|Senators defence prospect Patrick Wiercioch said the eight games of experience he gained in Ottawa last season went a long way toward accelerating his growth (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
It's a "silver lining" that Patrick Wiercioch
hopes can lead to a golden opportunity.
With a wealth of new experiences in his back pocket, the Ottawa Senators defence prospect plans to take dead aim at a roster spot when the National Hockey League team opens training camp in September.
"I definitely want to come back to camp and push for a spot on the team and show them that I’m ready to play," said the 6-4, 192-pound Wiercioch, a second-round pick by the Senators (46th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. "I want to get my weight up to 205 to 210 (pounds) and once I get around that weight, I feel I’ll be pretty confident in the corners and trust my ability from there on."
Wiercioch also felt buoyed by the eight games of NHL duty he logged with the Senators last season, during which he recorded his first two career points — a pair of assists. During the team's recent development camp at Scotiabank Place, the 20-year-old native of Maple Ridge, B.C., spoke glowingly about what that opportunity did for him in terms of growth.
"Playing the games up here, I felt, was the silver lining of the season," said Wiercioch, who was sidelined for eight games by an injury during the Binghamton Senators' run to the Calder Cup crown. "I learned the most when I was up here. I developed the most in the eight games I played here, moreso than during the experience I got down in the American league.
"It’s a completely different style of game. The play is different. You can have a lot of great American league players that might not be able to play in the NHL because it is a different style of game. That style of game of game is the one I want to be playing. It’s more controlled, more offensive and more tactical. It’s how I’ve always developed my game, around that sort of style."
Not that his time in the AHL with the B-Sens during his debut pro hockey season didn't help his learning curve. While Wiercioch saw only 15 games of action during the Calder Cup playoffs, every night provided the kind of pressure-packed situation that can accelerate a player's growth, assuming he's able to rise to that challenge.
"To win a championship with a group of guys … you’re never going to forget it," he said. "I’m sure years down the road, when you meet up with some of those guys and cross paths, you’ll bring it up ... But it was tough to have a little bit of a setback with an injury in the playoffs.
"Our (defence corps) were banged up and we were short of bodies pretty much from the first round on. A lot of guys were getting a lot of minutes in the first two rounds and a lot of guys had to pick up the slack in the last two. It’s good to have the type of depth that we had this year. Guys that might not have played all year stepped up in the playoffs and carried us through."
When the Senators assemble for training camp in September, the blue line figures to be one of the fiercest battle spots. In addition to the six defencemen already on hand on one-way contracts, top prospects David Rundblad and Jared Cowen
— both first-round picks — are considered prime contenders for jobs. But Wiercioch hardly feels the door is shut on any possibilities for him.
"You could see it that way," he said when asked about the potential logjam blocking his path. "But the way I look at it is that in years past, you might have had more of a solidified blue line with only one or two chances for a spot. But there’s a wide range of guys that are trying to compete for those spots (this year) so if anything, the broader competition makes it easier for a guy that might not be a first-rounder to show them what we can do. When you’re usually fighting for one spot, that first-rounder is going to get the first look."
Wiercioch says he intends to do his level best to stand out from the crowd.
"You’re going to go into camp to be competitive," he said. "You’ve just got to show them what you can do."