Stephens
F Greg Watson
F Roman Wick

It’s interesting to note that both Guard and Glass will be sent to the baby Sens in Binghamton. It’s pretty well written in stone that Billy Thompson, who had a strong season last year, will be the starter, so one of the two promising youngsters will serve as his back-up and get limited playing time. I would’ve thought that they’d send one of them, mostly likely Glass, to an alternate minor league team to ensure they get the amount of game time a still developing netminder needs to continue their progress. This was the practice last year when they sent Guard to Charlotte of the ECHL. Perhaps that will come eventually, and they want the two to battle it out for the back-up job in Bingo, with the loser going elsewhere for the time being. Either way, both seem to have bright futures in Ottawa.

Mike Mole was one of the winners of the CBC reality series “Making The Cut” and won a training camp tryout as part of the show. I didn’t such much of the program when it first aired, and have been putting off doing so now that it’s available on DVD, so I have no real clue how good this guy is. I will be interested to see if any of the other winners who got chances with the Canadian NHL clubs can at least land a job with their minor league affiliate.

On defence, there are a few notables. Neil Komadoski is clearly a guy who the team is high on, based on the fact he was given the C for the rookie tournament, and though he didn’t look poor, Komadoski also didn’t stand out. For me anyway, he was one of those guys who plays consistently strong throughout the game, but doesn’t do anything particularly well. Solid, but unspectacular. He was very good in his own end. A year in Bingo will be good for his career. Last year he wasn’t able to crack the line-up all the time because of all the depth the team had due to NHLers Brian Pothier and Anton Volchenkov being down there, and when he did play, it was not consistent enough to keep a spot in the line-up. Now that both will be gone, as well possibly as Christoph Schubert, he’ll be able to assume a larger role, as basically, the top 3 d-men from last season might be in Ottawa, leaving room for someone to make a big lateral move. He was a bluechipper in college, so the talent’s clearly there.

A player to keep an eye on down in Binghamton will be Jan Platil. Coming out of junior, where he put up 98 points in 129 games over his last two seasons in Barrie, he was highly touted, however, he’s been unable to take that ability to contribute on the score sheet into the pros, with only one goal and three assists each of his two years in Bingo. Those who saw a lot of the team say he looked like was ready to improve, starting the season strong, but not performing well at all in the second half of the year. His physical game remained in tact, as he can be very menacing, both with his fists and his hits, but the offensive dimension of his game was no where to be found. In some ways, it will be put up or shut up for the Czech defenceman. With the departure of the NHLers, there is the opportunity to make an impact, but the onus is on him. Bingo head coach Dave Cameron will hand him the ball, let’s see if he can run with it.

Neil Petruic will be going into his first as a pro, having done the full four years in college with the University Of Minnesota-Duluth. Most tout him as being highly skilled offensively, especially on the powerplay due to his good passing skills and great shot.

Up front, top prospect Roman Wick will be going to Binghamton, his first year in pro hockey. In the rookie game I saw, I was not wowed by Wick to say the least, as I basically had to go out of my way to find him on the ice. He did not do anything for me to take notice. But when I did watch his play, he looked very timid and afraid of the contact. That’s nothing surprising, because the scouting reports on him were that that part of game needed work, but I didn’t think it would be that bad. Playing under a Sutter in junior for Red Deer would’ve hardened him a little, I assumed. Wrong it seems. Having said all this, he is regarded as very talented, especially with the puck, as he can be dangerous in one-on-one situations. We’ll see how he fares in the AHL.

Danny Bois was kind of like Komadoski in that he was not spectacular but his play impressed me. Despite having a rep of being an enforcer type (and justifiably so, having racked up at least 200 PIMs in all four of his junior years), he game seemed to have more dimension than that. Having spent a year in the AHL, last year, where he got 6 points in 72 games, he might’ve had a leg up on some of the others. People I spoke with who saw the rest of the tournament basically echoed this sentiment. I’m sure he’ll continue to serve in the toughguy role with Bingo, but there’s more to him than just that.

Much like at defence, there will be a bunch of NHLers not with the team this season, including Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Brandon Bochenski, and (likely) Brian McGrattan. As a result, guys who were there last year, but in a limited role, can step up. Two possibilities of this are Greg Watson and Grant Potulny. Neither were regulars in every game, getting at most fourth line roles, but there are some holes to fill, and they might be able to perform.

As well, Charlie Stephens could be on the verge of a big season. At 6’3” and 225 pounds, he’s got great size, and was a good performer in junior, collecting 268 points over 300 games in his five junior years. After coming to the Sens organization in 2003, he looked very promising early on, putting up 32 points in 37 games in his first season with the AHL Sens. Last season though, due to the influx of NHLers, he was relegated to a third line checking role, collecting only 28 points. He was said to look good in spurts, but overall, had a hard time adjusting to the assignment. Now that he can assume a spot on one of the top two lines, where he’s better suited to play anyway, Stephens could be ready for a big splash.

