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Senators add to prospect stockpile with signings

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Matt Puempel, a first-round pick by the Senators in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, has inked a three-year entry level contract with the club along with Stefan Noesen, also a first-rounder (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

The Ottawa Senators have finished doing business with their biggest prizes from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

And to hear assistant general manager Tim Murray tell it, the signings of forward prospects Stefan Noesen and Matt Puempel today should help accelerate their development curve — and their value to the Senators organization down the road.

Noesen (21st overall) and Puempel (24th) were both first-round picks by the Senators in the 2011 draft. Each inked three-year entry-level contracts, following in the path of centre Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa's top pick (sixth overall) in the same draft, who inked his first National Hockey League contract back in July.

The Senators also signed Brandon Wheat Kings forward Mark Stone — who's currently lighting up the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship for Team Canada — to an entry-level deal in September, giving them four top prospects in the fold as teenagers.

"It's always good to get your picks signed," Murray said via conference call from Edmonton, where he's taking in the world juniors. "There's different times for different picks, but I think the timing was right for these two guys. Development is real important and if you don't do it right, good players fall through the cracks.

"When you get guys signed early ... we don't own them, but we have a little more control over their development and we can put a little more demands on them. Players want to get better, but they need help and you have to have the ability to give them help."

Murray said the Senators have been impressed with the way they've handled all of that to date.

"I really like what they've done this year," said Murray. "They've both worked hard, they've both done a lot of the things we've asked them to do. They've come to Ottawa on their own at different times and we've done the skating (work) with them, we've done the gym stuff with them, we've done all the nutrition. I think the guys are receptive to it and want to work hard to get better."

Noesen, a native of Plano, Tex., and Puempel, who hails from Windsor, Ont., were both hopeful they'd get to represent their countries at the 2012 juniors. But they didn't make the grade for Team USA and Team Canada, respectively. Murray expects both 18-year-olds to use the snub as motivation for the rest of their Ontario Hockey League seasons — Noesen is with the Plymouth Whalers, while Puempel suits up for the Peterborough Petes.

"Both guys have said the right things," said Murray. "Stef Noesen told his coach in Plymouth that he wasn't upset. He certainly was upset, but in the right way, and he was going to use it as a motivator and make him the best he could, and he scores two (goals) again last night. He's been on fire for the last two months of the season or so.

"So I hope it's a motivating factor and an 'I'll show them' kind of scenario. That's what we expect them to do."

Stone, Canada stay on roll at world juniors

In Edmonton, Mark Stone scored a pair of goals and added an assist as Canada rolled past Denmark 10-2 for its third straight win at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.

Stone, the Senators' sixth-round pick (178th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, has racked up six goals in Canada's opening three games. The Canucks close out pool play on New Year's Eve against the United States.

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