His junior career behind him, Gatineau’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau will be working out this summer for a spot on the Binghamton Senators.
That’s where he figures to land after training camp, though it’s also possible he will see some time with Ottawa ECHL affiliate in Elmira.
It’s not Pageau’s skills that are wanting. It’s his size. At 5-9 and 170, he’s undersized, a Danny Brière in training.
To play in the AHL, Pageau has to show he can handle the heavy traffic of professional, said Randy Lee, director of player development.
He has first-line skills. He had 23 goals and 16 assists in 23 games for Gatineau, and then had nine goals and 17 assists in 23 games after he was traded to Chicoutimi. In 16 playoff games in Chicoutimi, he had four goals and 10 assists.
Those skills convinced the Senators to take a chance on him, selecting him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft (96th overall).
But Pageau also has to be strong enough to compete against players who are taller and heavier.
“He’s never going to be a huge player, but he’s better at the stuff we want him to be better at, like being able to contain bigger players, like battling,” said Lee.
“He’s such a skilled guy. In (Thursday’s) scrimmage he did a pretty good job against bigger guys, and we like that. The puck follows him and he does a really good job that way.
“But he’s got to be able to be an offensive guy in the AHL, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
As much as the Senators like Pageau, though, Lee cautions that the Senators can only have so many first-year players in the Binghamton lineup, so competition will be tough.
That could bump him to Elmira.
“The biggest thing we want to do with our players is put them in a position to succeed,” said Lee.
“There’s no use going to a level where they can’t play. If you’re an offensive guy, you have to play in offensive situations.”
Earning a spot in Binghamton is in his plans, said Pageau, but he knows it will depend on how his exercise program goes this summer. He’ll have to be stronger — and maybe a little heavier — when he comes to camp.
“I think I’m ready for that step,” he said.
“I know I have to be stronger and put on some weight. I’m not a big guy, so I have to be more powerful, so my training will be a big part of it.
“If I’m going to make the next step, I have to be ready mentally and physically.”
SWEDISH DEFENCEMAN IMPRESSES
One of the more notable prospects in this development camp is Fredrik Claesson, a Swedish defenceman who played with Ottawa teammate Mika Zibanejad in Djurgardens last season.
Claesson is a less heralded player in Zibanejad, but from his play in the development camp, he’s going to play a big role in Binghamton this season.
A fifth-round pick (126th overall) in 2011, Claesson surprised Lee by asking to be assigned to Binghamton when the two met during last year’s world juniors.
“We had a nice meeting at the hotel in Calgary, and he looked at me and said, ‘I need to play in the AHL next year. To make the transition, I need to play on that ice surface, I need to play that number of games, I need to play in that type of environment.’ Which was really refreshing to hear. A lot of guys say, ‘I’m just going to come when I can play pro.’ But you know what? You have to invest in yourself, and you’re going to be further along in the end if you take those steps along the way.”
Lee sees similarities between Claesson and another player who could be in the Ottawa lineup next season, Mark Borowiecki. Claesson is not as gritty as Borowiecki but he competes just as fiercely.