On the morning after officially learning they'll start the 2009-10 season with the Ottawa Senators, Erik Karlsson
, Matt Carkner
and Peter Regin
wore broad smiles as they stood in front of the media and shared the emotional rush of it all. But head coach Cory Clouston was quick to repeat the sobering message he and general manager Bryan Murray delivered to the happy trio.
"It's not like a midget or junior team," Clouston said earlier today. "Every day, they have to establish themselves or re-establish themselves and their (status) up here will depend on their performances on the ice and how long they stay up here. It could be for a week, it could be for the year. Anywhere in between is a possibility as well.
"By no means can they have a letup or relax and think they've done something because every day, they're being re-evaluated."
The newest Senators came to their current positions with the team from vastly different directions. Karlsson, the team's top pick (15th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, came to training camp with the highest of expectations and faced the most scrutiny from management, media and the fans. His every move was dissected and the excitement around him was palpable.
Regin, meanwhile, showed up for both rookie and training camp on the heels of a season in which he suited up for 11 games in Ottawa, with a quiet determination to earn his keep. He raised the level of his play with each game and by the end of camp, Regin was centring the Senators' second line between Mike Fisher and Alex Kovalev.
At the other end of the scale was Carkner, a 28-year-old local product from nearby Winchester (he now calls Westport home) with only two games of National Hockey League experience on his resume. But Carkner became the feel-good story of Senators camp as he battled, literally and figuratively, to earn a spot on the roster.
While their stories aren't quite the same, the feeling they now share is mutual.
"It's a big dream come true," said Karlsson, 19, who hails from Landsbro, Sweden. "I've been working hard for this since the day I was drafted ... When Bryan Murray and Cory talked to me, I had a feeling I might stay. They told me I was going to start the season here, but it's far from over."
Carkner, whose wait for this moment has been much longer -- he was a second-round pick by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1999 draft -- couldn't be happier getting to chase his NHL dream so close to home.
"It's a great feeling just being here and being able to prove myself throughout training camp," he said. "I started training camp as a forward and I made the team as a defenceman, so you never know what's going to happen.
"I'm 28 years old as well. That was another knock against me. But I just kept working hard and trying to prove myself. I've been given the opportunity to start the season here and I've got to keep going."
Regin, whose position in the lineup might seem the safest of the bunch right now, isn't looking too far ahead, either.
"It's a great feeling just being here and being able to prove myself throughout training camp. I started training camp as a forward and I made the team as a defenceman, so you never know what's going to happen. I'm 28 years old as well. That was another knock against me. But I just kept working hard and trying to prove myself. I've been given the opportunity to start the season here and I've got to keep going." - Matt Carkner
"I don't think you can ever feel too comfortable," said the 23-year-old from Herning, Denmark. "Every hockey player in the world wants to play in this league and there's just a certain amount of players who can do that. So you always have to fight for your spot and make sure you're doing your best.
"I need to show every game that I belong here. I know they're going to judge me every game and every practice, so I have to keep working hard."
The big news has been a hit in the three players' hometown. Carkner delivered the news to his parents, Dennis and Kathy, while they were celebrating their wedding anniversary on Tuesday night.
"I think (my mother) called every relative that I know or don't know," he said. "It was pretty crazy."
Across the pond in Landsbro, Karlsson's parents, Jonas and Ulla-Karin, have begun to make plans to attend their son's first two Senators home games next week. Regin hopes to have his parents, Regin Jensen and Lene, in the seats at Scotiabank Place on Oct. 8 as well.
"They were very happy for me," Karlsson said of the phone call he shared with his parents. "It's a big thing for them, too. We've been watching this league for a long time now, especially my dad. He's pretty excited."Around the boards
Defenceman Brian Lee, a former first-round pick (ninth overall in 2005), was anything but a happy camper when he learned Tuesday he'd been sent back to the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators. But Clouston said his stay on the farm will be anything but permanent. "We know he's not going to be down there for a long time," said Clouston. "Right now, this is for the betterment of the organization and maybe things change. But it's also good for him. He can't see that right now, but it does him no good if he's in and out of the lineup here right now as opposed to playing a huge role down there. He's still a young guy. He's going to be a very good defenceman in the NHL and sooner rather than later."