Prospects look good to Sens GM

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

KITCHENER -- When Senators GM Bryan Murray looks to the future, he likes what he sees.

As the four-team rookie tournament wrapped up yesterday -- the Senators dropped a 3-1 decision to the Penguins -- the performance of prospects like Jesse Winchester, Ilya Zubov, Alexander Nikulin, Peter Regin and goalie Brian Elliott shows that the Senators have some talented players who will push for playing time this season.

"We were talking about this (Sunday) and people wonder why we have rookie camps. This is the purpose: We feel good about the fact that we've got people in the organization that we can call up," said Murray.

With Senators camp set to begin with physicals today and the first on-ice session scheduled for tomorrow, Binghamton coach Cory Clouston said the three-day session was a good preparation for what the prospects are about to face.

"They're not going to be pushing for spots from guys like (Jason) Spezza, (Daniel) Alfredsson and (Dany) Heatley. What they'll be doing is (trying to) add other elements to their game to give them success in main camp," said Clouston.

"To me, that's really what we've been trying to focus on here, is to stress the offence and the skill, but we've also really tried to stress the little things because when you get up into the main camp, those little things can make the world of difference. Those are the things that will allow them to have success."

While Zubov, Regin, Nikulin and Elliott will likely start the season in the AHL, there will be big expectations for 24-year-old Winchester of Long Sault in the next couple of weeks.

Winchester, signed as a free agent in March after a successful college career at Colgate, stood out during the rookie tourney and will get a shot on the Senators' top two lines.

"The kid is coming out of college, but this tournament has been good for him and good for his confidence going into the big camp, that not only is he playing well, he was also able to get results by getting points," said Murray.

"Just being around the pros had a big influence on him in the summer. He told me he (watched) Luke Richardson and he told me he just wanted to be the example that Luke was to him."

Zubov is in tough, but he has shown tremendous improvement.

"I feel good," said Zubov. "I just want to go into camp and do the best that I can to play (in the NHL)."

Another player who distinguished himself was O'Brien. Ottawa's top pick in the 2007 draft scored the Senators' only goal on a nifty move around a defenceman, then firing a bullet shot from the slot.

"I just want to show everybody I've improved and show them my game," said O'Brien, 19, who will suit up for Seattle of the WHL this season. "I've really worked on my strength and my speed. I just want to be a two-way forward that can carry the puck and make some plays."


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