While the Ottawa Senators and the rest of the NHL are on the Olympic Break, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at some of the Senators prospects and draft picks. If you are even a casual reader of SenShot, you know that Jeff Ullmer has done a yeoman’s job covering the Binghamton Senators and the progression of the prospects that are on that roster. I will be taking a look at other young men that are still playing around the junior and NCAA ranks. There are a number of draft picks, including some interesting late-round selections, that are making a name for themselves and have to be included in the conversation when it comes to the organization’s depth for the future.
Today, we take a look at Boston University freshman Robbie Baillargeon. Baillargeon was the Senators’ fifth round selection in the 2012 draft (136th overall) from the USHL’s Indiana Ice. He split last season between the Ice and the Omaha Lancers, joining the Boston University Terriers for this season.
Baillargeron is currently the top scoring forward on the Terriers, with 7 goals and 13 assists in 28 games so far this season.
Photo courtesy Michelle Jay/ Daily Free Press, used with permission
I had the chance to ask a few questions of Kevin Dillon, who covers the Boston University Men’s hockey team for the Daily Free Press, about the progress of Baillargeon this season.
Q:He is a freshman this season for the Terriers, and 2nd on the team in points. How is he adjusting to life in the NCAA?
A: Baillargeon has been the Terriers best freshman this season, and arguably the team’s best player. All BU coach David Quinn does is rave about how much he loves Baillargeon’s game, which is a result of his ability in all three zones. If I had to describe him in one word, I would say he is smooth. BU’s team is pretty thin in terms of depth and experience this season, so Baillargeon started the year as the first-line left wing and has been a consistent two-way presence in the top-six ever since. Quinn recently bumped Danny O’Regan — one of BU’s better defensive forwards — over to wing so Baillargeon could take over the defensive responsibilities of centering the first line.
As far as how well he has progressed, Baillargeon started the year as the most NCAA-ready freshman BU had. The improvement has not been that dramatic because he was already pretty polished for a freshman. However, he has shown improvement in winning one-on-one battles for the puck, particularly down low in the offensive and defensive zones, which is the biggest thing you look for from a college freshman going up against bigger, stronger competition.
Q: How much playing time is he seeing? Any special teams?
A:Baillargeon is the first-line center on a team that primarily runs only two forward lines right now, he is on the top power-play unit and he kills penalties. Basically, he is getting more ice time than your typical college freshman. All of this experience can only help his progression as he continues to get a ton of playing time against some of the best college defensemen in the country.
On the power play, Baillargeon plays along the wall in an umbrella setup, so the puck cycles between him and the two defensemen along the outside. Defenseman Ahti Oksanen, who is BU’s leading scorer, is the primary option on the power play thanks to his cannon of a slap shot. It is often Baillargeon who tees him up for that slap shot with a nice feed from the boards.
Q: What have you noticed to be the strong suits in his game?
A: Baillargeon is one of those players who is above average at just about everything. He has good size that will only improve as he bulks up. He is a very smooth skater that has great vision with the puck and is known to make some pretty terrific passes (BU’s third goal in this highlight is an example of those passes — although it’s from a tough camera angle http://www.goterriers.com/allaccess/?media=417966
). He makes good quick decisions with the puck and is not afraid to use his stickhandling ability to take defensemen on one-on-one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eHuOqaV6Dc
) Perhaps the most impressive part of his game is how responsible he is defensively at this stage in his career.
Q: It’s still early in his NCAA career, but does he show signs of being a future pro?
A: Like you said, it’s early, but I think he definitely shows signs of being a future pro. He will only get stronger and smarter with experience and he has the size and skill to make it onto an NHL roster. Quinn talks all the time about how he coaches his players to play an NHL game. Based on the way he has praised him, I see him being a solid third-line center with an upside of a second line center.
Q: What will he need to work on in order to advance in the NCAA and eventually to a professional career?
A: One thing that has given him trouble this season is his shot — particularly how quick he can get it off. He has struggled with getting one-timers off, especially on the power play. Baillargeon gets set up for one-timers on back-door plays, but either doesn’t get good wood on the one-timer, receives the pass and then shoots into a defender who has shifted over to block the shot, or passes it off to someone else. It is for this reason that Oksanen has been the focal point of the power play. This is something that is fixable though. Once he figures it out, I’d expect his power-play goal totals to jump up.
He is also a little bit thin for his size and could benefit from some bulking up — especially when he is going up against bigger, stronger defensemen. That will help him even more in winning puck battles down low.
Many thanks to Kevin Dillon for taking the time to answer some questions, and to Michelle Jay of the Daily Free Press for allowing me to use the photo above.