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Calder Cup Playoffs the goal as Belleville Sens open training camp

October 4, 2021

Belleville Senators Training Camp for 2021-22 is officially underway.

Thirty-one players reported to CAA Arena on October 3 to begin preparations for the upcoming American Hockey League season, which will includes daily practices and a pair of exhibition games against the Laval Rocket (October 8) and Toronto Marlies (October 10).

Among those are 16 players who took part in the Ottawa Senators development, rookie, and NHL training camps, with Belleville Sens Head Coach Troy Mann saying those players were able to make an over those few weeks.

“I think a number of guys have taken steps,” Mann said. “Certainly, the guys that we’re familiar with, like Thomson and Sokolov. Those are a couple of guys who come to mind immediately with the fact that they were big parts of our team last year and come in with a little bit of a higher profile. I think Cole Reinhardt made an impression on the management and coaching staff up there in terms of his development, and he was part of our team as well. I think all of the players that finished the year with us, that we knew would most likely be part of the Belleville make up this year, showed well.”

Mann says along with practices and video sessions that took place throughout those three camps; a handful of NHL exhibition games added another level of experience for some of the Senators young prospects.

“Jonathan Aspirot was able to see two games, Mark Kastelic played a couple games and Reinhardt, who quite frankly might not have been scheduled to play a game at first,” Mann said. “Whether it’s an injury, or someone stands out in a practice or a scrimmage game and the NHL head coach and his staff think they looked good. Next thing you know they’re adding preseason games as well. That’s the beauty of that type of environment, it allows guys to impress, and I thought a lot of our guys did that.”

Mann says now it’s up to his coaching staff to make sure that development continues here in Belleville.

However, the coach did note one negative aspect to this year’s NHL camps in Ottawa, with promising forward Angus Crookshank suffering a significant injury and expected to be out four-to-six months.

As far as the American Hockey League camp goes, Mann says the goal is to build as deep a team as possible, to deal with the inevitable call-ups and injuries that come through the course of a season.

“I’ve been in the league long enough to know now that if you don’t have depth, you’re not going to have success, because of injuries to your own team or recalls to the NHL because of injuries there. It’s already happened, I believe we close to seven injuries already. There are four AHL-contracted players that will not be on the ice on Monday morning because of injuries, then you take Crookshank, or you look up in Ottawa with Bishop or Parker Kelly injured. It doesn’t take long to add up.”

Mann says training camp is also a good chance to evaluate some of the more established pro players that have been invited on professional tryout offers and are looking to find a home for the season.

“Whether they start with us or not will be determined over the next seven days, but it gives us an opportunity to look. I like looking at PTOs in person and in games, because then even if they’re not playing here, at least you feel comfortable when a recall is needed. There are a couple examples of that, like Cole Cassels. A couple of seasons ago he came up on a PTO and could have arguably stayed with us all season but ended up in Wilkes-Barre on a full AHL contract. Those are the types of things that can happen and that’s what we’re looking for before our first game on Friday night.”

With just a few spots to be filled, Mann is expecting a competitive environment from the get-go in training camp. He told players in Sunday’s introductory briefing that the goal this year is to make the playoffs. He noted the fact that Belleville has yet to make the post-season and has been “robbed of that opportunity” the past two years, following the 2019-20 season being shut down due to COVID-19 and there not being any playoffs for Canadian teams during the shortened 2020-22 season (which was played out of Ottawa).

And while they adapted to the pandemic-related challenges faced with living out of the Brook Street Hotel in the Nation’s Capital, being back home brings a sense of normalcy.

“As much as it was nice at the Brook Street, we settled in with our office downstairs and the staff were fantastic, just the logistics were tough,” Mann said. “Going back and forth from the Sensplex to Canadian Tire Centre and having to basically vacate CTC when the big club was there. We’ve got a great facility here and that adds something right off the hop. Once we get our team and guys settle in, I think they’re really going to enjoy what we have to offer.”

Belleville’s 2021-22 training camp continues at CAA Arena through October 14, ahead of the Senators first game of the season on October 15 in Laval. Belleville returns home the following night for the home opener presented by CAA South Central Ontario, also against Laval.

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