They are very much a part of the Ottawa Senators’ future.
But whether that future is indeed now … that’s the challenge awaiting Cody Bass and Nick Foligno
during what figures to be a fiercely competitive Senators training camp beginning Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.
Thanks in part to a rash of late-season injuries, the two young Senators forwards finished 2007-08 in Ottawa and were among the team’s best players during its first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Senators general manager Bryan Murray admitted that experience “is certainly a benefit” for Foligno and Bass in their bid to earn full-time employment in the Ottawa lineup in 2008-09.
“We know them better,” Murray said in stacking up their chances against the rest of the hopefuls who’ll be on hand for Senators camp. “Nick Foligno
, you can see a huge difference in him now overall. Every day, his work, his effort to do things with the puck are much better and much more consistent than (last season).
“Cody Bass is a big, strong kid who skates and hits people. We don’t know that he’ll score a lot. Is it the right time to put him in a lineup situation where he might not score at the NHL level but he might get more offence by playing in the (AHL)? Those are the things they’ll get a chance to decide.”
For most of the off-season, it’s been widely assumed there would be a place for both on a revamped Senators team. But earlier this week, Murray suggested as many as 15 National Hockey League-calibre forwards – including recent signings Ryan Shannon and Brad Isbister – could be in Senators camp, meaning the battle for a roster spot will be “very competitive.”
All of it will be overseen by a new coaching staff, headed up by Craig Hartsburg.
“It’s going to be a huge battle,” said Bass, 21, who saw 25 games of action (including playoffs) with the Senators last season. “New management, new faces… it keeps everyone on their toes, especially the young guys here. I’m just going to go out there and play my game and show that I’m ready to play at this level and, hopefully, good things will come (for me).”
Foligno, who scored six goals during his 45 games in Ottawa last season, isn’t concerning himself with the new talent that’ll arrive at camp next week.
“You just want to make sure you come out and have a good camp,” said the 20-year-old Buffalo native, the Senators’ top pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. “You just take care of yourself first and push yourself. I think that’s something a lot of us young guys are realizing. You’re not looking around the room too much at who’s getting signed.
“It’s more the fact that we have to come in here and try to steal a spot, no matter what. We’re looking forward to doing that and I know I just want to come in and prove that I can play and that I will.”
Both players are counting on last season’s experience to provide an edge in the battle to come.
“It’s going to help huge,” said Bass. “In previous years, I’d be coming to camp not knowing what to expect. After last year, now I know what it takes to play at this level.
“I’ve just got to take it all in again in training camp here and work hard and keeping learning and keep doing what (management) tells me and hopefully, I can crack this roster.”
Murray believes the Senators enter the new season with a much more depth – plenty of it young and homegrown.
“It’s a testament to the club,” said Foligno. “They’ve picked great players and everyone wants to be an Ottawa Senator…. It’s exciting to see. It’s exciting for the organization to see. They’re happy everyone’s taken care of themselves over the summer and it’s going to make for a helluva camp.”Rookie tournament in Kitchener
The Senators rookies broke camp today and headed to Kitchener, where they’ll face off against prospects from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins in a three-day rookie tournament at the Memorial Auditorium complex.
Tomorrow at 2 p.m. the Sens get started against the Panthers rookies, then face the Leafs on Sunday (6 p.m.) and Penguins on Monday (2 p.m.).