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Pageau making strides toward his biggest goal

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward prospect Jean-Gabriel Pageau is determined to land a spot with the AHL's Binghamton Senators this fall (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

Jean-Gabriel Pageau believes it's time.

Time to leave junior hockey behind him and make the big leap to the Binghamton Senators and the American Hockey League.

"That's my goal," the 5-9, 164-pound Gatineau native said with an eye toward the coming season. "I want to be in Bingo and help the team win. For me, it's my personal goal. I'm going to work hard this summer to make sure that goal is going to be achieved."

The 19-year-old centre is still age eligible to return to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the fall — he doesn't turn 20 until Nov. 11 — but the Senators are going to at least give him a shot at landing a spot on the B-Sens roster for 2012-13.

It's no small leap, to be sure.

"He's just got to prove that he can make the jump," said Randy Lee, the Senators' director of hockey operations and player development. "It's a huge jump — we always say they've got to respect that jump to the American league — and he's got to prove he can make that jump and sort through the competition.

"Other guys ahead of him on the depth chart have got that one year (of pro) experience."

While Pageau is used to being a prime-time performer — he totalled 32 goals and 65 points in 46 games last season with the Sagueneens and Gatineau Olympiques, and added another 14 points in 16 playoff games with Chicoutimi — Lee said it'll be a battle for him to gain such a prominent role out of the gate with the B-Sens and new head coach Luke Richardson.

"We've taught him to look at guys like Wacey Hamilton, who went from being a 20-year-old (captain of the Medicine Hat Tigers) in the Western Hockey League to being in Binghamton, where he had to pay his dues and got stuck on the fourth line quite a bit," said Lee. "He had to deal with that frustration and we looked at how he handled that, and it was a good reflection on Wacey's character.

"We've talked to Jean-Gabriel about that, that it's a harder transition than people think. You don't just go on the top two lines (right away) and he's a skilled, top-two line guy. So it's going to be an adjustment for him."

For Pageau, who signed a three-year entry level contract with the Senators on June 6, his diminutive size will always be an issue. But he's been working diligently alongside conditioning coach Chris Schwarz and the Senators training staff to gain the kind of strength he'll need to prosper at the next level.

"Mentally, I'm ready (to make the move), but I can improve more physically," said Pageau, a fourth-round pick (96th overall) by the Senators in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. "I'm going to train hard this summer, come here with Chris and make sure I'm 100 per cent ready to go. Getting more strength is going to help my shot and my explosion on the ice, so for sure gaining more strength (is a goal) and it's what I'll work on this summer."

Added Lee: "He's worked hard. He's made the commitment to come in with Chris Schwarz every day, and to be around Mark Borowiecki and Chris Neil and all those guys who are real workhorses in the gym. So that's going to pay huge dividends for him."

It is also the way, Lee said, for Pageau to make the most of his size — something he's always managed to do through his days in the QMJHL.

"You overcome the size differential with compete, and he does that," said Lee. "In the Quebec league, he takes a beating. What we want to see is once teams start playing tough on you and targeting you, does your game change? And if your game doesn't change, you've got what we like to make that transition to the pros.

"I think Jean-Gabriel can compete when the going gets tough."

Pageau also is inspired by the example of Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Briere, a fellow Gatineau native and summer training partner who's produced 280 goals and 643 points in 813 National Hockey League games despite his 5-10, 181-pound size.

"I'm confident in myself and who I am," said Pageau. "I know what I can do to help the team win. There is a great example in the NHL in Danny Briere and that's what I try to follow. He's a great example for me ... We play hockey together in a league for fun (during the summer). He gives me good tips and I try to apply them when I can.

"He just tells me never to give up. People will say 'you're too small, you're not going to make it.' But he said if you just keep believing in your dream and keep working hard, it's going to happen for you one day."

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