Senators News Update (Jack Downing, Marcus Sorensen, Erik Condra, Nikita Filatov, and Ben Blood)

With NHL training camps opening in less than a month, organisational news and speculation is beginning to appear more and more.  Here’s a look at the most interesting items:

[August 26 update: the Downing signing is official (www.binghamtonsenators.com/ news/topnews/index.html?article_id=1114).  It’s an AHL contract, so if he fails to make the team he’ll play in Elmira of the ECHL.]

-Elite Prospects has posted a rumour that NCAA University of Vermont grad Jack Downing has signed with Binghamton (http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=19064).  Normally I wouldn’t comment on a rumour like this, but it has been picked up by Binghamton beat-writer Joy Lindsay (www.pressconnects.com/apps/ pbcs.dll/section?category=PluckPersona&U=551340dd39644ae695cca9fe0180e879 &plckPersonaPage=BlogViewPost&plckUserId=551340dd39644ae695cca9fe0180e879& plckPostId=Blog%3a551340dd39644ae695cca9fe0180e879Post%3ad609e6dd-1e48-4250-aa1e-ce9817d072a4&plckController=PersonaBlog&plckScript=personaScript& plckElementId=personaDest).  Personally, I don’t see Ottawa adding another forward to the AHL-roster (there are already 14 forwards signed for Binghamton’s lineup).  If the rumour does have validity, I could see Downing actually signed for Elmira’s roster (ECHL) or participating in Ottawa’s rookie tournament.

-Sens prospect Marcus Sorensen (4-106 2010), who signed with Skelleftea of the SEL this past spring, is being loaned to the Allsvenskan (the second-tier pro league in Sweden).   Sorensen said “I think it’s good to play [in the Allsvenskan] in the top two lines instead of a fourth line in Skellefteå.  Hopefully this is just a few weeks or a month and that I later I will be back in Skellefteå again.  Of course I’m disappointed but there’s nothing to do about it, but go full speed ahead and hope that I’m back again soon” (http://translate.google.se/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=sv&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=sv&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fnorran.se%2Fsport%2Farticle1192418.ece&act=url, I took some liberties with this to make the translation clearer).

-NHL.com includes Erik Condra as a player to watch (www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=587059) as they look at Ottawa heading into the 2011-12 season; the analysis of the team is pretty sparse

Le Droit‘s Simon Cremer takes a look at how Ottawa fans react to skilled players (supportathletique.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/les-fans-dottawa-et-nikita-filatov), fearing fans will jump all over Nikita Filatov if he doesn’t have an immediate impact (and perhaps even if he does).  It’s an interesting argument, but the point I definitely agree with is that fans favour grinders and plumbers over danglers (Peter Regin is a great example of a guy who is good defensively, but only gets credit for points-scored).

Senshot conducted an interview with Brad Schlossman (senshot.com/2011/08/04/ prospect-profile-ben-blood) who covers the UND Fighting Sioux (home of Ben Blood, 4-120 2007).  A few quotes: “Blood was a first-pair defenseman last season, playing alongside Los Angeles Kings first-rounder Derek Forbort. Blood should be UND’s top defenseman this season. … He will be their top penalty-killing defenseman this season. I’m also expecting him to see some power play time. … The Sioux lost their top two point guys on the power play in Chay Genoway (Wild) and Matt Frattin (Leafs).  I think the pro atmosphere [of UND] is probably an advantage rather than pressure. … He has been one of the guys setting the tone in the weight room the last couple of summers and I’m guessing he’s doing the same this year.  He’s got good size, good reach and is very good defensively. He’s capable of producing at least one big hit per game. Almost never lets guys [get] around him. He’s very good at doing the little things. He can win a battle along the boards and flip a backhand high off the glass to get it out of the zone. [He’s] just a reliable defenseman.  He has better than average puck skills and I think we really started to see some of those come out last year. You don’t expect him to ever take the puck to the net, but he did it on a couple of occasions last year. I think he can further develop his offensive skills this year.  He’s a legit prospect. He will play in the NHL. Most defensemen have a stint in the AHL to start their careers and Blood may as well. But I would be surprised if he doesn’t reach the NHL during his rookie season. … He’s a guy who is outstanding at the little things and isn’t a fun matchup for opponents.”

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Binghamton Senators Profile: Craig Schira

This is the sixth profile on prospects expected to play for the Binghamton Senators.

Craig Schira, D, Contract: 0.545/12 (RFA)
FA 2009 (Murray), 6’0, Shoots R, YOB 1988, Spiritwood, SK
2008-09 WHL 71-16-43-59 46pim (2 fights)
2009-10 AHL 68-8-13-21 27pim (1 fight)
2010-11 AHL 67-3-10-13 18pim (2 fights)

The undersized blueliner was signed as a free agent out of the WHL in 2009 at a time when Binghamton had few blueline prospects on the roster (Brian LeeDerek Smith, and Tomas Kudelka).  It was Schira‘s fifth full season in the WHL, having enjoyed a career year playing with the likes of Jonathan Blum (Nashville first-rounder) and Brent Regner (Columbus fifth-rounder).  Schira had begun his WHL career with the Regina Pats, but didn’t blossom until he joined Vancouver in 2007-08.

Like virtually every rookie, Schira found the initial transition to the AHL difficult–the speed and size of the players particularly (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFwjqaJ24N4).  He was the youngest blueliner in Binghamton (excluding Erik Karlsson‘s month in the minors), finishing third in defensive scoring (behind Derek Smith and Geoff Kinrade).

Coming into last season, Schira was optimistic after his rookie season, “I see myself as someone who is going to play in the NHL, I felt great. I had to get used to the speed, but after that I thought I played well” (http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/35256-Craig-Schira-joins-crew-of-young-defencemen-knocking-on-Senators-door.html).  He was returned to Binghamton under new coach Kurt Kleinendorst.  Unlike his rookie season, Schira found himself in more of a shutdown role and saw his production slip.  He was also an occasional scratch (3 times).  He played the entire opening round series against Manchester, but missed the next two rounds via injury and by the time he was healthy again there was no room for him in the lineup.

Going into this season the numbers seemed against Schira, but the retirement of Lee Sweatt (http://www.ottawasun.com/2011/08/12/no-sweatt-sens-free-agent-pickup-retires-before-camp) benefits him more than anyone else.  Should the lineup stay the way it is, Schira will be a regular and has a chance to play his way up in the lineup.  Any trade of a blueliner at the NHL level benefits him also.  However, I won’t make predictions passed on hypotheticals.  As it stands Schira‘s a bottom pairing player who is unlikely to play on the powerplay, so if he stays healthy a good season would see him produce 20 points.

Discusses his first pro season: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFwjqaJ24N4
Fights Stu Bickel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6c5oYKsVLc
Nice hit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzMEts0yjd8

Next up is Ottawa native Corey Cowick.