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Sens camp displays 'deep' talent pool

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Defenceman Eric Gryba was named the hardest working player at Senators development camp, which wrapped up with a 3-on-3 tourney Monday (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

Another Senators development camp is now officially in the books.

And there was plenty for team management to smile about as the 31 prospects at the camp packed up their belongings Monday afternoon and began scattering across the globe to their respective homes for the rest of the summer.

"I think this was the deepest talent pool we've ever had," Randy Lee, the Senators' director of player development and hockey administration, said in assessing the talent that had displayed its wares over the past week.

"It's a testament to our scouting the last couple of years. We've got a lot of good (young) players and I think you can see the progression in a lot of them now that they're really pushing for spots."

At least of few of them intend to do exactly that when Senators training camp opens in September. Forward Zack Smith, who saw action in all six of Ottawa's playoff games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in April, figures to be at the front of that line.

"He's going to push for a (roster) spot, for sure," said Lee. "He didn't really have to come (to this week's camp) because he's been through a number of these camps before. But he says 'it's going to make me better' and he's not complacent at all.

"Zack has been a real leader throughout the whole camp."

Big blueliner Jared Cowen also has big plans for training camp. The Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft did a lot this week to show that he's pretty much fully recovered from major reconstructive surgery on his right knee 18 months ago. While he wasn't able to take part in most of the on-ice action at last year's development camp, the 6-5, 228-pound Cowen was a force this time around.

"His skating has improved tremendously and he played really physical," said Lee. "You can see it in the 3-on-3 (tournament this morning) and the scrimmage games. He was one of the hardest hitters out there."

Cowen declared himself ready to take a run at a roster position in camp, even if the free-agent signing of Sergei Gonchar quickly filled the vacancy created by the departure of veteran Anton Volchenkov.

"I've got to go out there thinking that even if there's not (an open spot), I've still got to try to beat someone out," said the 19-year-old from Allan, Sask. "I've got to go in there thinking I have a chance, so I'll go in there and give it my best shot.

"(Volchenkov) was a defensive defenceman and maybe I can fill that spot. Anything they want me to do to be on the team, I'm happy to fill that role."

"I think this was the deepest talent pool we've ever had (at development camp). It's a testament to our scouting the last couple of years. We've got a lot of good (young) players and I think you can see the progression in a lot of them now that they're really pushing for spots." - Randy Lee
Also turning some heads at development camp were a pair of players who figure to make an impact with the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators — defenceman Eric Gryba and forward Corey Cowick.

Gryba, a third-round pick (68th overall) by the Senators in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, earned the "hardest working player" honour at this development camp. 

"He's one of those guys who was drafted years ago, wasn't the best skater, (didn't have) the best puck skills and has really worked at it," said Lee. "Right now, he looks like a real good player with lots of upside ... He's a real character guy, he hits, he's like an Andy Sutton kind of guy. He's going to be a good player down in Binghamton."

Cowick, who missed half of the Ottawa 67's season with a shoulder injury, has made major strides since his first Senators development camp last summer.

"Right now, he's established himself as a real strong power forward type of guy," said Lee. "He's in the best shape he's ever been in. He comes in (to the gym) every day. He's done extra skating camps, he's done this camp and I think he's been really impressive."

In the annual 3-on-3 tournament that closes out development camp, Team White edged Team Red in a shootout to take the title. The winning squad included Cowen, Ben Blood, Louie Caporusso, Jakub Culek and Brad Peltz.

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