The rest of the non-junior players cut are new to the organization. Joe Cullen was signed as a free agent a few weeks ago. Brett Clouthier was formerly with the New Jersey organization, drafted in the second round of 1999, but never panned out in that system. He seems to be somewhat limited as to what he can contribute, but he’s another big body at 6’5” and 225 pounds, and can drop the gloves if necessary.

I’ve talked about how much I liked Cody Bass before, but it warrants another mention. He was absolutely fantastic in the rookie tourney, and another year in junior for seasoning, where he can get more ice time and play a big part on the team, will only help him. He’s not going to be a sniper for the Sens anytime soon, but his play in both ends of the ice, as well as his blazing speed, make him someone they have to have as a priority.

Tomas Kudelka had a brutal rookie tournament, not doing himself an favors as far as impressing the decision makers, but maybe a year in the WHL will do him some good. It will be his first year of hockey in North America so it could just be that the difference in the game overwhelmed him. The team has to be hoping so, because I know he’s considered one of the better blueline prospects in the organization, or at least, was a month ago. He often looked lost on the ice and was prone to a lot of bad plays, including at least one awful giveaway in the game I saw. Apparently little changed throughout the rest of the tourney. The team he’s joining, Lethbridge, is expected to be a pretty good one, so that might help.

I didn’t see Matt Marquardt play, because he was a scratch against the Leafs, so I don’t any first hand words about him. He is massive though, at 6’4” and 220 pounds at only 18 years old. He came to the Sens camp on an invitation, and without a contract. He’s been sent back to Moncton of the QMJHL, who will not only be coached by Ted Nolan but also be the host of the Memorial Cup. Nolan had previously said Marquardt was the best player in the team’s training camp, so clearly there is a lot of upside there. I don’t think him coming to their camp gives the Sens any rights to him (someone can feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about this), so there’s no assurance he even has a future with this organization. Chris Greene also came to the camp without a contract and is on his way back to his junior team, the Eerie Otters of the OHL. I can’t recall anything about him, so that probably isn’t a good sign, but he was the team’s rookie of the year last season.

Still with the Sens, but on the bubble, are Patrick Eaves, Chris Kelly, Denis Hamel, Steve Martins, Brian McGrattan, Andrej Meszaros, Lance Ward, Tomas Malec and Schubert. With the injury to Vaclav Varada keeping him out of the line-up until late October at the earliest, and likely into November, there is another spot open. Many have pinned it down to a battle between Hamel and Kelly, with the assumption that if Kelly does win it, Antoine Vermette will move to left wing, as he’s spent some time there in addition to center, while Kelly is a strictly a center.

The next pre-season game is Friday in Wilkes Barre, PA against Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Expect a lot of the above mentioned, who sat out the game Sunday against the Maple Leafs, to play.


At 3:00 AM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Glass is 19 and can play another year of junior before becoming an over-age player. My guess is that's what he does (unless you have other information).

Guard is a capable pro, so there's no sense keeping both of them in the AHL when they can just reassign Glass.

(Glass has an NHL contract, yes, but the terms will carry over should he play another year of junior — again, I don't know the specifics here, but that is the path a ton of WHLers followed when I used to follow the league)

At 3:40 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

So why wasn't he sent back to his team? He's been assigned to Bingo, not back to the WHL.

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd wondered the same about Glass and if he'd be back in the CHL? My guess is he stays in Bingo to have two goalies in camp until Thompson is sent back after getting some exhibition action. Or maybe they feel he would develop better with a season in the ECHL?

At 4:42 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

I do think a year of action in a league like the ECHL would serve him better than another year in the WHL, where he's pretty much done as much as a goalie can do, would serve him better. But what do I know?

At 6:16 PM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

It seems to me that very, very few junior-age players play in a league like the ECHL. Generally players move there only once they've hit 20 and have no where else to play.

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James is right -- the ECHL is really Last Chance Saloon for players with no other options. In terms of competition and exposure, a player is better off in major junior. The ECHL isn't quite "Zamboni Rodeo", but it's close.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Kelly Guard played there last season.

At 7:31 PM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Guard was 21 to start last season and inelligible to return to Kelowna.

At 2:16 AM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

This article talks about the junior eligibility rules for players who don't get NHL contracts. Basically, unless Glass is playing with the Senators, he has to return to junior. Previously, NHL teams were allowed to keep youngsters for a half season or more before returning them (a la Scott Niedermayer when he was in Kamloops), but that has change in the past five years or so.


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