Daniel Alfredsson, Eugene Melnyk, Bryan Murray, and J.P. Barry derailed us for a day, but we're back on track.
Coming in at number 14 on our list is another player who feels like he's right on the cusp of becoming a full-time NHL player: Mark Borowiecki.
The man affectionately known as BoroCop has been talked up by the Ottawa Senators for a few years now. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, Borowiecki has slowly been rising up since being drafted. After playing three years at Clarkson University, and as captain for the third year, he turned pro after the 2010-11 season, signing his entry-level deal with the Senators. He immediately joined the Binghamton Senators for the final nine games of their season before playing a significant role in their 21-game postseason Calder Cup run.
The next summer at development camp, he would win the "hardest working" award--something he would repeat last summer. He did not attend this summer, allowing fellow defenseman Fredrik Claesson to win the award, but Borowiecki remains a rarity in that he won the award two years in a row. The team likes to reward different players, so for Borowiecki to win it two consecutive times speaks volumes about his intensity. It was also at this point his name started to get mentioned by general manager Bryan Murray and assistant general manager Tim Murray.
Borowiecki's work ethic had gotten him on the team's radar.
It's no coincidence then, that at the start of this season, hurting for healthy defensemen, the Senators turned to Borowiecki. He played six games for the Senators alongside Chris Phillips before returning to Binghamton, where he proceeded to have a strong year for a team that lost all of its best players to the big club, assuming the captaincy of the team when Andre Benoit's call-up became permanent--just two years after turning pro.
Ultimately, for the 2013 season, Borowiecki was beaten out by the larger Eric Gryba, who is also one year older than him and has two more years of professional experience. Both Gryba and Borowiecki are physical players, but the difference between the two seemed primarily to be that Gryba picked his spots better. Borowiecki often seemed to go out of his way to land a big hit, while Gryba simply took his opportunities where he found them. Borowiecki's decisions to sacrifice position didn't sit well with head coach Paul MacLean, who has shown in just two short years that players who don't do what he asks don't play.
This does not necessarily mean that Gryba is a better decision-maker than Borowiecki. It's more likely that BoroCop was simply overly eager to make a lasting impression at the start of the year. Maturity and coaching should help him with that in future seasons, and help him adapt his game to his coach's game.
Still, despite his short stint in 2013, Borowiecki did enough to vindicate the team's faith in him: This summer he signed a two-year deal that has a two-way option for 2013-14, and a one-way option for 2014-15. While no one will ever mistake him for Erik Karlsson, the fact that he's been named captain of the last two teams he's played for combined with his unprecedented back-to-back "hardest working" awards give us a strong idea of what kind of person he is. It's highly unlikely Borowiecki will ever rise to a top-pairing role in the NHL, but that doesn't mean he can't be valuable to the team. What he lacks in skill, he makes up for in tenacity--and in the NHL on most nights, tenacity wins more battles than it loses.