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This Friday, the Senators prospect challenge games will begin in Buffalo against the New Jersey Devils. The Sens rookie tournament roster has been announced with 29 players’ names. There are some familiar, and some new names for Sens fans to keep an eye on at this tournament. If you’re interested in checking out the Sens rookies, games will be streamed on the Buffalo Sabres YouTube channel. The Sens are set to play Friday, September 15th against the New Jersey Devils (noon EST), Saturday, September 16th against the Pittsburgh Penguins (noon EST), and Monday, September 18th against the Montreal Canadiens (1:30 P.M. EST).
Full Sens Rookie Tournament Roster
List is courtesy of NHL.com:
- Collin MacKenzie (Ottawa – OHL)
- Leevi Merilainen (Kärpät – SM-Liiga, Belleville – AHL, Ottawa – NHL)
- Charlie Schenkel (Sault Ste. Marie – OHL)
- Matthew Andonovski (Kitchener – OHL)
- Caeden Carlisle (Sault Ste. Marie – OHL)
- Jorian Donovan (Hamilton – OHL, Belleville – AHL)
- Tomas Hamara (Kitchener – OHL)
- Tyler Kleven (North Dakota – NCHC, Ottawa – NHL)
- Roberto Mancini (Saginaw – OHL), Simon Motew (Kitchener – OHL)
- Bronson Ride (Windsor – OHL, Niagara – OHL)
- Thomas Stewart (Oshawa – OHL), Djibril Toure (Sudbury – OHL).
- Tyler Boucher (Ottawa – OHL)
- Daniil Bourash (Rouyn-Noranda – QMJHL)
- Cole Burbidge (Saint John – QMJHL)
- Connor Clattenburg (Sault Ste. Marie – OHL)
- Philippe Daoust (Belleville – AHL)
- Tarun Fizer (Utah – ECHL, Colorado – AHL)
- Ridly Greig (Belleville – AHL, Ottawa – NHL)
- Mikael Huchette (Quebec – QMJHL)
- Roby Jarventie (Belleville – AHL)
- Mitchell Martin (Kitchener – OHL)
- Zack Ostapchuk (Vancouver – WHL, Winnipeg – WHL)
- Stuart Rolofs (Oshawa – OHL)
- James Stefan (Portland – WHL)
- Jackson Stewart (Kingston – OHL, Owen Sound – OHL)
- Ty Thorpe (Vancouver – WHL), Mitch Walinski (Salve Regina – CCC, Atlanta – ECHL).
The most anticipated prospect in the Ottawa Senators system will be playing over the weekend in Buffalo. Ridly Greig will be looked at as one of the leaders of the Sens rookie team after playing his first full season of pro hockey. Greig participating in this tournament should be his warmup in preparation for the Ottawa Senators training camp. His goal has to be to make the NHL roster this season, and he has the chance to make a good impression on management this weekend.
This past season Ridly Greig put up 29 points in 39 AHL games with Belleville, and 9 in 20 with Ottawa. He plays a nasty, get-under-your-skin, type of game, with the skill to create offence. Ridly Greig should dominate this tournament whenever he is on the ice. The skill level and competition level he faced last season are far and away above what will be in this tournament. I will be looking for him to put up some big point totals, while also running any and everybody through the boards.
The one thing that you don’t want to see in a tournament like this is someone getting injured. If Greig shows that he is too good for this level of hockey, I would hope he doesn’t play in each game. With how important of a player he is, the team can’t risk losing him in a game that carries no weight in the season.
As some people may know, I am extremely high on goaltender Leevi Merilainen. I believe he is one of the most underrated prospects in the Senators system, and I see him as neck and neck with Mads Sogaard as the team’s best goaltending prospect. Leevi is all but penciled in as the 1B goaltender in Belleville behind Mads, but I would like to see him challenge to become the 1A in Belleville. This tournament is an excellent opportunity to show the organization just how valuable he can be.
Last season, Leevi Merilainen dominated in Finland with Kärpät in the Liiga. In 42 games, Leevi had a 2.02 GAA with a .918 Sv% and 8 shutouts which broke a Liiga record formerly held by Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators. He also performed well in North America with Belleville/Ottawa playing in 6 total games. Merilainen is quite different from Sogaard relying on his athleticism to make reactive stops in the net. While he still has a ways to go before being ready for the NHL, I think he has a very bright future.
I have tempered expectations for Leevi Merilainen in this tournament. The defensive structure/chemistry will likely lead to a lot of mistakes and high-danger chances for players. I think all of the goaltenders could be hung out to dry in any given game, so I am cautious to set high expectations. Hopefully, Merilainen is highly successful, but I will not be too concerned if he is not.
Another player to keep an eye on going into this tournament is defenceman Tyler Kleven. Kleven, like Ridly Greig, will be looked at as the primary leader on the blue line for the Senators. The 21-year-old got a good look in the NHL this season playing 8 games with the Ottawa Senators. Also like Greig, this tournament should be viewed as a warmup for Tyler Kleven ahead of the NHL training camp. While I don’t expect him to start in the NHL, it should still be his goal to earn a spot with Ottawa.
