USA TODAY Sports
Matt Puempel and Stefan Noesen aren't in the NHL, yet. And, when it comes to hockey prospects, out of sight is almost never out of mind.
Only one and a half years removed from the vaunted 2011 NHL Entry Draft, one of the Senators three first round selections is already making an impact on the NHL roster. Zibanejad's performance, both now and in the future, will be scrutinized to a much greater degree than his fellows among Ottawa's draft class of that season. Yet, the three first rounders will always be spoken of in the same breath.
Other players, such as Shane Prince and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, face some expectation of success, but not to the same degree as Zibanejad, Puempel and Noesen. Conventional wisdom dictates that first-round picks should become NHL players. Moreover, each of these players was elevated almost to a specific roster spot. Zibanejad was to be a top-six, physical, two-way impact performer, Puempel a top-line sniper and Noesen a wealthy man's checking forward, complete with a secondary scoring touch.
So, how long until we can start evaluating all their play with a fine tooth comb, as we have Zibanejad these past two weeks?
Puempel and Noesen are both in their final year of Junior, both in the Ontario Hockey League, both on teams in clinched playoff spots and both looking to make a push for the Memorial Cup. Their stat line this year is also relatively similar: both are hovering around a point-per-game. Puempel is working off a record of 38 points through 44 games-- 29 of them goals. He won't have much of a problem reaching his third thirty-goal season in four years.
Noesen has a slightly better 43 points through 42. He would need a goal in each of his final seven games of the regular season to attain the same feat Puempel is likely to reach. Although, Noesen did notch a hat-trick last week.
Both players' junior performances have been dissected plenty in this space and the real test is certainly to come. Noesen made an appearance in training camp, thanks to a ten-game suspension in the OHL that was upheld by the IIHF, keeping him out of World Juniors play. Matt Puempel, meanwhile, has suffered from on-and-off injuries throughout the year.
Both players are going to have a long look at training camp next season and could be playing full-time in Binghamton by season's end. Zibanejad is here now, but his draft-mates might soon be nipping at his heels.
The Binghamton Senators played three games this weekend. They won on Friday night against the Hershey Bears 5-4, accomplishing back-to-back victories for the first time in an up-and-down month. Craig Anderson added to the roster depletion woes in Bingo, and Nathan Lawson was backed up by Marc Cheverie on Friday night. The game featured a long series of trips to the penalty box and Mark Borowiecki stepped up for an obligatory fight. Brett Lebda, for his part, has been performing well offensively while on his PTO. He had two assists on Friday night. The team was boosted to victory on the strength of shootout goals from Louie Caporusso and Stephane Da Costa, who has been very good in the shootout for Binghamton this year. Nathan Lawson channeled Ben Bishop, stopping all four shooters. The scoresheet was otherwise filled with some unfamiliar names, but Darren Kramer and Wacey Hamilton were able to step up for their respective first goals of the season. Despite the depleted roster, Binghamton outshot the Bears 39-23.
The B-Sens dropped a Saturday decision to the Albany Devils, a team they were facing for the third time in just under two weeks. Leading 3-1 in the second, Bingo dropped four unanswered goals on their way to a 5-3 loss. Marc Cheverie was in nets.
A shutout-breaking goal by Elmira call-up Dustin Gazley near the start of the third wasn't enough for the B-Sens, who fell to the Adirondack Phantoms 2-1 on Sunday. They're back in action with another weekend of three games in as many days-- two of them against the Marlies.