|Ottawa 67's centre Shane Prince hopes to continue his hockey career in the nation's capital with the Senators, who made him a second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn. (Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images).
No matter where his career takes him next, Shane Prince
figures to feel right at home.
The Ottawa 67's centre had plenty of reason to smile Saturday when the Senators made him the opening selection on Day 2 of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Rated 26th overall among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Prince had to wait until the final pick of the second round (61st overall) before hearing his name called.
Considering where's he landed, the wait was definitely worth it.
"It’s an unbelievable feeling," said the 5-10, 174-pound centre. "I love the city of Ottawa and I know they have great fans there, having played there the last year and a half. So it’s a true honour to have an opportunity to play for the Senators. It’s a great hockey city and I couldn’t be happier."
Even the Senators' primary affilate in Binghamton, N.Y., is close to home for the 18-year-old Prince, who calls Spencerport, N.Y. — just outside of Rochester — his hometown.
"That’s another thing you look at," Prince said with a grin. "Binghamton isn’t far from home. If I do end up in the minors, which is likely, it’ll be good to be that close to home."
Prince, who was dealt from the Kitchener Rangers to the 67's during the 2009-10 season, had a breakout year in his first full campaign in Ottawa. Playing alongside a pair of 2010 NHL draftees — Tyler Toffoli (Los Angeles) and Ryan Martindale (Edmonton) — he notched 25 goals and added 63 assists for 88 points.
"A year makes a difference in skill and strength and just developing as a player," Prince said in explaining his growth in the last year. "But I think the biggest thing was the opportunity I got in Ottawa this past season. I have to thank (67's coach) Chris Byrne and (Ottawa GM) Brian Kilrea for giving me the opportunity this past season to really play my game. It’s a great organization and they really helped me develop my game this year into the player I am."
Kilrea, the winningest coach in Canadian junior hockey history and a Hockey Hall of Famer, noticed a difference in Prince's game right from the season's outset.
"I think he's utilizing his speed, he's passing the puck, but he's also more confident," said Kilrea. "That started at camp when he realized he was as good as anybody on the team. He had the chance to prove it, got to the No. 1 line. In junior hockey you're on one line one day and another line the next, but he stayed there and he made the difference.
"With his speed, he was carrying the puck in a lot and making the plays to Martindale and Toffoli and that's why they appreciate him so much. It was a challenge, but there was no doubt he accepted the challenge, I think it was his natural ability that made the difference in that line."
It's just the third time the Senators have drafted a 67's player. Winger Corey Cowick
was a sixth-round choice (160th overall) in 2009, while blueliner Will Colbert went in the seventh round (228th overall) in 2003.
"We feel that Shane was a key player in Ottawa's success this year," said Pierre Dorion, the Senators' director of player personnel. "He's a highly skilled player. We just felt that at that point in the draft, we couldn't pass up on that skill level. We feel he will have a high offensive impact down the road."
The Senators dipped into their own backyard with their fourth-round pick (96th overall) as well, selecting centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau
of the Gatineau Olympiques. The Ottawa native stands just 5-9 and weighs in at 164 pounds but is a dynamic offensive talent.
While he produced 79 points, including 32 goals, during the regular season, it was his post-season performance that truly opened scouts' eyes. In the Olympiques' surprise run to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final, Pageau racked up 13 goals and 29 points in 24 games.
"It’s a good motivation," Pageau said when asked about being a fourth-round pick. "You saw a lot of players (drafted) before me, good players, too, but I know I can play with them. I know there’s a lot of good players in the first round, second round, third round, but I know I can play with them. So I’m not stressed about it."
The opportunity to possibly continue his career in his hometown excites Pageau.
"It’s very nice," he said. "My family is close to there and my friends. They will come (and watch) in a few years if I can make it to the NHL."
Pageau is the third Olympiques player ever drafted by the Senators, following in the footsteps of Alexandre Giroux (seventh round, 1999) and Pierre-Luc Lessard (fourth round, 2006).
"When you went and saw him play in Gatineau, he was the best player on the ice most nights," said Dorion. "We know he's not big — both him and Shane are smaller players — but we feel these two guys are both competitive enough for small bodies that they'll have an impact one day in the NHL.
"It's a longer process with these two guys, compared to three guys we took in the first round (Mika Zibanejad
, Stefan Noesen
and Matt Puempel
). But we're happy with both these players."