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Silver Nuggets: In the system - Centre

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John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

After a delay, it's time to finish up our look at the prospects that are in the Senators system, this time examining the centres in the organization.

Some important notes before we begin: Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Curtis Lazar won't count as they're already on the NHL roster (and will be for the foreseeable future). Also, it's important to note that despite the fact that Max McCormick is listed as a left-winger, and thus, was discussed in that article, he's played a lot of centre for the BSens this season.

Anyways, lets begin with our two AHL centre prospects, before moving onto the two NCAA prospects and the lone, but most high profile, CHLer.

Derek Grant

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In other organizations, the almost 25 year old BC native would likely be the everyday NHL 4th line centre. In fact, Grant played that role for Ottawa last year after some injuries hit the big club. However, the promotion of Curtis Lazar and the improved production from the younger Jean-Gabriel Pageau has left Grant waiting for his opportunity. Grant was a 4th round pick in 2009 and ended his college career at Michigan State two years early to join the BSens. He didn't play that much during the Calder Cup run, but he was on the roster and learned from Colin Greening, Mike Hoffman, Zack Smith, Erik Condra, Jared Cowen, and Robin Lehner. Grant is currently playing his fourth AHL year (in contrast, Mike Hoffman played three before making the NHL this year) but has responded with his best point-per-game pace this season. Always a threat on the penalty kill, Grant's hockey IQ excels and he has a number of shorthanded goals. Our own Bobby Kelly had a fantastic write-up on Grant after his first AHL season, and compared him to Erik Condra.

Grant, who often plays centre, can also play left wing and take faceoffs over centremen who are weaker on the draw. From Tim Murray:

Murray describes the native of Langley, B.C., as a "finesse, smart offensive winger" who "sees the ice very well and handles the puck very well."

From Luke Richardson:

"Derek has been killing penalties great, and offensively he's a threat every game," said coach Luke Richardson. "He's an honest, hard-working player, he's a great kid. He's got a smile on his face all the time.

"We're trying to change that on the ice, get him a little meaner. And he is. We just want him to play with a bit of an edge, where he's (saying) ‘this is my ice, this is my puck.' He's taken that, and he's really doing well.

Grant is an RFA at the end of the year and since he's already 25, his NHL upside may be limited. I wouldn't be surprised if he's a throw-in on a deal the Senators make in the offseason, but wouldn't mind him as a 4th liner in Ottawa if roster spots open up. Here's a check-in on his play this season from Jeff:

Been consistent and shows majority as well as confidence as the team's veteran. Great PK'er and is relied on in many crucial circumstances on the ice. He's just about tapped out of the minors as questions have surfaced on whether or not he returns next season with the current log jam at center up top.

Ryan Dzingel

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Dzingel, despite being a point-producing name in Scrabble, has been a point producer his whole career. Nominated for a Hobey Baker, college hockey's top award, in his third (and final) NCAA season with Ohio State, Dzingel has taken a while to get used to the AHL game but has since produced at a 0.5 PPG pace - respectable totals for a 1st year pro and a 7th round draft pick in 2011 who might not have even made it this far. A flashy forward with a ton of skill and great speed, I'm excited to see what Dzingel can do next year in the AHL.

Initially passed over in his first year of draft eligibility, Dzingel responded by being one of the USHL's leading scorers and despite being unranked in 2011, the Senators decided to take a chance on the Buckeye duo of McCormick and Dzingel. Here's Dzingel on his own game:

"I'm a skilled forward, so I move the puck well, and I see the ice pretty well. So, those are probably my best attributes" and "I work hard and I have skill to back it up. I don't just go out there and finesse all the time. Even though I can do that, I know I have to back it up with work ethic and try to be a leader out here."

I think Dzingel did just that by being Ohio State's captain in his second year and by being nominated for Hardest Worker at the Senators Development Camp last year. There's not a ton of scouting reports on Dzingel, but here's a great profile on him from Jeff, and his thoughts on Dzingel's third quarter.

Pushes the pace and drives possession as this kid can fly at will while handling the puck. Although gets knocked off the play on certain occasions and a bit scrambled at times, he has a high ceiling as in a year or two he'll be right there with the best of them.

