Missing a year of hockey due to the Covid-19 pandemic didn't change the Ottawa Senators' opinion of Ben Roger.
The Brighton, Ont., native missed all of last year as the OHL were unable to play a season meaning the blueliner hasn't played competitive hockey since March 2020.
But the Senators liked what they had seen in Roger previously and took him 49th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft.
"It means a lot to me and to know that they believed in me," Roger said after the first day of Sens development camp at Canadian Tire Centre. "Those [central scouting] rankings are not always accurate, but I was confident in my ability, I was confident in my interview ability. Obviously, I didn't play so I wasn't seen a lot last year but I knew what I was capable of and I'm happy that Ottawa believed in me."
Roger was listed as the 74th best North American skater heading into the draft. He became the first player the Sens have drafted from the OHL since Alex Formenton, another London Knight, in 2017.
During the offseason, Roger was in Ottawa for a workout where he met another Knight alum in Austin Watson. He was also recently in London for a few weeks preparing for this week's development camp that got underway Saturday.
"This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid to get a chance like this," Roger said. "The main thing I'm trying to take out of this camp is to learn from the pros that I'll be going against and have a lot of fun and work hard."
The Senators like what they have in Roger with Chief Amateur Scout Trent Mann saying he has tons of upside and "has high-end athleticism and is a big kid that can get around the ice extremely well."
In 2019-20, Roger had two goals and six points in 35 games. With the OHL season set to begin Oct. 8, the 18-year-old is looking to earn the trust of head coach Dale Hunter more in his second full season and open up his offensive side a bit more.
"I'm just super excited to play again this year in London," Roger said. "I think we're going to have a really good team again this year and take a run at a championship so I can't wait.
"I just want to become that top guy that can be relied upon and be trusted in all areas of the game. Be able to handle the puck in pressure situations and be good on the kill, chip in on offence. I'll do whatever coach needs me to do."