|Roman Wick's strong play for Switzerland at the Vancouver Olympics convinced the Senators to bring the forward prospect to North America (Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images).
The last time Roman Wick stood on North American soil, he found himself in perhaps the brightest hockey spotlight of them all.
Ottawa Senators fans might still remember the sight of the Swiss forward flashing toward the Team Canada net during a game-deciding shootout in their preliminary round matchup at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Martin Brodeur foiled Wick's scoring attempt, but the rangy Senators prospect's play made a huge impression on team management.
So much so that Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray decided the time was right to give the 6-2, 192-pound forward his shot at the National Hockey League. Wick will get just that after signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Senators today. And Murray suggests it isn't automatic that Wick is headed to the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League.
"We hope that we’ll give (Wick) an awfully good look through training camp this season," said Murray. "He looks like a candidate to play in the NHL at some point. Whether he’ll have to start in Binghamton, that will be the question. He’ll answer that with his performance in camp.
"But he's a guy with talent and skill ... (he) was an outstanding player for Switzerland in the Olympic Games in big, big games. Based on that alone, you have to take a real serious look at him."
Wick's arrival was a long time in coming. A fifth-round selection (156th overall) by the Senators in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, he spent two seasons in the Western Hockey League before returning home to play for the Kloten Flyers of the Swiss Elite League. He's been among the team's top four scorers each of the past three seasons, including 15 goals and 31 points in 2009-10.
But it was his play internationally that truly opened the Senators' eyes.
"We hope that we’ll give (Wick) an awfully good look through training camp this season. He looks like a candidate to play in the NHL at some point. Whether he’ll have to start in Binghamton, that will be the question. He’ll answer that with his performance in camp. But he's a guy with talent and skill ... (he) was an outstanding player for Switzerland in the Olympic Games in big, big games. Based on that alone, you have to take a real serious look at him." - Bryan Murray
"The showing that he did make when I was over (in Switzerland) watching the world championship a year ago and then, watching on TV mainly, at the Olympics ... he was definitely very impressive," said Murray. "It looked like he could compete against the better players from other countries. He played against Canada and the United States and he didn't look out of place.
"So you've got to think he has a real good chance (in Ottawa)."
The Senators' 2004 draft yielded both Wick and Denmark native Peter Regin
(third round, 87th overall), and Murray finds a favourable comparison between the two 24-year-olds.
"(Wick) is similar to Peter Regin
in a lot of ways," said Murray. "He’s got that kind of frame. Not real big, not a real physical player but fairly decent speed, good hands, good size and range. I would think that his talent would be best served in the top six, but that doesn’t always mean you fit there. I think we have to look at him with skilled players in ... training camp and in pre-season games and see if he can find the spot in the top 12.
"If he has to start on the third line or fourth line in his career here and find a way to really accelerate his development over the first half of the year, then that opportunity should be provided for him. In turn, it’s always up to the player to come to camp and show what he can do at a high level so that the coaches and management have a change to truly evaluate him. Roman has played in big tournaments in Switzerland, but it's just a little different kind of hockey (here). So does he fit into the NHL right away or does it take a little time?"
Also today, the Senators announced the signing of defenceman Derek Smith to a one-year, two-way contract. Smith, who made his NHL debut Feb. 13 in Detroit against the Red Wings, totalled 14 goals and 51 points for the B-Sens last season.