Bryan Murray has seen the future of the Ottawa Senators.
And, in the eyes of the team’s general manager, it’s a very bright one.
As the Senators annual development camp wrapped up Monday for another year, Murray talked with great optimism about the prospects that got a chance to show their stuff in Ottawa this week – some for the first time, others for a second or third go around.
“Very definitely, I was very pleased with the camp and the level of player we have now,” he told reporters at the Bell Sensplex after watching a closing 3-on-3 tournament involving the 29 players on hand. “A year ago, when I looked at the camp, I thought ‘where are we going to find some players to play?’
“But you look at (centre) Jim O’Brien, who last year couldn’t participate (because of injury) but has made some great strides just in effort and attitude. (Ruslan) Bashkirov, you see the talent level he has. … There’s a variety of guys who are genuine prospects now.”
Some of them will have a legitimate shot at landing a spot on the Senators roster when the team holds its main training camp in September.
“I think the guys you saw at the end of (last) year playing on the team have made noticeable improvement,” said Murray. “You look at (Jesse) Winchester, (Nick) Foligno, Brian Lee. (Goaltender Brian) Elliott has looked better. He had a good week here. There’s probably a few other guys that will be very close.”
Foligno, for one, thinks this week’s camp has set him up well to take a stab at full-time employment with the Senators in 2008-09.
“It was a lot of fun out there this year and (the coaching staff) really pushed us,” he said. “I’m looking forward to training camp. I know I’ve got a lot of hard work to go and nothing’s guaranteed, so I’m going to come back here and work as hard as I can and prove to the team and the staff that I belong here.”
Murray pointed out that, given the current salary cap climate in the National Hockey League, such player development is more important than ever.
“I guess (the rising price of the free agency market) is just another reason for holding these development camps and developing your own players and drafting well,” he said. “I feel pretty good about our draft (picks) this year. It looks like there’s some real legitimate players out there and we have to develop them and have them as long as we possibly can before they become unrestricted (free agents).
“Every year, you’re going to have to put three or four younger players on your team and hope that they can contribute to a certain level and be satisfied by that.”
The camp was an eye-opener for the team’s newest crop of draft picks.
“It took the first hit from a guy like (Cody) Bass in practice but it’s up there … The speed, the intensity of every shift and every practice,” Patrick Wiercioch
, a second-rounder from Maple Ridge, B.C., said of the higher level of play he saw for the first time. “You’re thinking it’s still June and you’re already getting into a high-tempo, intense practice so it’s a great feeling to get a taste of (the NHL) right now so you know what to do and what to expect in the summer.
“It was a great experience, especially being around some of the guys who are so close to making it, guys who already have some NHL experience and (having the chance) to watch what they do on and off the ice. You try to model yourself after the guys you watch on TV. Now you have to model them in daily life, too.”Team Blue is the winning crew in 3-on-3 tournament at Sensplex
With a 3-2 shootout victory over Team Red in the final, Team Blue grabbed top honours in the camp-ending 3-on-3 tournament at the Bell Sensplex. Ruslan Bashkirov
scored a pair of goals for Team Blue, including the winner, while Nick Foligno
kept the victors alive with a goal on the final shot of the fifth round of the shootout. Mark Borowiecki and Jim O’Brien scored for Team Red.
Brian Elliott, who didn’t allow a goal in the tournament until the shootout, was named the day’s top goaltender. Later, Jesse Winchester
was the coaches’ pick as the entire camp’s hardest working player.
Visit Sens TV online every day for exclusive video from development camp.