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Butler eyes bigger hockey spotlight

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Bobby Butler figures to be among the candidates to land a forward position with the Senators when training camp opens in September (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images).

Bobby Butler knows all about the glare of the hockey spotlight.

His senior U.S. college hockey season at New Hampshire was filled with bushel full of accolades, most notably being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award — presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I hockey during the Frozen Four, which determines the national champion in the sport.

Several months later, the Ottawa Senators forward still seems a little awed by everything that came his way following a year in which he topped all NCAA goal scorers with 29.

"It was great for my teammates and my school and my family," said Butler, 23, a native of Marlborough, Mass. "It was just good to be out there (in Detroit) for that experience and to be with those two other guys (Hobey Baker winner Blake Geoffrion of Wisconsin and finalist Gustav Nyquist of Maine) was pretty crazy. It’s something I’ll remember forever."

While Butler didn't win the award, it wasn't for lack of trying among his supporters. A website titled butlerforhobey.com trumpeted all his achievements as a senior with the Wildcats. So did a Facebook page that was part of the campaign.

"I remember going to a Frozen Four when I was younger and just watching the Hobey Baker Award (presentation)," said Butler as he pondered all the hype surrounding the award. "Never did I think I would be in that same position 10 years later."

"He's going to push to be on the team. That's why he signed here. I think he saw an opportunity with our club, that he could give us some speed. The games he played, he played pretty well ... He's definitely not coming here to be a spare part. He's a top-end guy." - Randy Lee
But it was merely one part of the whirlwind ride hockey took him on last spring. Twelve days before the Hobey ceremony, Butler signed his first National Hockey League contract with the Senators. On April 1, he made his NHL debut at Scotiabank Place against the Carolina Hurricanes, seeing nine minutes of ice time in a 4-3 shootout win for the Senators.

"It was definitely quite the experience and I was lucky to get my feet wet (in the NHL)," said Butler. "I'm glad they gave me the chance ... Just winning that game in a shootout was pretty exciting. It was an exciting week altogether.

"I'd say that since I was a little kid, I was hoping that's where I would be. But it wasn't until the last couple of years that I did think maybe I could have a chance."

Needless to say, that little taste of the big time — Butler also suited up for a road game against the New York Islanders — has Butler thirsting for more.

"I just want to work my hardest and hopefully, I'll find a spot," he said with an eye toward the Senators' 2010-11 training camp. "If not, I'll just work at it and do whatever I have to do to get up to that level."

"Seeing (the playoffs) just motivated me for the summer and gets me ready for next season. That's where I want to be, just to be in that position and to help the team win ... My goal is to be in Ottawa. I hear it's a great place and a great town. I'll do whatever it takes to get up here." - Bobby Butler
The Senators, who were impressed with the little bit of action they've seen from him so far, certainly think Butler has a shot at making the opening-day roster.

"He's a top-end skill guy, so he's going to push to be on the team," said Randy Lee, the Senators' director of player development and hockey administration. "That's why he signed here. I think he saw an opportunity with our club, that he could give us some speed. The games he played, he played pretty well.

"The whole intent now is to figure out whether he starts here or in Binghamton (the Senators' American Hockey League affiliate). That's his call, depending on how he does in training camp and pre-season games. He's definitely not coming here to be a spare part. He's a top-end guy."

Butler got all the incentive he needed watching from the sidelines as the Senators went through a dramatic first-round playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Seeing that just motivated me for the summer and gets me ready for next season," he said. "That's where I want to be, just to be in that position and to help the team win ... My goal is to be in Ottawa. I hear it's a great place and a great town. I'll do whatever it takes to get up here."



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