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Prospect depth on display at development camp

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Forward prospect Mika Zibanejad, the sixth overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, will be among the big names attending this week's Senators development camp (Photo by Francois Lapante/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

The cupboards are bulging at the seams.

In the wake of this weekend's 2012 NHL Draft, the Ottawa Senators have added further to a stockpile of young prospects that is no doubt the envy of many of National Hockey League team. All of which makes this week's Sens development camp a must-see affair.

"There is no question the talent level is good and it's going to be even better with some of the new guys coming in," Randy Lee, the Senators' director of hockey operations and player development, said with an eye toward the camp, which begins Tuesday with fitness and medical testing at Scotiabank Place. "And the guys we liked last year, they're a year further along in their development and their progress."

The wealth of talent is so plentiful that, with only 35 spots available, the Senators had to make tough decisions about who to invite and who not to invite. In some cases, it means "graduating" a player who has been to multiple development camps — Brynas forward Jakob Silfverberg, the MVP of the Swedish Elite League and someone who won't be here this week, being a prime example in that area.

"There are a lot of players who say 'I'd like to come back, I'd like to get this done,'" said Lee. "But sometimes, if we know the guy is going to be here in the summer a lot, then that comes into consideration. Maybe we can do that for them and give the spot to somebody else who won't be here that much."

On-ice sessions at the Bell Sensplex are open to the public and most eyes, no doubt, will be on top prospects such as centre Mika Zibanejad (the sixth overall pick of the 2011 draft), forward Mark Stone and blueliner Mark Borowiecki, all of whom have legitimate shots at making the 2012-12 Senators roster out of training camp. This camp offers a springboard to enhance that opportunity.

"The guys who have really improved and are close to making our team, we've got to fine tune them and say that, to give them a legitimate chance to make the team next year, this is what they've got to do," said Lee.

For the seven players selected at the 2012 draft over the weekend in Pittsburgh — a group headed up by Ottawa native and 67's defenceman Cody Ceci, the 15th overall pick — this development camp provides an official introduction to the Senators organization.

"We've got to introduce them to the program," said Lee. "We've got to get them up to speed and evaluate what their strengths are. They have to learn about our organization, they've got to learn how we operate and I think it's a real gut-check time for them. It's where they realize how much more work they've got to do.

"They got drafted, but now they've got to take the next step and they've got to earn a contract. So they're got to figure out where they're going to play next year, what they have to do training-wise, what type of effort it takes ... it's all part of this big-picture item we call learning how to be a pro."

Among the players on hand this week will be Binghamton Senators goaltender Robin Lehner and forward Mike Hoffman, both of whom saw duty with the big club in Ottawa last season (as did Zibanejad and Stone), along with 2011 first-rounders Stefan Noesen and Matt Puempel. The group of 35 players — 22 of whom attended development camp in 2011 — includes three netminders, 13 defencemen and 19 forwards.

The prospects hit the Sensplex ice for the first time on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

Swedish summer camp includes pair of Sens

Zibanejad and defencemean Mikael Wikstrand, a seventh-round pick (196th overall) by the Sens in the 2012 draft, have been invited to Sweden's summer camp in advance of the 2013 world junior championship in Ufa, Russia.

No doubt fans of the Tre Kronor haven't forgotten that it was Zibanejad's overtime goal against Russia that allowed the Swedes to claim gold at last year's world juniors in Alberta.

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