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Senators hoping Pageau can make early impact

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Ottawa native and Gatineau resident Jean-Gabriel Pageau is excited about the three-year entry level contract he signed with the Senators on Wednesday (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

The next step is up to Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

That remains to be seen by both the Ottawa native and the Senators, who inked the 19-year-old centre to a three-year entry level contract today. The 5-9, 163-pound Pageau is age eligible to play in the American Hockey League next season, but that's a decision that likely won't be made until after training camp in the fall.

"That's up to him," Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray said when asked whether Pageau could start his pro career in 2012-13 with the Binghamton Senators. "If he has a big summer this summer and comes to training camp in good shape and looks like he can play in the American league, we'll give him every opportunity to do that.

"If it doesn't look like he's ready for that level yet, we'll have to talk to him and go through our options. He'd be a star in (the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), in my opinion, as an overager (next year). But hopefully, he's strong enough and good enough to play in the American league for us next year."

For his part, Pageau is looking forward to getting started with the Senators organization.

"I'm very happy," said Pageau, who resides across the river in Gatineau. "That's a great offer they gave me and I very much appreciate it. I think that's a good motivation for the future and for my summer. I think I have a big training season (ahead) and I'm ready to make the sacrifice to be in the organization earlier."

Pageau was a standout for the Gatineau Olympiques in 2010-11, leading them to a surprise berth in the QMJHL final against the eventual Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs. He recorded 13 goals and 29 points in 24 post-season games, a performance that led the Senators to make Pageau their fourth-round pick (96th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

"When you went and saw him play in Gatineau, he was the best player on the ice most nights," Pierre Dorion, the Senators' director of player personnel, said on draft day a year ago at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. "We know he's not big ... but we feel (he is) competitive enough for a small body that he'll have an impact one day in the NHL."

In 2011-12, Pageau split his season between Gatineau and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, who obtained him midway through the season for their QMJHL playoff drive. Pageau totalled 65 points, including 32 goals, in 46 games, then added 14 points in 16 post-season games for the Sags, who were ousted in the QMJHL semifinals by Saint John.

"It's great to get him signed," Murray said after Pageau's signing was announced today. "He's a highly talented kid. He had a great playoff last year against Saint John in the final. We just think that he's a prospect who certainly has some things to work on. It's great to get him signed, so we can get him in here and get started working on it."

Pageau's next step is attending the annual Senators development camp at the end of June.

"It's a nice week to meet all the (young) players in the organization who can maybe one day be my teammates," he said. "Then I'll keep training hard to make sure I'm ready for the big training camp (in September)."

Pageau's signing leaves only Ottawa 67's forward Shane Prince, a second-rounder in 2011, in need of an entry level contract. The Senators have decided not to offer a deal to Marcus Sorensen, a Swedish forward selected in the fourth round (106th overall) of the 2010 draft.

"We didn't feel he'd taken enough steps to get an entry level deal and get into the organization," said Murray. "So the last one we have is Shane Prince. We're in daily contact with his agency and, hopefully, we're close on him."

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