Pageau the poster child for Prince and fellow prospects

If any prospect at the Ottawa Senators development camp ever questions whether the long days of practice, power skating drills, off-ice workouts, nutritional tips and motivational seminars is worth the time and effort, they only have to look up to – or, rather down to – the 5-9, 168-pound Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Let’s call it the Jean-Gabriel Pageau factor.

If any prospect at the Ottawa Senators development camp ever questions whether the long days of practice, power skating drills, off-ice workouts, nutritional tips and motivational seminars is worth the time and effort, they only have to look up to – or, rather down to – the 5-9, 168-pound Pageau.

There’s Pageau, exhausted from the tough workouts, but excited about the year to come after his unlikely rise to Senators playoff hero in the spring.

At this time last year, he was deep down on the organizational depth chart, not knowing whether he would be in Binghamton of the American Hockey League Elmira of the ECHL or back in junior somewhere. Now, he has the inside track on starting next season as the Senators third or fourth line centre.

Accordingly, he has become a poster child for motivation.

“I think Pageau coming up and doing well is a great sign,” said Shane Prince, the former Ottawa 67′s winger who is among the candidates to earn a spot on one of the Senators top two lines next season. “He’s a great player and to see a guy like him go up and do well, it gives me a lot of confidence to go up and do the same thing…and hopefully, I’m given that chance.”

Prince, like Pageau, learned countless valuable lessons with Binghamton in 2012-13, including patience and perseverance. His slow start began by suffering a leg injury in a scrimmage in the opening day of training camp. The roster was jammed with players owning NHL experience, including Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg due to the NHL lockout, along with minor league veterans. Finally, late in the season, he started producing, finishing with 18 goals and 17 assists in 65 games. He scored once in three playoff games.

“As a first year pro, I had to work my way back into the lineup and I had to earn my ice time and respect and I think once I did that, as we went through the year, things started to click a little bit better,” said Prince.

He also saw the rewards as a steady stream of Binghamton teammates jumped on the shuttle to Ottawa due to the never-ending injury list and received a chance.

“There are no favours, there is no sense of entitlement,” said Randy Lee, the Senators director of hockey operations and player development. “If you’re the best player at the position at the time we need you, you’re going to get the call up. Paul (MacLean, Senators coach) has done a good job of reinforcing the value of ‘if you play well, you’re going to get on the ice.’”

Lee says Prince was one of the most improved players within the system, by listening to what he was told and by watching what was happening and by putting it all into action.

“The (AHL) is a challenging league,” Lee said. “Some guys do respond and some guys don’t. I was most impressed with the way he engaged himself, the way he fought to get to lose pucks. He was harder to play against. He was all of the things we wanted to see.”

There shouldn’t be any danger in Prince getting ahead of himself, however. When he looks around at training camp, he sees Zibanejad and Cory Conacher, an American Hockey League MVP and an early candidate for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year last season.

“They know too that competition is there, they don’t want somebody to go past them,” said Lee, explaining why there are several established NHL players at the camp.

That group also includes Pageau, who insists his head isn’t too swollen from the playoff success to forget about what got him here in the first place. He’s not assuming anything about next season.

“I know that I’m not guaranteed anything,” said Pageau. “I’m going to have to put some work in. I’m still learning. I’m still working hard to get better every day. I don’t want to sit back.”

LAZAR ON THE RADAR: Curtis Lazar, selected 17th overall by the Senators at the June 30 entry draft, insists he isn’t looking ahead to the Senators main training camp in September, even though GM Bryan Murray has suggested he has a shot at starting the season as a second line right winger. He helped his cause by scoring one goal and one assist in a 3-1 intrasquad game victory Saturday.

“I’m hearing stuff coming around, but all I’m going to do is give it my all,” said Lazar. “In the scrimmage, for example, I was playing with Zibanejad and Conacher and playing right wing. If there’s a spot open, I’ve going to give it my all to fill that role, but right now, I just want to get the experience as a professional hockey player.”

When Lazar was drafted, he said he wasn’t familiar with too many Senators player, but he was in awe of playing with Daniel Alfredsson.

Does Alfredsson leaving change the feeling?

“Yes and no,” he said. “We’re all trying to write our own history, so to (speak). We want to be the next generation of Senators coming along. When you look at what Alfie has done with the organization and for the city of Ottawa, he’s going to be missed for sure. I didn’t get to meet him personally. I would have liked to do that.”

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