Last season, Tyler Kleven put up by far his most impressive numbers in the NCAA. In 35 games with North Dakota, Kleven scored 8 goals and 10 assists for 18 points. This nearly doubled his production from the year prior when he was playing behind star defenceman, Jake Sanderson. With Kleven, you get more of a shutdown/2-way game over an offensive one. His calling card is making smart defensive plays, and transitioning the puck up ice. Also, a note for other teams, keep your head up when Kleven is on the ice. Kleven loves to lay the body, and at 6’4, 201 LBS, he is an absolute bone crusher.
Kleven also does not have to play in every single game for the Sens over the weekend. He has already proven that he is ready for the pro game, and he should have no trouble controlling play when he is on the ice. With offence not being Kleven’s calling card, I will be looking for him to be a rock on the blue line. Someone who stays with opponents forwards, and finishes checks harder than anybody on the ice.
Zack Ostapchuk is the first player discussed who has not played pro hockey in his career. Ostapchuk just finished his final year of junior hockey and is ready to make the jump to Belleville. There is a chance that he could crack Ottawa, and he will be a member at training camp, but I expect he will start the year in Belleville’s top 6. Ostapchuk is another one of the team’s highly anticipated prospects, and this tournament should be a good opportunity to showcase his skills.
Last season in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants and Winnipeg Ice, Ostapchuk scored 31 goals, and 36 assists for 67 points in 55 games. Ostapchuk plays a 2-way style game where defence is usually prioritized before offence. Long term, I think he will be an excellent 3rd line player for the Sens who can be someone capable of moving up and down the lineup.
For this tournament, I want to see Ostapchuk show his offensive game over his 2-way style. If he wants to be a successful player in the NHL, that offence will have to carry over to the pro level. He doesn’t need to score every game, but I want to see him carry play against a majority of players who are beneath his level.
Sens fans will also get to watch former 10th overall pick, Tyler Boucher at this year’s tournament. It’s no secret that Boucher has been disappointing since his draft, but he still has the talent to be a useful player in the NHL. After receiving high praise at development camp, I am intrigued to see if he can continue to impress in the rookie showcase. Boucher is another player likely to start with Belleville this year, but this tournament could give us insight into what kind of season we should expect.
Last season with the Ottawa 67’s, Tyler Boucher scored 10 goals and 7 assists for 17 points in 21 games. Once again, Boucher was unable to stay healthy with a shoulder injury that would end his season early once again. Tyler Boucher is similar to Ridly Greig in the sense that he plays a mean, physical game against his opponents. I’m looking for him to finish checks hard every shift. But, while Greig is more of a playmaker, Boucher uses his heavy shot to create offence. He has an absolute cannon and makes sure to follow everything to the net looking for rebounds.
I am hoping to see Boucher light the lamp at this year’s rookie showcase. He has the shot to beat goaltenders clean, especially the ones in this tournament. On top of this, I also want to see him controlling the game physically when he is on the ice. If he is going to be an energizing, physical presence in the NHL, I want to see him show that off in this tournament.
Be sure to keep an eye on winger/centre Roby Jarventie this tournament. Jarventie is another prospect that I have high hopes for going into this season. As one of the top players for the Belleville Senators last season, I want to see Jarventie show his entire offensive arsenal this tournament.
Last season with the Belleville Senators, Roby Jarventie scored 16 goals, and 14 assists for 30 points in 40 games. Jarventie has shown time and time again that he has elite-level talent, but he needs to work on his overall consistency. Jarventie’s biggest weapon to be on the lookout for this tournament is his Josh Norris-like one-timer from the circle. This is Jarventie’s hot spot on the ice, and he has no trouble finding the back of the net from it. While he has shown play-making abilities in the past, expect him to be more of a finisher on his line.
Jarventie is another player that I would like to see dominate in this tournament. He has shown that he can put up impressive numbers in the AHL, so a rookie showcase should be a walk in the park. As someone who will likely start in Belleville again this season, Jarventie will have an opportunity to build some early chemistry with his new teammates.
Jorian Donovan is likely the most unknown prospect that you should keep an eye on at this year’s rookie showcase. Donovan is the youngest player being mentioned at just 19 years old. But he is coming off of an impressive season in the OHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs. With Jorian signing a contract this past season, expect him to play with the Belleville Senators this upcoming season.
Last season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Jorian Donovan scored 12 goals, and 33 assists for 45 points in 55 games. Donovan showed that he had taken his offensive game to another level since being drafted in the 5th round of the 2022 NHL Draft. As the son of Sens development coach Shean Donovan, I expect Jorian Donovan to be highly motivated in this tournament. He is prepared to make a push for a top 4 role with Belleville this season, and this tournament will be his first audition.
My expectation for Jorian Donovan in this tournament is to show his transitional abilities from the backend. In Hamilton, Donovan was able to contribute effectively in the offensive zone. I want to see him showing confidence in playing this same way with a Senators uniform on. I am not concerned about the talent, but I want to see him play his game without worrying about making mistakes.
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