Quentin Shore

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Another player that went undrafted in his first year of draft eligibility (despite being ranked 80th among North American skaters), Quentin is one of the prolific Shore brothers that have been making headway in the NHL. The defensively-minded centre plays for the University of Denver and has one season of college eligibility left. Shore has also featured for the U.S. World Junior team, being a tough minutes centre last year and winning medals on the U17 and U18 team. Shore's production has taken a mini-step back from his great season last year, which is a bit worrying, but it looks like the 2013 6th round pick may be the heir to Derek Grant's defensive role in Binghamton soon. What happens to him from there is up to the improvements that he makes to his game. That's not to say that Shore doesn't have NHL potential - he was listed as a sleeper by Corey Pronman in 2013, who also had him ranked pretty highly in 2012:

Shore went undrafted in 2012, but he was a sixth round pick in 2013. He is a good-sized forward with versatility, and his offensive potential is on the uptick.

From Chris Peters:

This one really surprised me. The third Shore brother eligible in the last four years, I thought for sure Quentin was going to get a long look. He has some nice goal-scoring ability and is a dependable two-way center. He had a really nice World U18 Championship and looked like he had the size to make it. He'll have to do some things at Denver next year while playing with brother Nick to shoot for eligibility in his second year.

From his coaching staff at Denver:

"He's able to play against bigger, stronger, faster players," said DU associate head coach Steve Miller. "He's made huge strides this year and gained a lot of confidence in all types of situations he was put in."

Shore credited DU strength coach Matt Shaw for helping him improve weaker areas of his game, notably speed. Shore said he "lived under the squat rack" last season, working on his explosiveness.

"He had a lot of experience with taking care of his body and having that kind of self-responsibility and focus in what he does," Shaw said. "It just came down to ensuring that we took him to that next level."

Robbie Baillargeon

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A case of mononucleosis and decreased ice-time with Boston University thanks to Jack Eichel's emergence has led to a disappointing second season for the Senators 5th round pick in 2012. The invaluable experience he'll get from the Hockey East playoffs will be good for his development though, and I expect big things from Baillargeon next year, especially after his close-to point-per-game pace as a rookie last year. Coming out of the Indiana Ice in the USHL, Robbie was ranked 50th overall among North American skaters heading into his draft year.

Scout Bob Janeyck had this to say:

"Another college player, probably for the next three or four years down the road. He's got second-line skill set. Probably going to be a third-line, power-play guy."

Baillargeon has been highly touted for a while now after being one of the leading scorers in New England's prep school league. Here's a profile on his days as a teenager, including a comparison to now-Canucks player, Nick Bonino.

From NHL.com:

Eggleston also was high on 6-foot, 170-pound right wing Robbie Baillargeon of Cushing Academy in Massachusetts, pointing out his great hands and scoring touch around the cage. Baillargeon was one of the top point-producers in all of New England prep-school hockey this past season, totaling 30 goals and 64 points in 30 games.

I think Robbie will use his full NCAA eligibility, and thus, we won't be able to see him much for two years. I am excited about his potential though.

Nick Paul

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Last but not least, the most high profile of the Senators centre prospects is the gem of the Jason Spezza deal, Nick Paul. The 6'4 225lb forward can play wing as well, and has been a star for the North Bay Battalion this season - still comfortably in the top-30 in OHL scoring after missing a bunch of games to help Team Canada win Gold. North Bay plays a defensive system under Coach Stan Butler (here's a column), so Paul is a well-rounded player that fits the Senators (and the NHL's) three-zone style of play. It's for this reason why most didn't hear of Paul until he played at nearly a point-per-game pace in the OHL playoffs last year after putting up 46 points in 67 games. Now, Paul has 62 points in 52 games and is ready to help North Bay make another playoff run vs. strong teams like the Soo Greyhounds and Tobias Lindberg's Oshawa Generals.

Here's Paul's evaluation of his game:

"For sure. I really stepped up my game. I'm feeling comfortable in my body and comfortable in how I played. I knew my role and I stuck to it," said the 19-year-old native of Mississauga, Ontario, of his run with the Battalion. "I just felt my confidence getting better. I was driving pucks hard to the net, I was shooting harder, shooting to score, and it definitely showed in the last half of the season and the playoffs in the great run that we had.

"I felt good out there [Tuesday] night. I'm hoping I left a good impression on the coaches. Every time I stepped on the ice, I wanted to show the coaches I'm doing better. Whatever role he tells me to play, I'm going to play it and just be that player. Whatever he asks me to do, I'll do."

