Top 25 Under 25, #7: Shane Prince
After getting a cup of coffee in the NHL last year, Shane Prince will look to prove that he belongs this season. As he's turning 23, he's running out of time.
Ever since being drafted by the Ottawa Senators 61st overall in the 2011 draft, Shane Prince has been a quality prospect for the organization. However, so far he hasn't been anything more than "just a prospect." He is turning 23 years old in November, and he's determined to make the NHL roster out of training camp as he is running out of time to prove himself.
After being ranked 14th in the Top 25 rankings in 2013 and 2014, he jumped all the way to 7th this year. Although he has only played 2 career NHL games, he has improved his game a lot over the past year.
He wasn't picked until the last pick of the 2nd round in 2011, but Prince had a fantastic draft year, putting up 88 points in 59 games with the Ottawa 67's. The one thing working against him was that he was a late birthday, so perhaps there were teams that shied away from picking him. Since being drafted by the Senators, he has done nothing but improve.
After a 90 point season in the OHL, the next step was to see if he could handle the AHL. His first two years (2012-13 and 2013-14) were solid, but it wasn't too noteworthy. But last season he took his game to the next level. He was the Binghamton Senators best forward last year, as he scored 65 points in 72 games.
Those 65 points ranked 6th in the entire league, and he was the youngest player in the top 10. If you didn't believe in Prince's skill-set before, you probably should now. He has nothing left to prove in the minors, and the next challenge is to see if he can handle a full season in the NHL. He might not necessarily become an NHL regular, but he 100% deserves a chance.
I would be quite surprised and upset if Prince didn't make the team out of training camp, as he deserves a spot over players like Colin Greening, Zack Smith, Chris Neil, and even Matt Puempel. In an ideal world, I would like to see him on the fourth line to begin the year although he should be able to progress to the 2nd or 3rd line.
Prince is an interesting prospect, because he's ranked highly on many organizational lists, but he has only played 2 games with Ottawa. Many people want to see him play, but there's a chance that he may amount to nothing. Having said that, I do believe in his game. I think he could be an ideal fit on the third line long-term, as it would be hard to duplicate the same success he had in the AHL.
Last season Pierre Dorion commented on prospects getting to the NHL, and he had this to say about Prince:
If you look at a guy like Shane Prince, he’s probably our most skilled guy in the minors, but (has the) talent to be a top three line player – it’s just maturity, getting stronger and competing game in and game out
That was before his fantastic season in the AHL, so it would be interesting to hear if Dorion thinks he has matured enough since then.
After signing a one-year contract a month ago, Prince is set to become an RFA once again next summer. It sounds odd to say that this season is his last shot, but there is some truth to that. If he doesn't have much success this season then it'll be hard to imagine a 24-year-old with no NHL track record being a quality player in 2016-17. However, "success" for me would just be spending all or most of the year in the NHL and scoring 20-30 points.
There isn't a massive bar he has to clear; he just needs to be competent enough.
It would be foolish to ask too much more from him, and anything else is an added bonus. We can't expect another Mark Stone sort of performance, as that doesn't happen very often.
He has a solid all-around game, and I believe he can succeed in whatever role he is put in. I'd take him over Puempel simply because Puempel is a pure sniper, and if he isn't on the top 2 or maybe 3 lines then I don't think he'll bring much value.
This is a huge season for Prince, and I really hope he is up for it. Millions of dollars are at stake for him.