Like many other NHL teams, many of the players expected to be on the Ottawa Senators' opening night roster were playing in other leagues for the past few months. Since they weren't on our televisions and we didn't have hockey pools keeping track of them, it was pretty easy to forget who was where, or how the players performed overseas.
First, the stats of the Ottawa Senators playing in Europe (all stats gathered from Elite Prospects):
|Jason Spezza||NLA (Switzerland)||Rapperswil||28||9||21||30|
|Erik Karlsson||SM-liiga (Finland)||Jokerit||30||9||25||34|
|Kyle Turris||SM-liiga (Finland)||Kärpät||21||7||12||19|
|Sergei Gonchar||KHL (Russia)||Metallurg||36||3||26||29|
|Erik Condra||Germany2||SC Riessersee||10||10||5||15|
|Peter Regin||NLB (Switzerland)||Langenthal||4||2||3||5|
|Milan Michalek||Czech||HC Ceske Budejovice||21||13||11||24|
Wow, look at all those point-per-game players!
A few notes about the players in Europe:
- Erik Karlsson led all defensemen in scoring in SM-liiga, and it wasn't even close. After Karlsson's 34 points, the next highest defender in the league was Jason Demers with 21 points.
- Sergei Gonchar was 2nd among KHL defensemen in points.
- Jason Spezza was 13th in NLA scoring. That might not be as high as you'd expect, but remember that Spezza is a playmaker and was playing on a pretty awful team -- Raperswill is currently 10th out of 12 teams and has a goal differential of -40.
- Spezza also played in the Spengler Cup, where he was a part of the Canadian team that won gold.
- Erik Condra actually played in the third-tier German league as well, posting a ridiculous 19 points in 7 games. Makes sense that they bumped him up to the second division (where he was still a goal-per-game player).
- Milan Michalek finished 13th overall in points per game in the Czech league.
- Although they are pretty small sample sizes, Colin Greening and Zack Smith were 1st and 3rd in points per game in the Danish league.
The Senators have a handful of players currently playing the American Hockey League that are expected to fight for roster spots:
|Stephane Da Costa||20||5||10||15|
A few notes:
- Jared Cowen also started the season in the AHL, but was injured after just 3 games (he had 3 points in that time).
- The Binghamton Senators currently lead the AHL with a .726 winning percentage.
- Jakob Silfverberg started the season slowly as he adjusted to North American hockey, but has since come on strong and is almost at a point-per-game. Out of all of the players on the B-Sens, he seems like the safest bet to make the Ottawa Senators out of training camp.
- With injuries to Cowen and Mike Lundin, there is ample room on the blueline. While Benoit and Wiercioch have the points, Borowiecki has the stay-at-home play that Murray will likely be looking for in Cowen's absence. It'll be an interesting camp, that's for sure.
- Although Zibanejad's stats are pretty disappointing, there are two points to be made. The first is that he's struggled with injury/illness this season, while the second is that his shooting percentage is 2.6%. The puck will eventually go in for him if he keeps shooting.
The true backbone of the Binghamton Senators roster this season, though, has been the play of goalkeepers Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop. Both will be trying to make their way onto the big club this season, and while Bishop's one-way contract gives him the easiest route, Lehner's posted the better stats:
Looking at the above, you have to figure that on opening night, the Ottawa Senators will ice a line-up with between 10 and 14 players who will already be in game shape. from playing elsewhere. No other league can replicate the speed of the NHL, but playing in other leagues is far better preparation for keeping your fitness and hockey sense up than a routine that involves just practicing. Given the shortened NHL season, any degree of preparation for those first few games will be extremely important for the final standings.