67's charge into camp

AEDAN HELMER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:54 PM ET

OTTAWA - Five months to the day after a shocking first-round sweep at the hands of the underdog Sudbury Wolves ended the 67’s playoff hopes, the boys were back in town refreshed, recharged and with a collective chip on their shoulder.

“We had a strong team last year. I thought we had a Memorial Cup team, and unfortunately we ran into injuries,” said veteran defenceman Marc-Anthony Zanetti. “In my mind, I’m still pissed off about the loss to Sudbury, but I’m not going to dwell on it. I can guarantee that this team will be a whole lot better than last year.”

The 67’s should once again challenge for the East Division crown they held last season, with the offensive core largely intact, led by a trio of veterans who gained valuable experience at NHL training camps in Ryan Martindale (Oilers, third round, No. 61, 2010), Tyler Toffoli (Kings, second round, No. 47, 2010) and Shane Prince, who Senators fans will be eager to track after he was drafted by the hometown club in the second round (No. 61) this summer.

Prince said it was “extremely exciting” to have his name called by Senators assistant GM Tim Murray.

“I love Ottawa and I’ve loved playing here for the last year and a half. The fans here are great and the hockey support is unreal, so being able to stay here in a city like this is a pretty big opportunity,” said Prince.

Coach Chris Byrne had the assistant tag removed from his GM’s title, taking over full- time duties from Brian Kilrea, who officially retired over the summer.

After all the training camp evaluations are done, Byrne’s first order of business will be to address the leadership gap left in the room by the departures of captain Thomas Nesbitt and Cody Lindsay, who graduated after spending their entire five-year junior careers in 67’s colours, and overage defenceman and alternate captain Travis Gibbons.

One player Byrne will be looking to step up this season is smooth-skating blueliner Cody Ceci, an Orleans native looking to make a big impression this season entering his NHL draft year.

“I think my role will grow this year, I’ll be looked at as a leader both on the ice and off the ice, and I just have to play with a lot more confidence ... and hopefully I’ll get noticed,” said Ceci.

“For us it was a tough end to the season,” Byrne said in reference to the sweep at the hands of the Wolves. “But we’re looking forward to a fresh start this year and we’ll see where the chips fall.”

Camp extends through Saturday, and the 67’s play the Quebec Remparts in exhibition action on Monday at 2 p.m.

aedan.helmer@sunmedia.ca


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