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Development camp key tool for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
For some, it’ll be a first step on the road to the National Hockey League.

But for others, this week’s Ottawa Senators development camp represents another opportunity to cement a place in the future of the organization.

In all, 29 players arrived in the nation’s capital today for the camp, including six of seven players the Senators selected in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft over the weekend at Scotiabank Place. Also on hand for the camp will be the club’s No. 1 picks from the last four drafts – defenceman Brian Lee (2005), forwards Nick Foligno (2006) and Jim O’Brien (2007), and Swedish blueliner Erik Karlsson (2008).

By the time the players head home next Monday, they’ll have undergone a battery of fitness tests, a week’s worth of on-ice training at the Bell Sensplex, tried some dragon boating, cooking and yoga classes, and taken part in a pair of 3-on-3 tournaments.

“It’s our way of bringing them all in together,” said Randy Lee, the Senators’ director of player development. “What we want to do is give them all the training tools that we have, more information, and build on what we’ve given them in years past.”

Added conditioning coach Adam Douglas: “We want to teach them the Ottawa Senators way. Teach them the background and nutrition we believe in, the supplementation we believe in, the work ethic it’s going to take to be an Ottawa Senator down the road.

“It’s also an opportunity to introduce them to the organization. It gives them a chance to meet us as a coaching staff and meet Randy, who they’re going to be working with for the next year as they develop into players.”

While some Senators came to “as many as five camps” in the past, Lee said the new collective bargaining group limits the sessions to players on no more than an entry-level contract.

“So it puts more pressure on us to get them up to speed faster,” he said. “But the biggest thing for us is, if we’ve got a guy in Europe that we don’t see that much, it’s great to bring him in and see exactly where he’s at. Then you can assess from year to year how he’s doing in terms of his training background and how he’s doing for his development and give him ideas to take back (with him).”

The NHL’s new world also puts a premium on quicker, more accurate talent evaluation.

“Everybody’s got a starting point and you project where they’re going to be,” said Lee. “What you want to do is accelerate that progress, accelerate that line. If you can do that and get (young prospects) here one year earlier, it’s an advantage to the organization. It’s an advantage to everybody.”

The structure of the camp also gives the Senators’ newest group of draftees a chance to rub shoulders with players such as Foligno, Lee and forward Cody Bass, who all gained vital Stanley Cup playoff experience this season.

“I think it’s nice (for the newcomers) to see a Foligno there, who was a first-round pick and played significant minutes and games (in the NHL) as a first-year pro,” said Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray. “When they see those guys around, it’s not just a bunch of 17-year-olds that just got drafted.”

There are also benefits for the camp veterans as well.

“I don’t think you can take anything for granted,” said Murray. “We could have told Cody Bass and Nick Foligno ‘you don’t have to come to this, just check in with us to make sure you’re doing the right things.’ And they probably would be doing the right things.

“This might inconvenience them a little bit – (interrupt) their summer and maybe the guy they’re working out with and regular skating or whatever. But I think the small inconvenience of this will, for them, show huge results at the end.”

Around the boards

The Senators have officially severed ties with goaltender Ray Emery, buying out the remaining two years on his contract. He is now an unrestricted free agent … All on-ice workouts during the development camp at the Sensplex, including the 3-on-3 tournaments (Friday and June 30), are open to the public.

Visit Sens TV online every day for exclusive video from development camp.

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