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Wheat Kings forward likes harvest

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Brandon Wheat Kings forward Mark Stone hardly expected the Ottawa Senators to call his name during the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

For plenty of teenagers with huge hockey dreams, the NHL Entry Draft is the ultimate nerve-wracking weekend.

Many an anxious moment is spent waiting to hear the news that a National Hockey League team has deemed them worthy of consideration for a shot at the big time.

Then there are players like Brandon Wheat Kings forward Mark Stone, who are under no illusions about where they stand during their draft year.

"I didn't know if any (NHL) teams were interested in me," admitted the 18-year-old Winnipeg native. "I hadn't talked to anybody."

No wonder, then, that Stone spent draft weekend at his family's cottage near Kenora, Ont., hardly concerning himself with the goings on at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Then came the phone call delivering the biggest of news. One NHL team had indeed been paying attention to Stone's exploits — the Ottawa Senators, who made the 6-2, 182-pound right winger their sixth-round selection (178th overall) in the 2010 draft.

"My agent called me and he said 'congratulations.'" Stone said during a break in the action at Senators development camp earlier today. "I knew nothing, so he just told me it was Ottawa ... I was just thrilled that I had been selected."

Stone knows it's merely just the first step toward whatever hockey aspirations he might have in the years to come. But at least the door has been opened.

"Being drafted, you know they're giving you a chance," said Stone, who was ranked 119th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting heading into the draft. "That's pretty much what it is. I've just got to progress over the next couple of years and, hopefully, work my way into professional hockey."

The Senators clearly believe Stone's potential is worth the investment.

"He's a tall, power forward type of player," said Ottawa regional scout Bob Lowes. "He has good hockey sense, good skills and good understanding of the game. He just needs to work on his skating. He's still pretty skinny and not very strong but I think with strength, his skating will improve."

Stone has already had a few big lessons in handling the hockey spotlight. His Wheat Kings were the hosts for the 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup and used an overtime upset of the Western Hockey League champion Calgary Hitmen — a team that included Stone's older brother, Michael, a Phoenix Coyotes draftee two years ago — to reach the tournament final.

While Brandon was no match for the defending champion Windsor Spitfires in that game, it hardly tainted Stone's memory of the event.

"It was unbelievable seeing a community like Brandon put together something so special like that," he said. "It was unbelievable for everybody involved, so it was probably the greatest hockey experience of my life so far ... I learned how to win big hockey games. We were in sudden death in the semifinal and we managed to win.

"Being drafted, you know they're giving you a chance. That's pretty much what it is. I've just got to progress over the next couple of years and, hopefully, work my way into professional hockey." - Mark Stone
"I learned a lot from that experience, just knowing what it takes to win a national championship."

While injuries cost him 33 games during his second season with the Wheat Kings, Stone's performance at the Memorial Cup was impressive. By tournament's end, he was spending some time on Brandon's No. 1 line alongside a pair of NHL draft picks, Brayden Schenn and Matt Calvert.

"I was really impressed with him at the Memorial Cup," said Lowes. "Their line of (Scott) Glennie, Calvert and Schenn played together all year but when they needed to mix things up, they put (Stone) up in Glennie's spot and he finished there in the tournament. So he played very well."

With the Wheat Kings graduating a number of players, Lowes expect Stone will get even more of an opportunity to step up in the 2010-11 season.

"I could be one of the top guys — a leader on the team," said Stone. "It's a good challenge and I'm looking forward to it."

3-on-3 tourney wraps up development camp

Senators prospects at the team's annual development camp will close out their week with a 3-on-3 tournament on Monday at 9:45 a.m. at the Bell Sensplex.

The event is open to the public and admission is free. Check out the tourney rosters here.

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