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Senators' top 10 prospects powered by Lazar, Stone

by Mike G. Morreale

The Ottawa Senators have invested heavily in their pipeline of prospects in recent years, and that trend is expected to continue in 2014-15.

The team had 11 players in the lineup last season who were 25 years or younger, and though the loss of captain Jason Spezza in a five-player trade with the Dallas Stars on July 1 might be tough to overcome at the outset, there should be a few players looking to provide similar energy and enthusiasm.

"I think there's quite a lot of opportunities; I think we've invested into a lot of players," Senators assistant general manager Pierre Dorion said. "I think [Senators director of hockey operations and player development] Randy Lee has done a tremendous job developing a lot of these guys. We feel we've got guys [with the Binghamton Senators in the American Hockey League] that can really come in here and play.

"I think you always have to look internally before you look externally to see, 'Do we have these players within our organization?' And I think we do."

Here's a look at the Senators' top 10 prospects, according to

1. Curtis Lazar, C/RW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 17) 2013 draft

Last season: 58 GP, 41-35-76, Edmonton, WHL

Lazar, 19, served as an alternate captain for the Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings. He had two goals and four points in five Memorial Cup games and had 10 goals, 22 points and a plus-12 rating in 21 playoff games to help the Oil Kings win the Ed Chynoweth Cup as champion of the Western Hockey League. Lazar (6-foot, 196 pounds) made quite an impression during the Senators' week-long development camp in July and was presented the "Hardest Worker Award" for his efforts. Lazar will either stick with the Senators out of training camp or be returned to the Oil Kings for one final season. As a 19-year-old, Lazar is ineligible to be sent to the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton. If he did stick with the Senators, Dorion believes he would be best suited on wing.

"Curtis is going to get every chance to make our team this year, but stepping into the League at 19 years old is not an easy thing," Dorion said. "He's a high-character person and knows what it takes to win. He's shown great progression in a year and I think he would have had a chance to stick a bit longer [last season] if not for the injury he suffered in the last game of rookie camp."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

2. Mark Stone, RW

How acquired: 6th round (No. 178), 2010 draft

Last season: 37 GP, 15-25-40, Binghamton, AHL; 19 GP, 4-4-8, Ottawa

Stone, 6-1, 205, was a nice addition to the lineup on Ottawa's second line alongside Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris when Bobby Ryan was out with a sports hernia late last season. The 22-year-old has always impressed with his power game, quick hands and big shot. He has an edge over Lazar in that he gained NHL experience last season and is a prime candidate to seize a full-time spot for coach Paul MacLean.

"Mark sees the ice so well, he's real strong on the puck, he's got great anticipation, got great hand-eye," Turris said last season. "Seems like he bats pucks down coming around the walls and he's just got great hockey sense."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

3. Matt Puempel, LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 24), 2011 draft

Last season: 74 GP, 30-18-48, Binghamton, AHL

Not only did the 6-0, 196-pound Puempel finish tied for the team lead in goals and fifth in points in his first full season in Binghamton, but the 21-year-old also proved to be even more aggressive, totaling 94 penalty minutes and eight fights. He played predominantly on a checking line in the AHL and became a better defensive player. Lee feels he'll even challenge for a roster spot out of training camp. Puempel, who had 119 goals, 213 points and 166 penalty minutes in 195 games in the Ontario Hockey League, should certainly make his NHL debut at some point this season, whether on a call-up or extended stay out of training camp.

"He doesn't back down from anybody," Binghamton coach Luke Richardson said. "He'll go to the hard areas to score, he's got a quick release, he's got a heavy shot, he's got an NHL shot. It's like when you play against Mike Fisher; he's not the biggest guy, but if you push him, he's going to push you back."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

4. Mikael Wikstrand, D

How acquired: 7th round (No. 196), 2012 draft

Last season: 27 GP, 4-16-20, Mora, Allsvenskan; 19 GP, 4-7-11, Frolunda, Swedish Hockey League

A native of Karlstad, Sweden, the 6-1, 183-pound left-shot defenseman had one goal and two points in seven games during the quarterfinal round of the SHL playoffs for Frolunda. Prior to making his SHL debut with Frolunda, Wikstrand finished third among defensemen in points in 27 games with Mora. Wikstrand, 20, helped Sweden earn a silver medal at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, when he produced four assists in six games. Wikstrand is a mobile defenseman who will play one more season in Sweden's elite league before coming to North America.

