Mike Hoffman, seen here in some pre-season action from 2010, led his squad to victory in the 2011 Ottawa Senators Development Camp 3-on-3 tournament.
This morning I caught my first glimpse of this year's batch of Ottawa Senators prospects as they suited up for a 3-on-3 tournament on the final day of development camp. Players were split into six teams and played a round-robin half-ice tourney, the top four teams through the round robin went on to the semi-finals and the winners of those semis played for the championship. Team Blue, on the strength of some great play by Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone, beat Team Grey in the finals to take the title.
Before I get into talking about particular players, it should be noted that comparing players to one another is particularly difficult in a tournament like this because individual players are typically operating at completely different intensity levels. Some guys seemed to be taking it easy because they were virtually guaranteed an invitation to the Senators' main camp (in this category I'd place Stephan Da Costa, Mika Zabinejad, David Rundblad, and Patrick Wiercioch), while others were leaving everything on the ice because without a strong impression in the dev camp, they wouldn't necessarily get a chance to head to the main camp (I'd say Hoffman, Stone, Mark Borowiecki, and Wacey Hamilton in this group). Some players were obviously just using the ice time to get their conditioning and timing back, others were working their butts off.
Now, onto the tournament. After the jump, I'll briefly discuss each team and how I felt they fared in the tournament, pointing out particular players of note.
The goalies: Scott Greenham, Adam Janecyk, Matt O'Connor
None of the three looked terrific, but they faced a lot of shots and didn't get much rest in the two-hour tournament. In my mind, O'Connor looked like the strongest of the three, but he was also the biggest (6'6" and 186 lbs); the fact that it was a half-ice tournament that didn't allow much speed or pretty passing might have covered up mobility issues big goalies are prone to have. Still, I wouldn't be too surprised if he was invited to the rookie tournament the team will have later in the summer, and perhaps even the main training camp.
Team Black finished dead last in the round robin, without a single win to their credit. There were some good pieces on the team, but none of the players were able to work together to get any measure of cohesion. Fransoo and Culek were pretty quiet, Caporusso was working but didn't have the size to generate much, Cannone appears to be a shoot-first player without too much else to offer, and Cowen looked very much like a defensive defenceman.
It was funny seeing Cowen dump the puck out of the defensive zone in a 3-on-3 tournament. Not the kind of thing you'd expect in this game, but making simple plays is what will make him successful in the NHL, so I wasn't disappointed with his play; his size is obviously a big advantage. Cannone had good moments, but he also looked Dany Heatley-esque cruising into the zone with his stick in the air at other moments. Doing so ended up costing his team when the play turned around.
Orange finished the tournament in second-to-last place, and watching them made it obvious why: Kramer and Cowick were just running around trying to hit people, and Prince, Zibanejad, and Wiercioch didn't look like they were on top of their game. Cowick was a little reckless in his hitting, and Kramer was a mean S.O.B.; I'm a little surprised no one was injured. I got the impression Zibanejad was a little disappointed that he didn't have much in the way of offensive talent on his squad, so he kind of tuned out; Wiercioch looked soft and hesitant throughout the tournament; and Prince looked tiny and wasn't able to generate much.
The highlight from Team Orange was a Zibanejad goal on a partial break against Team Blue. Prince also had a nice dangle around Lyamin, but I don't think he scored on it. Oddly enough, Orange's only win in the round robin came against Blue, who went on to win the whole thing.
Finished the tournament in second place, but were ousted by Team Blue in the semi-finals. Surprisingly, Dziurzynski was the most impressive player from White in my mind: He's a big, powerful player with a pretty good shot and some decent hockey sense. He might not be NHL-calibre in those categories, but he's well on his way--and at 6'3" and 204 lbs, he's got the size to make it. Rundblad and Petersson weren't overly impressive, although I didn't see much of them; Sorenson and McCormick were mostly under the radar.
There was a funny moment for White when Rundblad was playing with the puck around the blue line trying to force a scoring chance for himself despite the fact that Petersson was standing alone in front of the net, wide open. After Rundblad lost the puck, Petersson threw his arms in the air and yelled, "HEY!" He was obviously unimpressed.
Team Red won the round robin tournament, but they were ousted by Team Grey in the semi-finals. I didn't get to see much of them as they played most games at the other side of the ice, but from what I heard, Borowiecki (or BoroCop) gave them a lot of offensive help--not exactly the big defenceman's M.O., but good nonetheless. For his efforts, Borowiecki was given the Hardest Worker Award for the 2011 development camp. He was definitely working hard in the tournament, on both sides of the puck. Da Costa looked quiet but appeared to gain a step in the semi-finals (although it wasn't enough), and Costello had one sick shot that went in. I didn't see much of the other two.
Team Grey: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Jakub Silfverberg, Chris Wideman, Wacey Hamilton, Brad Peltz
I was hoping to get to see more of Silfverberg after hearing so much good stuff about him from others who'd been at earlier days of the development camp, but Team Grey spent most of the tournament at the opposite end of the ice so I didn't see much. One thing's for sure: He's got the size and tenacity of an NHL player. He strikes me more as a neo-Magnus Arvedson, though. Pageau is definitely small but had some nice moves, Peltz was a good physical force, and Wideman was mostly quiet, but Hamilton impressed me with his willingness to drive hard to the net. He got a couple of goals out of it.
One thing I noticed out of Silfverberg after his team won their semi-final against Team Red was him going up to all his teammates afterward and glove-tapping them. They weren't together very long, but it looked like someone--perhaps Silfverberg himself--stepped up and took control of the team as a leader.
Team Blue: Stefan Noesen, Ryan Dzingel, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Ben Blood, Kirill Lyamin
Team Blue won the whole thing, thanks in large part to some damn fine hockey from Stone and Hoffman, who were likely the two hardest working players in the tournament: They never let up on their opponents, trapping them in the zone regularly, forcing turnovers, and moving the puck pretty well. There was a moment where those two were on with Noesen and the three scored three goals on Team White in a matter of seconds. It was impressive. Noesen worked well with the other two, and went hard to the net. I didn't notice Dzingel, to be honest. Blood is huge, and played some solid defence, while Lyamin was pretty quiet aside from a couple times when he'd sneak into the slot and take a pass from one of the forwards.
Blue didn't have the most skill, but they had the most intensity. That's why they won the tournament, in my mind, and it'll make each of the six players on the squad look better in the eyes of the Sens' management.