Top 25 Under 25, no. 16: Mark Borowiecki
Mark Borowiecki was a far cry from being seen as an NHL-ready prospect when the Senators drafted him in the fifth round in 2008. He is, of course, not the only such player on this Top 25 Under 25 who came a long distance to where they are now. Mike Hoffman, number 20, was passed over in juniors, waived, traded and passed over again before being MVP in the Q and making his mark in Binghamton. For Borowiecki, a physical, shut-down, defensive type of defenseman, being selected by the Senators was a surprise. In fact, Borowiecki, who goes by BoroCop on twitter, did not expect to be taken at all. The Ottawa native did not realize right away that he had been taken in the fifth round at the draft in Ottawa, by Ottawa, the first player from Ottawa ever to be drafted by Ottawa.
His career has been one of notable improvements from thereon out, culminating in his NHL debut when the Senators visited the San Jose Sharks on a western road swing earlier this year, displacing Chris Phillips from his usual side. Borowiecki left Clarkson University as a relative unknown for Sens fans, fairly removed from the prospect spotlight we typically cast on higher round picks or CHL scoring phenoms. However, the defender forced a change in how Sens fans saw him, playing an important role in Binghamton's championship run, despite having left college with only nine games remaining in the AHL schedule. Not only were commentators professionally obligated to learn how to pronounce his last name (some would rather call him Smith, I'm sure), fans grew curious about his skill-set and how it might translate at the NHL level, especially after some glowing reviews from the organization.
Unlike some other NHL draftees who spend time playing NCAA hockey, Borowiecki was in no rush to expedite the start of his professional career. He played all four seasons at Clarkson, taking on an evidently increased leadership role by his final season, upping both his point totals and penalty minutes. Clarkson has a very good hockey program- they have produced plenty of NHL talent, including former Senator Todd White and current Hab Erik Cole. Nonetheless, they were not a very strong team during Borowiecki's tenure. During his four years, they did not have a winning season. Regardless, he came out very prepared to jump into Coach Kleinendorst's roster and was an important part of a Calder Cup winning squad, despite having played 30 professional games- including the playoffs.
The organization evidently thinks very highly of Mark Borowiecki. Despite the miserable season the Binghamton Senators have had, BoroCop has maintained a bright star in the eyes of the Murray management team. At the beginning of the season, Tim described him as a "when, not if" kind of prospect, and said he believed Borowiecki to be, for all intents and purposes, an NHL-ready prospect. In spite of the affiliate's mounting pile of losses, Bryan Murray reiterated his view that the organization's future NHL depth was biding time in the farm. Along with Eric Gryba and the slightly improved Patrick Wiercioch, Borowiecki would seem to be the head of that group.
In the coming offseason, the Senators could potentially be parting ways with a few defensemen. If they judge Borowiecki to be ready and he impresses in camp, the team could slot him in to a fifth or sixth role. He plays a physical game. The BSens website, as well as hockeydb, have him at 198 pounds. He's likely a little bit more than that, and certainly plays like he is. Matt Carkner has seen a lot of the press box this season and Borowiecki could conceivably play the same role. His fists have flown many times for Binghamton this year, passing the century mark in penalty minutes this past weekend. In addition to being a more mobile version of the defensive defenseman, albeit very slightly, Borowiecki can pack a pretty hard shot. While his cannon has been lit a few times this season in the AHL, we probably wouldn't see him in many offensive situations in the NHL (except... triple overtimes?). Before we completely anoint him as the automatic Matt Carkner replacement, Borowiecki has to improve his overall game and continue with strength and conditioning work to ensure his play will effectively translate at the NHL level.