Blood on the ice may help Sens

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

After a heartbreaking loss to the Anaheim Ducks in the Stanley Cup final last month, newly minted GM Bryan Murray decided he wanted the Senators to become bigger and tougher.

What better place to begin than at the 2007 NHL entry draft, where the foundations for teams are created?

In the fourth round, the Senators selected Ben Blood, a 6-foot-3, 212-lb. Minnesotan blueliner from Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault. Shattuck has been at the forefront of producing some of the most anticipated prospects in the last few years -- Sidney Crosby's road to greatness went through SSM. Los Angeles defenceman Jack Johnson attended Shattuck, as did Blackhawks centre Jonathan Toews.

With a surname that immediately conjures up images of a skull-crunching scrapper, you assume the young defenceman's moniker will add to Murray's vision of the future Senators.

But there has to be more to a player than a name, especially one that encourages preconceived notions. Blood, all smiles after his first few drills at the Senators' developmental camp this week, had something to say about that.

"I'm used to it. People see the name and think I must be a tough guy. But I can play tough, and I can also make a play if we need a goal," Blood insisted.

But what about that leap in penalty minutes from 32 in 2005-06 to 144 last season?

"I like to battle hard in front of the net," Blood said, with a sheepish grin. "A lot of them were probably roughing calls."

Blood still yearns to be seen as more than his name implies. Off the ice, he is articulate and poised -- likely the result of a 3.8 GPA achieved in school this year.

On the ice, he demonstrates offensive potential with soft hands that were displayed in statistics (36 points in 63 games last season) and during this week's camp.

However, the 18-year-old took away other valuable lessons from his time at Shattuck.

"The hockey's great and obviously my education as well, but being able to mature was so important," Blood said.

"Playing for (coach) Tom Ward -- he makes men at Shattuck. I went there and I was a little immature when I arrived. But I've grown a lot since then."

Blood has accepted an offer to play for the University of North Dakota in the near future.

"(North Dakota) has a remarkable program and so many of their players have gone on to play in the NHL," he said. "I thought it was the best place to help me reach my own goal of playing in the National Hockey League."

But with an overstock of Fighting Sioux blueliners currently at UND, Blood will be sharpening his skills with the USHL's Des Moines Buccaneers next season.

"I wanted to play a year of junior just to get better; to become an impact player and carry more of a role when I get to UND," he said.

The young prospect followed his new team through the majority of the playoffs. While admittedly a fan of the New York Rangers, he insists he cheered for Ottawa after the Blueshirts were knocked out.

"I like (Patrick) Eaves a lot. (Eaves) played at Shattuck as well," noted Blood -- ever loyal to his alma mater.

The Minnesota native aims to model his game after Matt Smaby, a Tampa Bay prospect with the Springfield Falcons.

"He's a big guy who plays physical but can also move the puck," Blood said.

Surely the Senators could benefit from such a presence in their system.

In the meantime, Blood will continue to polish his game while taking pride in the fact that he's now part of a top NHL franchise.

"It's really fun being here. And getting that call, telling me I was drafted (by the Senators) -- it made my year."


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