Butler in thick of top-six mix

Rookie forward Bobby Butler is set to challenge for a spot on the Senators roster. (CRAIG...

Rookie forward Bobby Butler is set to challenge for a spot on the Senators roster. (CRAIG GLOVER/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:41 PM ET

LONDON - The Senators rookie tournament ends Tuesday, but for Bobby Butler, the real work is just beginning.

While 15 of the Senators’ rookies at the four-team tourney will be brought to the 50-player main training camp when players report for physicals Friday at Scotiabank Place, the 23-year-old Butler has one of the best chances of cracking the roster.

Rather than bringing in a veteran like Bill Guerin to fill an opening on the second line, the salary-conscious Senators will give Butler every opportunity to fill the spot.

If the rookie tournament is any indication, the 2010 Hobey Baker Award finalist from the University of New Hampshire has a good shot at landing the job. Butler had two goals and two assists against the Pittsburgh and Chicago rookies and was named second star in both games.

But it’s not just the young forward’s flair with the puck that has impressed Senators assistant GM Tim Murray — it’s his commitment to playing hard without it.

“He’s a skill player, but he can be trusted away from the puck,” said Murray of the undrafted Massachusetts native who signed with Ottawa as a free agent last spring.

“He can score. He can make plays. He also knows where the play is going to go and he takes it away. He’s a smart player. He can be on the ice against other good players because his hockey sense is good enough.”

Over the next few weeks, Murray, GM Bryan Murray and his coaching staff will find out if that hockey sense is keen enough for the NHL.

“If he’s going to play with us, he’s got to crack our top six and he’s got to get the opportunity to play with good players,” said Murray. “We need offence, so he has to have a big camp.”

Butler knows he needs to turn some heads at camp.

“You’ve got to bury any chance you get,” he said.

Though veteran forward Ryan Shannon is also in the mix for a spot on the second line, Butler’s biggest competition is likely to be Swiss prospect Roman Wick.

The 24-year-old Wick was drafted by the Senators in the fifth round (156th overall) in 2004. He played one year of junior in Red Deer, but has spent most of his career in Europe and had an impressive Olympic tournament for the Swiss in Vancouver.

“(Butler and Wick) are both going to have a chance to have great camps,” said Murray.

“If one of them has a great camp, then they could give us a chance to change our mind about our team.

“We’re going to give them the opportunity with eight exhibition games. It’ll be up to them, but they’re going to have every opportunity to play their way onto the team.”

The Senators opted not to bring Wick to the rookie tournament because he attended a similar event in 2004 and has plenty of experience on the international stage.

In addition to the Olympics, he has suited up for Switzerland at two world championships as well as at world junior and world under-18 tournaments.

“I just thought it was better for him to get into Ottawa, get onto the ice with our guys informally and then get ready for main camp,” said Murray.

“With his accomplishments and his pedigree playing in the Olympics and world championships, I just didn’t feel bringing him to a rookie tournament was going to be productive for him.”

Kids in the Hall

With an off-day at the tourney Monday, the Blackhawks rookies skipped practice and made a trip down the road to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto ... Expect to see Senators G Robin Lehner start in the rookies’ final game Tuesday against the Leafs.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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