Top 25 under 25, no. 18: Kaspars Daugavins

He likes to score. And he likes to win. He's Kaspars Daugavins, and he's surprised a lot of people by coming up to Ottawa and sticking with the Senators for the majority of the season so far.

Daugavins is the closest thing we've seen to an everyday NHLer in the Top 25 under 25 series so far, but he's still not quite there yet. Hard work and a winning (and jovial) attitude have gotten him this far, and he's been dressed in favour of Bobby Butler, Zenon Konopka, and even Zack Smith recently, showing that he's earned himself a spot in Paul MacLean's good books. So far this year, he's got 10P (4G, 6A) in 55GP, which are decent numbers for a fourth-line role player. He's had some great success with the Binghamton Senators, but with the prospects coming through the system in Ottawa, he'll have to continue improving at the NHL level to stick around in the big leagues.

Junior career:
After being drafted in the third round (91 overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Daugavins immediately came over to North America, spending most of his first two seasons with the St. Mike's Majors of the OHL and short stints in the AHL with Binghamton. In 123 games over his first two OHL seasons, Daug put up 134P (58G and 76A), thus proving an ability to play North American hockey right off the bat. For the 2008-09 season, Daugavins split time fairly evenly between the OHL and AHL, but things really took off for him the following year, when he scored 46P (21G and 25A) in his first full AHL season, and made his NHL debut. His improvement continued last season, and he put up 54P (19G, 35A) in 73GP plus another 20P (10G, 10A) in 23 playoff games en route to Binghamton's Calder Cup Championship.

Speaking of championships, Daugavins has been in a lot of them. He's represented his native Latvia in no fewer than 10 international tournaments, including the 2004 World Junior Championships at the age of 15, the 2006 World Championships as a 18-year-old, and last year's Olympic Games.

The future is now with Daugavins, who's become a regular bottom-six forward on the Ottawa Senators roster this season. He's played 56 games in the NHL this year, and has four goals and six assists. He's found a niche as an energy player and penalty killer, and his refusal to quit on any play has earned him the respect of bench boss Paul MacLean. It's been a good season for a guy who, according to rumours, almost left North America to ply his trade in the KHL this off-season. By all accounts, he's an extremely likable and popular guy in the dressing room, and that certainly doesn't hurt him.

Still, Daugavins is spending every night working to keep what he's earned so far; he hasn't yet shown the skills necessary to guarantee him a spot in the lineup night in and night out. Right now, it looks like he fits in as a hard-working third- or fourth-liner on a team relatively shallow in proven NHL talent (the Senators), and it remains to be seen if his offensive prowess in the OHL and AHL will translate into consistent offence at the NHL level. If it doesn't, he's probably going to have a hard time sticking in the league.

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