NHL.com continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.
It's not often a player goes from Stanley Cup Playoff hero to training camp longshot during the course of a summer, but that accurately would describe the path Jean-Gabriel Pageau has taken since last spring.
A year ago the Ottawa Senators were trying to decide what to do with Pageau, and every option was considered: Back to junior for an overage season, to the ECHL or the American Hockey League. Playing in the NHL with the Senators would require an extraordinary set of circumstances coming to fruition.
But then Pageau began to shine with Ottawa's AHL club, the Binghamton Senators, and when a rash of injuries hit the big club, he was the most deserving player for a call-up.
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The native of Gatineau, Quebec -- across the river from Ottawa -- played nine regular-season games and all 10 playoff games with the Senators. Pageau had a hat trick in Game 3 and added two assists in the series-clinching Game 5 of Ottawa's first-round victory against the Montreal Canadiens, seemingly giving him enough to have a leg up on his fellow rookie hopefuls this season.
But from the start of the summer, the Senators made it clear to Pageau that would not be the case, sending him to their development camp in July and then to rookie camp before being invited to main training camp earlier this month.
"I think the second year is always a big year," Pageau said during rookie camp. "I didn't talk to a lot of players, but I know I need to put in the work if I want it to work."
He's done just that.
Pageau dominated the rookie tournament in London, Ontario, and through the first two weeks of camp he's made it clear his playoff glory was not fleeting.
"He's a good player. I think he showed that last year," Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson told reporters last week. "He's here to stay and I think he's improved even more coming into this year. He's had a good summer. He's going to be a good guy for us to have on this team, and if he keeps doing what he's doing, he's going to be in this League for a long time."
"Obviously [Jean-Gabriel] Pageau has played in the League last year in the playoffs, but can he be consistent? He has to continue to be a good player. Consistency is the hardest thing to find at this level."
-- Senators coach Paul MacLean
Coach Paul MacLean, however, still wants a bit of a larger sample size from Pageau before he's prepared to pencil him into the lineup.
"Obviously Pageau has played in the League last year in the playoffs, but can he be consistent?" MacLean told reporters recently. "He has to continue to be a good player. Consistency is the hardest thing to find at this level. He came in in the playoffs and it's a pretty high-energy time of year. It's probably easier to come in and play well then than it is at this time of year when you're starting out at training camp.
"He hasn't done anything to hurt himself at this point. As far as the rookie camp he was probably the best player at the camp on any one of the teams, and he was the most consistent player since the development camp started and the rookie camp started. So he's certainly doing what he has to do."
Pageau plays center, so in order for him to make the opening night lineup Oct. 4 in Buffalo, he will need to force MacLean to move either Mika Zibanejad or Zack Smith to the wing. Thus far in camp MacLean has experimented with both of those scenarios, showing he is at least considering doing it.
It will be up to Pageau to show his coach that kind of a move would be worthwhile.