The 2014-15 NHL Season unofficially kicks off Saturday for the Ottawa Senators with their first live action of the new season, the annual rookie tournament held in London, Ontario. It is one of a few prospect oriented camps and tournaments going on around the league, and this one features the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The games will be broadcast locally on Rogers 22, if you are fortunate enough to subscribe to that company, and can also be heard on TSN1200.
Here are some of the prominent players to watch not only from the Senators, but the other franchises as well. I will pick 3 from each team to feature.
Curtis Lazar – Ottawa’s undisputed top prospect and the most likely to earn a spot with the Senators this season. Had a tremendous World Junior summer camp and came to this camp in absolute top shape, having added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame from last season.
Nick Paul – North Bay Battalion forward who came over to Ottawa in the Jason Spezza trade. He had a growth spurt last summer to his current 6’4″ height, and took some adjusting to the new-found size. He had a great playoff and was probably the player who turned the most heads at the summer evaluation camp for the World Juniors.
Frederik Claesson – This will be the third time around for Claesson in the rookie tournament. He is still just 21, but seems to have been around forever and continues to sit down on the depth chart. This will be a big season in his development and he will want to get it off to a good start with a solid performance in this tournament to put himself at the front of the line when a callup on the blue line in Ottawa is needed.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
William Nylander – The Leafs’ first round pick in 2014, some are suggesting that he could force his way onto the big club this season.
Connor Brown – A teammate of top prospect (in the 2015 draft) Connor McDavid, Brown made a name for himself last season by winning the scoring championship with 128 points in 68 games and his snub from Team Canada became a talking point after they lost the World Juniors (at least from Don Cherry‘s soap-box)
Tyler Biggs – Sandwiched around the Stefan Noeson – Matt Puempel area of the 2012 draft, Biggs hasn’t had much impact as a pro and missed a lot of last season with an injury. This is almost a make-it or break-it season for the power forward.
Kasperi Kapanen – Son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen, he was the Pens first round pick in 2014. He will be looking to make a good first impression and possibly snag a spot on the Penguins as early as now.
Brian Dumoulin – One of the long-touted group of top end defensive prospects, Dumoulin is now 23 and it is time for him to make the step up and seize a roster spot. There aren’t many prospects more talented offensively than Dumoulin and he just needs a chance to become a full-time NHLer
Scott Harrington – There is a spot open on the Penguins blue line, and if it doesn’t go to Dumoulin, it could very well go to Harrington, who will be playing this tournament in the same rink where he played his junior hockey for the Knights. He is a solid all-around defensemen who will eventually be a long-term NHLer.
Teuvo Teravainen – He could be the most NHL ready prospect in the tournament, and could very well have a prominent role on a contending Blackhawk team come October. He got into 3 games with the Hawks after coming over from Finland last season.
Mark McNeill – After a full year in the AHL under his belt, McNeill will be looking to make an impact as he begins to approach the status of former prospect rather than can’t miss prospect that he was as the Hawks first round pick in 2011 and former Canadian World Junior player.
Ryan Hartman – The last pick of the first round in 2013, he is still just 19 years old (will be 20 next week) and was a key part of the US national Junior team in last year’s World Juniors.
ITS HOCKEY TIME!!!