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Driedger a World Junior hopeful

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

The term “embarrassment of riches” has been thrown around — perhaps haphazardly — when describing the Sens’ newfound goaltending depth. Not only do they have two quality ‘tenders at the NHL level in Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, the pipeline in the system is filled with players who appear to project at the next level.

Leading the charge amongst that group is Chris Driedger of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. Driedger is coming off of a career year with the Hitmen, posting multiple career highs and putting the team on his back during a deep playoff run as he posted a 2.39 GAA and .931 save percentage over 17 games against some of the best competition the league has to offer.

That, Sens fans, is no small feat.

Driedger’s growth as a goaltender has garnered him national program attention as he earned an invite to Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence goaltending camp earlier this summer. He, as well as fellow Sens prospect François Brassard, took part in the event brought the best 18 Canadian goaltending prospects together for a look from top Hockey Canada scouts.

An ankle injury diminished the amount of work Driedger early in the off-season — he was a rare participant in on-ice work during Sens Development Camp, for instance — but he has returned to health and is ready to take on the season ahead of him.

“The ankle is back to 100 per cent which is nice. Obviously I was pretty bummed that I couldn't skate with the guys at D-Camp,” Driedger said. “I'm feeling good, I had a good summer, I got in some good months of training there and I'm ready to get back at it right now.”

That’s not only good news for the Sens and the Hitmen, but Hockey Canada as well, as there are rumblings that a healthy Driedger could be very much on the team’s radar for this year’s World Juniors. He did not take part in orientation camp earlier this summer with other hopefuls like Curtis Lazar due to the ankle injury, but now that the problem is behind him Driedger stands a chance to be amongst the goaltending stable Canada sends to Malmö in December.

Needless to say, he would like to be a part of that group and hopes to play his way into the fold over the course of the coming weeks and months.

“Well it's obviously in the back of my mind and I'm trying to use it to motivate me to have a good start to the season and a really good camp here too because Hockey Canada is always watching,” said Driedger “That's definitely something I'd want to do is put on the maple leaf and play for my country. I'm really looking forward to trying out and hopefully playing my way into camp at least.”

Over the course of his summer, Driedger has not only focused on rehabbing the ankle that kept him off the ice, but simplifying his game as well. According to Driedger, the rigours of a regular season refine your game shape and situational play; the offseason is when you refine your game at its core, which has been his focus from the get-go.

“Summer's all about getting back to the basics,” said Driedger. “During the season you get into game shape and work on all sorts of game situation stuff, summer is just getting back to the technical part of the game and working on quick pushes, staying in tight and stuff. That's basically what I did, I drew back a bit to work on the fine tuning of that sort of thing.”

As one of three goaltenders in Sens rookie camp this year, fans are sure to get a look at what Driedger brings to the table during this year’s tournament. For him, however, this is just step one of what could prove to be a big season in his career.

“I just want to have a really good season. We're going to have a good team in Calgary again so I'm just looking to have a good season, do my best for the guys there and hopefully make a long playoff run and maybe come back a bit further than we did last year and make it to the final — just trying to be a good goalie for my team and doing what I can.”

If doing what he can ends up bringing a trip to Sweden in the winter, that wouldn’t be half bad at all.

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