If today’s morning skate is any indication, Senators fans will probably get a chance to watch uber prospect Mark Stone to play in his first National Hockey League game tonight.
According to Hockey-reference.com, since the 1987-88 season, Stone will be the first teeanage player to make his NHL debut in the playoffs since Jarome Iginla did it back on April 23rd, 1996. During this timeframe, he’ll only be the
third fifth player to make such a debut; sharing this distinction with the illustrious company of Daniel Marois, Mike Modano, Rod Brind’Amour and Iginla. (note: originally, only noticed Marois and Iginla. Steve Lloyd has done a good job chronicling the all-time list that you can see here.)
With all of the added attention, some of it added by us, given to the Eliteserien’s most valuable player Jakob Silfverberg, by comparison, the possibility that Stone could potentially play has largely gone under the radar in the nation’s capital.
That’s not to say that he hasn’t had an impressive 2011/12 campaign, he has. Playing for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, Stone amassed impressive totals — 41 goals and 123 points in 66 games played — and finished second in league scoring behind Tri-City’s Brendan Shinniman. It was this outstanding production that led to Stone being included on the 2012 U20 Canadian World Juniors team. In six games for Canada, Stone finished fourth in tournament scoring – tallying 7 goals and ten points.
Thanks to the upper body injuries suffered by Jesse Winchester (suspected concussion) and Daniel Alfredsson (confirmed concussion), it is this kind ability to put the puck in the net that appears to put Stone ahead of Rob Klinkhammer and Kaspars Daugavins in the pecking order.
Having skated on a line with Zenon Konopka and Jim O’Brien this morning, it’s safe to assume that Stone will be given an opportunity to play limited and sheltered even strength minutes. More importantly, it speaks volumes about how much the Senators’ power play has struggled in this series — 2 for 15 (13.3%) — and how highly the coaching staff think of Stone’s skill set and net front presence. The fact that Paul MacLean has a history of getting the most out of offensively gifted players after they’ve played for Cory Clouston is just an added bonus.
For awhile now, the team has relied heavily on the likes of Chris Neil, Colin Greening and even Zenon Konopka to be that big bodied presence in front of the net. With all due respect to these aforementioned players, no one from this trio offers the blend of size and soft hands that Stone has. Combined with the Rangers’ emphasis on blocking shots and a collapsing style, fewer shots are reaching the front of the net and I don’t want to say that this net presence has become a bit redundant, but there’s an added emphasis on being able to create offense and play with the puck away from the front of the net. One hopes can help the power play improve in these areas while maintaining that net front presence that head coach Paul MacLean loves.
Finally, for anyone interested in the financial implications of having Stone play, there are none. Due to the player’s age, the first year of his entry level contract will not be burned should he play in less than 10 games.
Daugavins is the Magic Man
Every so often, a story about bizarre player superstitions captivates the Senators’ fan base.
Once there was Tom Chorske’s $5 Buddha statue that he bought during the NHL All-Star break while attending some NHLPA meetings. Then there was Bruce Gardiner dunking his sticks in toilets to break out of a slump. Even Daniel Alfredsson had a ritual in which during the 1996/97 season in which he tapped his stick on a horeshoe that was nailed about the Senators locker room door – once at the start of the first period, twice at the start of the second period and three time at the start of the third.
And now rumour has it that Kaspars Daugavins has some kind of magical ability to break players out of slumps.
From Don Brennan’s article in this morning’s Ottawa Sun:
“Kaspars Daugavins came up to me before the game and gave me some magic,” Turris replied. “Earlier in year I was going through a slump, and I sit beside Dog Man in the room, and he said ‘Turry I’m going to give you some magic, and you’re going to score a goal.’ and I scored a goal that game. So (Wednesday ) night before I went out, Dog Man was in the back and I asked for a little magic.’
“I swear to God it’s unbelievable. He did it to (Nick Foligno) in Long Island and Nicky scored. It’s legit magic. If you’re in a slump he’ll break you out of a slump.”
When asked about what kind of magic Daugavins gives to other Senators players, he replied:
“It’s a special magic,” Daugavins said. “I’m not telling the secret of how and what, but it works. Last year I gave magic all the time (in Binghamton) and we won. Certain guys I give it to. It’s good for two weeks, unless you break a stick, then I have to put a new one in. It only works when you’re thinking positive things. It doesn’t work if you’re mad and yelling at your stick.
“I don’t have any left to give myself, that’s why I’m not playing. My magic works better with Turry than me, that’s why I give it to him.”
Last night in the streets of Gavle, Sweden, fans celebrated Brynas’ SEL championship. One video was uploaded to YouTube and featured one Silfverberg chant that I hope will catch on and make an appearance at ScotiaBank Place sometime in the not-so-distant future.