It all started with an invite last summer. The Sens were looking to fill out a roster for their annual rookie tournament and they offered a spot to an undrafted, ECHL standout. And that was Jack Rodewald's foot in the door.
"My path has been a little bit different," said Rodewald after an on-ice session at this week's Sens Development Camp. "I wasn't drafted and I wasn't signed out of Junior so the opportunity to join that squad was a big deal for me."
Unfortunately, as fast as opportunities are given in this sport, they can disappear.
The 6' 2" right winger was knocked out of the tournament in the first 10 minutes of the first game after being struck with a shot and suffering the "lowest of all lower body injuries" (read between the lines on that one). His chance to showcase his skills to the Sens brass had hit a bit of a speedbump and he found himself starting the season with the team's ECHL affiliate.
"I knew that I wanted to work my way up from Wichita to Binghamton as fast as I could so I just worked my hardest to get back up there." said Rodewald. "I had developed my game a lot over the summer and hadn't had a chance to show that yet so I really felt like I was ready to take that next step and become a full-time player in the AHL."
8 points in his first 6 games in Wichita and just like that Rodewald got the call-up he was looking for.
"Binghamton was struggling early in the season so I had a bit of an advantage coming in with confidence from my short time with Wichita," Rodewald recalled about his transition to the AHL last season. "I just stuck to playing my game and focusing on the things that had worked for me in the ECHL. Thankfully, everything just seemed to click."
Rodewald amassed an impressive 18 goals in 66 games with the B-Sens, good for the 4th highest total on the team. In what was ultimately a disappointing season for Binghamton in the standings, Rodewald was able to parlay his success on the ice into a two-year contract with the Belleville Senators.
"It's nice knowing that I have a little bit of job security and that this organization wanted to make a commitment to me," he said of his new AHL deal. "But this isn't one of those things where I'm taking my foot off the gas pedal. I want to show them that they made the right choice and that I can take the next step."
And that about catches us up to this week.
Rodewald is one of 40 prospects in town for the Sens Development Camp and once again he's looking to capitalize on the opportunity he's been given.
"This is my chance to show the Sens that I can be a legitimate NHL prospect," said 23-year old Winnipeg native. "I know there are a lot of good players here this week so it's an opportunity to get to know and compete against them."
With his sights firmly set on a National Hockey League debut at some point, Rodewald must now work towards his next logical destination: earning an NHL contract. Without one, he's ineligible to be called up from Belleville no matter how deserving he is.
"That is the next goal for sure and I have my eyes set on that," Rodewald said. "You can't stop setting goals for yourself in this sport. You always have to continue to develop, get stronger and turn as many heads as you can. That's my goal for this week."
Sens Development Camp runs until Monday and is highlighted by the annual scrimmage on June 29th and the 3-on-3 tournament on July 3rd. For full details on the schedule and roster click here.