This one was easy. Not that the Senators pool of prospects is shallow, not at all in fact, but for me there is one guy that is beginning a huge chapter in his career this year that I can't overlook.
No, it's not any of the OHL picks in recent years although I'm not going to criticize anyone who has taken a shine to Cody Ceci, Shane Prince, Stefan Noesen or Matt Puempel. All are solid prospects in their own right.
Swedes Mika Zibanejad and Robin Lehner? Worthy but also neither are the guy I am thinking of. It's not the Love Expert, Louie Caporusso, or Frenchman Stephane Da Costa either.
My pick as one to watch for the Senators is a former King.
Mark Stone (RW)Brandon Wheat Kings
6'3, 206 lbs
Drafted 178th overall in 2010
It is still amazing to me that Mark Stone was a 6th round pick for the Senators in 2010. Knowing what we know now, it's almost impossible to believe that he was available that late but you have to go back to that year for perspective.
Here's a guy who only played 39 games due to injury and even though he was productive, there were those who speculated that Stone was riding the offensive coattails of Brayden Schenn (PHI), Matt Calvert (CLB) and Scott Glennie (DAL).
As my partner on The Pipeline Show, Dean Millard, often points out, it was Stone who had actually moved ahead of Glennie on the depth chart during the Memorial Cup.
Stone was a great selection by Ottawa but at the time is was far from a slam dunk. Since the though, wow... no one can question the choosing of a guy in the 6th round who scores 106 and then 123 points in the WHL the following two years.
There were still a lot of skeptics after Stone's 106 point season in 2010-11 but his summer camp with Hockey Canada really solidified his status as a top prospect. Stone seemingly scored at will during the camp and intersquad games. He got off to great start in Brandon and was an easy selection to the 2012 WJC team.
|Photo: IIHF Images
While Eberle likes to perch just off the sides of the slot, Stone plants himself at or near the top of it and uses his strength to muscle shots through traffic and in. His reach allows him to collect rebounds and tuck them around bodies and into the net. How many times did we see him in the WJC where he'd be causing problems in front of the net then simply drift back in the slot to create some space, get the pass and one time in for a goal? (Like this)
|Photo: Mike Stobe
Once eliminated from the WHL playoffs, Stone joined the Senators in New York for a critical post season clash with the Rangers. Stone played less than 9 minutes but collected an assist in the contest.
Of course he's going to have to earn his roster spot in camp but I don't know how long Mark Stone will be out of the NHL for. He's one of Ottawa's biggest forwards and few current members of the Sens produced at the rate Stone did at the same age.
I'd be interested in hearing from Ottawa fans about this because I have a hard time imaging a scenario where Stone does not make the team out of camp. That's why Mark Stone is my pick as "One to Watch" among Senators prospects for 2012-13.