"He's really smart with the puck, he's safe and he battles," Lee told the Ottawa Sun. "He's not the biggest guy, but he defends really well. He's competitive and he does want to be an NHL player."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

5. Alexander Guptill, LW

How acquired: Trade (Dallas Stars), July 1, 2014

Last season: 31 GP, 12-13-25, University of Michigan, Big 10; 5 GP, 0-2-2, Texas, AHL

Guptill, 22, was originally selected by Dallas in the third round (No. 77) of the 2010 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound native of Burlington, Ontario spent three seasons with the Michigan Wolverines before signing his entry-level contract with Dallas in the spring. He scored 44 goals and 50 assists in 110 games with Michigan over three seasons. Guptill had two assists in five games with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League last season, but was a black ace during the team's championship run in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

"[Michigan coach] Red Berenson and the rest of Michigan's coaching staff deserve a lot of credit for preparing Alex for the next level of hockey," Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said of Guptill. "He's developed into a consistent scorer with a quick, hard shot and will continue to develop those skills in the years ahead."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

6. Shane Prince, C/LW

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 61), 2011 draft

Last season: 69 GP, 21-27-48, Binghamton, AHL

Dorion believes the 5-10, 176-pound left-shot forward might be the organization's most skilled player in the minors. Prince, 21, had been the subject of trade rumors since the start of the NHL free agent signing period, but instead remains one of the organization's prized possessions in the minors. He has 39 goals, 83 points and a plus-35 rating in 134 regular-season games spanning two seasons in the AHL.

Shane Prince, who tallied 83 points in 134 games in the AHL, might be the most skilled prospect in the Senators organization. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

"He has the talent to be a top-three line player; it's just maturity, getting stronger and competing game in and game out," Dorion said.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

7. Fredrik Claesson, D

How acquired: 5th round (No. 126), 2011 draft

Last season: 75 GP, 3-26-29, Binghamton, AHL

A consistent stay-at-home type who plays a simple, smart game without much risk. As a 19-year-old rookie with Binghamton in 2012-13, the 6-foot, 198-pound left-shot defenseman had three goals, eight assists and a plus-4 rating in 70 games in his first season in North America. He played in 82 games in the SHL with Djurgarden and won a gold medal for Sweden at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Dorion felt Claesson, who had one shorthanded goal and a team-best plus-37 rating last season, was outstanding in 2013-14.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

8. Buddy Robinson, RW

How acquired: Signed as a free agent, March 25, 2013

Last season: 69 GP, 15-16-31, Binghamton, AHL; 1 GP, 0-0-0, Elmira, ECHL

The Ottawa Senators signed the Bellmawr, N.J., native to a three-year entry-level contract in Mach 2013. Prior to joining Binghamton, the 6-5, 222-pound forward spent two seasons at Lake Superior State University. The 22-year-old had 13 goals and 26 points in 77 collegiate games with the Lakers. He possesses a big shot and is very difficult to contain down the wing.

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

9. Marcus Hogberg, G

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 78), 2013 draft

Last season: 15 GP, 5-8-0, 2.93 GAA, .892 save percentage, MORA, Allsvenskan; 4 GP, 4-0-0, 1.08 GAA, .960 save percentage, Linkoping, SHL

At 6-5, 212 pounds, it's tough to miss the Swedish goalie, who earned a silver medal serving as a backup for his country at the 2014 World Junior Championship in Finland. The 19-year-old will likely spend one more season playing for Linkoping in the Swedish Hockey League, and gain more game experience and coaching before coming to North America.

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

10. Ryan Dzingel, LW/C

How acquired: 7th round (No. 204), 2011 draft

Last season: 37 GP, 22-24-46, Ohio State, Big Ten; 9 GP, 2-5-7, Binghamton, AHL

A native of Wheaton, Ill., the 6-foot, 188-pound forward, who signed an entry-level contract with Ottawa in April, completed his third season at Ohio State in 2013-14. He established new career highs in goals, assists and points while serving as an alternate captain for the Buckeyes. He was named one of 10 finalists for the 2014 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, becoming the fourth player from Ohio State to be recognized for the award. He was a First Team All-Big Ten honoree and led conference players in scoring while tying for the lead in goals in 2013-14. He had a solid showing in his short stint in Binghamton late last season and will look to do even more in his first full season in 2014-15.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17


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