From HockeyProspect:

Raw power forward didn't get much attention this season because of a lack of numbers, but if you recall the kind of chance the B's took on Cody Payne (since traded to Dallas as part of the Jaromir Jagr deal) a year ago, Paul might get a look. At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, he already is ahead of the physical development curve and while his skating isn't on the higher end right now, he could make significant improvement with dedicated instruction and adding a step or two on his initial burst.

Red Line Report says: "He's a huge, powerful winger who can use his hands to beat defenders with superior puck-handling skills or beat the hell of out them when he drops the gloves. That's a rare combination. His club's restrictive defensive system prevented him from putting up the points that garner attention."

Here's a draft report on him from Defending Big D:

Nick Paul is a physical minded forward who has been playing in his first season in the OHL this season. He's a big forward at 6"2 and 201lbs. He is on the young end of the spectrum with his 1995 birthday and therefore is probably behind on the development curve compared to some of those who have been drafted this year.

His main skill appears to be using his physicality to grind along the boards and to deliver punishing hits. On the face of it, it appears that his ceiling is likely a bottom six grinder if he is to ever reach the NHL. The few scouting reports on him note his inconsistency in his game and also his poor skating style.

We can see that since he's been drafted, Paul has grew two inches and put on 25lbs, which will certainly help his power game on the boards. His skating stride is awkward, but clearly wasn't a detriment to his game for Team Canada. However, when he has to make decisions at a faster pace in the AHL and NHL, the ability to gain separation on players may be an issue and limit his ceiling. Thus, it's imperative that Paul work with the Sens skating crew (i.e. Mark Stone's best friends) in order to really be the impact player the Sens want him to be.

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Sens Links

  • A packed week for the Senators, with another game waiting in the wings tonight. Let's start the day off on a positive note with recaps for last night's win vs. Montreal. [Silver SevenRank the PerformancesPuck PossessedOttawa CitizenSensChirpSenShot]
  • Next, recaps against a disappointing loss vs. Boston. [Silver SevenRank the PerformancesOttawa CitizenSensChirpSenShot]
  • If you want a preview of the games to come, check out this one from the folks over at RBM. [Bonk's Mullet]
  • Prospect evaluator Corey Pronman has the Sens taking Oliver Kylington 11th overall in his mock draft (YES) but argues that the Sens should just pick the best available player because they need elite talent at every position. I concur. [6th Sens]
  • John Trant has a FanPost that argues that the Sens should re-sign Erik Condra already [Silver Seven]
  • Today's Five Thoughts from Ross has been generating a lot of buzz - give it a read and participate if you'd like! [Silver Seven]
  • Nichols has a thoughts column of his own, reflecting on some of the Sens items in Elliotte Friedman's weekly column. [6th Sens]
  • Luke Peristy has an absolutely fantastic column on Patrick Wiercioch that really engages all of the different perspectives on the Sens blueliner. [WTYKY]
  • For more talk on the Senators defense, Trevor looks at some WOWYs (with-or-without-you statistics). [SenShot]
  • Nichols discusses the perils of the position the Senators find themselves in right now: not good enough for the playoffs, but not bad enough to get a top-five pick. It's not a position that rewards NHL franchises [6th Sens]
  • Jay takes a look at the Sens attendance after they under-sold Sunday night's win vs. the Flames, despite being on a winning streak and in playoff contention. Is it as simple as it was a 7pm Sunday night game far away from downtown? [SenShot]
  • Audiophile? Want a recap of the winning streak? Check out Episode 14 of the Sens Callups podcast. [Sens Callups]
Hockey Links
  • If you click on just one of these links today, please make it this one. (Document compiled by @NearIdleLark) [Google Docs]
  • Fighting in the OHL is down 45% since the OHL instituted new rules. Here's a column on this and what it could mean for the rest of hockey, by John Matisz. [Toronto Sun]
  • A fantastic column on the CWHL and how it's treated by the NHL from our friends over at Stanley Cup of Chowder. [Stanley Cup of Chowder]
  • Want more evidence of the casual sexism that exists in hockey? Check out this column that outlines how the Connecticut Girls Ice Hockey championship game got called after overtime in order for the boys hockey game to place place. [ESPN]
Thanks for reading!

(Note, here is a list of all of the Nuggets articles on prospects: right-wingleft-wingleft-handed Dright-handed Dgoaltender)