For Ottawa rookies, summer school is in

For everything the Ottawa Senators rookies accomplished during the season, summer school is now in session.

For Ottawa rookies, summer school is in
Jakob Silfverberg chases the puck past goalie Tomas Vokoun in the 1st period as the Ottawa Senators lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-1, at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in game 1 of the NHL's Eastern Conference semi-final. (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen)

For everything the Ottawa Senators rookies accomplished during the season, summer school is now in session.

Jakob Silfverberg left Scotiabank Place Monday with the knowledge that he needs to go harder to the net to score goals. Fellow Swede Robin Lehner will head home and tune up his body, all in an effort to stop goals. Cory Conacher will travel to Toronto, loaded with video guidebooks on how to defend and eat better. Jean-Gabriel Pageau will cross the river to Gatineau, making sure he does everything possible to keep his unlikely NHL career alive.

Coach Paul MacLean also had messages for Mika Zibanejad, Patrick Wiercioch and Eric Gryba, all with the goal of improving upon their first year success in the NHL. If the Senators snuck up on teams due to the efforts of their rookies, that won’t be case in 2013-14.

“I want to score more goals, I guess,” Silfverberg said, when asked about the one area he would like to improve upon the most. “You’ve got to take (the puck) to the net, you’ve got to drive the net hard and that’s one thing I’m trying to learn every day. You’ve got to be able to be tough (at the) net and go through some guys and be harder around the net.”

Silfverberg, 22, scored 10 goals and nine assists in the 48-game regular season. He added another two goals and two assists in the Senators’ 10 playoff games while recognizing that the Senators have to improve to reach the level of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“You’ve got to go faster, they’re so quick. That’s where we want to be in a couple of years and that’s where I want to be in a couple of years, too.”

While the 21-year-old Lehner has finally won himself the full-time NHL goaltending position he has long strived for, he says he can’t allow complacency to set in. His summer plans including being as fit as possible when training camp opens next September, aiming to push Craig Anderson for playing time.

Conacher is taking nothing for granted as he heads home. While he was an early candidate for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year and finished his first season with 11 goals and 18 assists – split between the Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning – he’s aware he needs to improve.

“It’s going to be a big summer for myself,” he said. “I’ve got to watch video on little things, (defensive) zone play and managing the puck a little bit better. Summer is good for conditioning and getting the right nutrition, so I’m going to work on that as well.”

Conacher, 23, says nothing is guaranteed next fall, but the experience of playing – and occasionally watching – during the playoffs serves as motivation.

“I want to contribute. It’s important for me to have the right mindset to come into (training) camp and work harder than I did this year. If I do that and gain some extra knowledge from this year and bring it into next year, that’s a bit of an advantage for me. I have to use that wisely to fight for a spot.”

Pageau, 20, also recognizes that he has to be prepared to work hard to stay in Ottawa in September. After beating the longest of odds to simply get into an NHL game in April, and then establishing himself as a solid two-way player – two goals and two assists in nine regular season games and four goals (including a hat trick against Montreal) and two assists in 10 playoff games – he doesn’t want the dream to disappear.

“I’m really confident in myself, but I think you can always be better,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets about what I have done, but I know next year is going to be real hard. I will work hard this summer to make sure I come here ready.”

kwarren@ottawacitizen.com
Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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