Each day until September 15th TPS will take a look at one team from the Eastern conference and one club from the West, spotlighting a rookie or two to watch for this season. This afternoon we explore the freshmen candidates of the Ottawa Senators.
Obviously the rebuild began last year in Canada's capital city with a number of players making their NHL debut, some playing their way past rookie status like Erik Condra (26 games) and Bobby Butler (36 games). Former Cornell forward Colin Greening (above) qualifies by just a single game after his 24 NHL outings in 2010-11.
Does Robin Lehner play more in Ottawa this year than the 8 games he saw last year? The big Swede isn't too good for the minors yet and so is probably headed back, especially considering Craig Anderson and Alex Auld are veteran options for the big club.
Two other Swedes could figure prominently into the picture this year though in defenceman David Rundblad and 2011 1st rounder Mika Zibanejad. Most expect Runblad (left), a former 1st round pick in St. Louis, to be on the opening night roster as he comes to the organization with 4 pro seasons in the SEL under his belt including last year's 50-points in 55 games with Skellefteå.
Zibanejad will be in camp and could very well impress enough that he forces the Sens to keep him on board. He's got NHL size and hands but it's a big jump to the NHL for anyone let alone an 18-year-old European.
Former Spokane Chiefs captain Jared Cowen, a top-10 pick in the 2009 NHL draft, will complicate matters on the back end even more. After a down 2009-10, he rebounded nicely last year with the Chiefs and isn't one that should be forgotten.
Perhaps the forgotten wild card in the Ottawa picture is former 6th overall Columbus pick, Nikita Filatov. Is a change in scenery exactly the kick start his career needed? Can he prove to everyone that he deserved to be taken that high in 2008? Considered in his draft year to be about the safest Russian selection not named Ovechkin or Malkin, Filatov has only played 44 NHL games since draft day so he's got a lot to prove to everyone, perhaps even to himself.