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Winning comes first for Lehner

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators goaltending prospect Robin Lehner will suit up for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds starting this fall.

Robin Lehner needs little time to reveal the driving force behind his every move between the pipes.

“I hate to lose,” said the Senators goaltending prospect, his intense glare clearly reflecting the passion behind those words. “I don’t want to lose. I want to win. Nothing else. I try to do that as well as possible all the time.”

It’s that competitive nature that has Senators management so enthused about the future possibilities for the 6-foot-3 Lehner, who was NHL Central Scouting’s top-rated European goaltender heading into the 2009 entry draft. Ottawa landed him with a second-round pick (46th overall) last weekend in Montreal.

“He’s a really good goalie,” said Erik Karlsson, the Sens’ top pick in the 2008 draft, who played with Lehner the past two seasons in the Frolunda Indians system back in Sweden. “He’s big and he’s fast. He’s got a good hockey sense. He’s got the will to be good, he trains really hard and I think … he’s going to be really good.”

With that thought in mind, Lehner will pack his bags and move across the pond to North America to expand his hockey horizons this fall. He’ll suit up for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, who selected him ninth overall in the Canadian Hockey League import draft earlier this week.

Many more games, long bus rides from northern Ontario … all of that awaits Lehner, one of 32 prospects taking part in Senators development camp this week. But he is eager to embrace every bit of it.

“That’s what I like about (junior hockey in Canada) and that’s what I’m looking forward to, a lot of games and getting ready to go on the bus every day,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle and I want to get used to that.”

Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray said “the grind of it” should provide an interesting test for Lehner. His move here will also make it easier for the organization to monitor the 17-year-old stopper’s progress.

“I think his whole mental toughness … we’ll see where he’s at,” said Murray. “Goaltending is 70 percent mental. It’s great when you have the perfect style and perfect technique and everything but we’ve seen with (Boston’s) Tim Thomas and different other guys that it doesn’t matter.

"I hate to lose. I don't want to lose. I want to win. Nothing else. I try to do that as well as possible all the time." - Robin Lehner
“It’s how badly you want to stop the puck and how hard you compete. I think this (move) will bring that out of him. It takes him out of his comfort zone at home – parents, family, all that kind of stuff that they kind of take for granted, and you come over here and you don’t know anybody, you don’t know the country, it’s a different language.

“It really makes you have to compete on and off the ice and that’s what we hope happens.”

Lehner seems to have the right mental makeup for the challenge that lies ahead. He was elated to learn he’d been drafted by the Senators – “I was so happy. I can’t describe it. I’ve always loved Ottawa,” he said – and he’s determined to show that their faith in him was well placed.

“As fast as possible, I want to be ready and I want to help the team that drafted me,” he said. “I will train as hard as I can and try to get better every day to do that.”

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