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Senators prospects looking to make a mark at rookie camp

The start of the American Hockey League and National Hockey League seasons are just a month away and Senators prospects are being run through their paces in Ottawa this week.

A roster of NHL hopefuls is taking part in a 10-day development and rookie camp being held at the Canadian Tire Centre (Sept. 11 to Sept 20) featuring 24 players, 10 of which played in at least one game for the Belleville Sens during the shortened 2020/21 American Hockey League campaign.

Belleville Senators Head Coach Troy Mann and his staff (including assistant coaches Ben Sexton, David Bell and goalie coach Justin Peters) have taken over on-ice workouts, following four days of sessions with development coaches Shean Donovan and Jesse Winchester.

Mann says development and rookie camps give each player a chance to get noticed by the Senators coaching and front office staff, before eventually being assigned to a spot with the NHL club, the Belleville Sens, the Senators’ ECHL affiliate in Atlanta, or back with their respective junior teams.

“Everybody has a different agenda based on their situation,” the Belleville Sens coach said. “Whether it be like (Shane) Pinto or (Jacob) Bernard-Docker, who are battling for spots in the NHL, or (Egor) Sokolov. He’s looking to either take the next step by making the NHL roster, or by being more impactful in Belleville. Or someone like (Mitchell) Hoelscher, who played with us a bit during the COVID season, he’s coming to make an impression and battle for a spot in Belleville.”

Senators forward Angus Crookshank takes part in Ottawa's development camp, at the Canadian Tire Centre, on September 14, 2021. (Photo: Matt Tidcombe / Ottawa Senators)
Senators forward Angus Crookshank takes part in Ottawa’s development camp, at the Canadian Tire Centre, on September 14, 2021. (Photo: Matt Tidcombe / Ottawa Senators)

The development camp portion of the week’s schedule also included presentations from Ottawa Head Coach DJ Smith, who outlined his expectations, and Mann, who gave a presentation on the AHL affiliate in Belleville.

Mann says the rookie camp portion will get into more of the on-ice specifics around team structure rather than skill development drills. The team will also take part in a pair of games against prospects from the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday Sept. 18 (4:00 p.m. in Ottawa) and Monday Sept. 20 (in 4:05 p.m. in Brossard, Quebec).

“It certainly helps that the rookie group will get two preseason games, which usually helps them in preparation for the NHL training camp. It’s nice to play a couple of games where you’re playing against opposition and there’s some bumping and grinding.”

Senators forward Egor Sokolov takes part in Ottawa's development camp, at the Canadian Tire Centre, on September 14, 2021. (Photo: Matt Tidcombe / Ottawa Senators)
Senators forward Egor Sokolov takes part in Ottawa’s development camp, at the Canadian Tire Centre, on September 14, 2021. (Photo: Matt Tidcombe / Ottawa Senators)

While development camp is usually held in June and typically features an NHL team’s US college prospects, those players are back with their NCAA teams to begin preparations for their respective seasons. Mann says even without those bodies, this camp is still a good chance to get to know the other players throughout the organization.

“It gives us a little bit of a dry run before main camp. We can run video and you’re always looking to get to know your players. Whether it’s someone like Angus Crookshank, who wasn’t with us for the whole five months last season, or potential new players that you’ve never seen and don’t know personally,” Mann says. “If you look at the roster, there’s a vast majority of those players who will ultimately be in Belleville in early October”.

Following the exhibition games against Montreal, some players will then take part in Ottawa’s main training camp, which will open on Sept. 22.

Players who are assigned to Belleville are expected to report after Oct. 1 to prepare for the American Hockey League season, which begins on Friday, Oct. 15 against the Rocket in Laval.

The Belleville Sens home opener presented by CAA is on Saturday, Oct. 16 at CAA Arena, also against Laval.

The full schedule can be found HERE, with season ticket packages available to be renewed HERE.

Visit the Belleville Senators website: http://www.bellevillesens.com/

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