Young Sens in awe of Heatley

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

He really wanted the letter.

He yearned to be considered a leader.

In auditioning for the 'A' during the pre-season, he blocked shots and back-checked like never before. He said he wanted to do some penalty killing and promised to become more of a complete player.

Yet when he was finally named the Senators alternate or assistant captain over a more worthy individual like Mike Fisher, some still viewed it as a situation similar to that of an earlier era, when Jacques Martin presented the 'C' to Alexei Yashin.

Yashin was a goal scorer, not a true example of hard work, grit, determination and all the other characteristics found in the best captains. Those qualities were evident in his teammate, Daniel Alfredsson, but Martin gave the 'C' to Yashin more than partly to placate the big Russian.

An unhappy Yashin would not be as productive as a happy one. Everyone knew that.

FOCUS STRAYED

Now, Dany Heatley might have scored 39 goals with or without the 'A' last season. But his focus did stray from his pre-season vows. And how ironic is it that he's now clamouring to get out of town primarily because of coach Cory Clouston, whose only wish was to turn Heatley into a more complete player.

Make no mistake, Heatley was held in awe by the young players in the Senators room last season. Jesse Winchester sat beside him in the dressing room and watched with wide eyes as Heatley conducted his business and prepared for game time. So did Nick Foligno. And why wouldn't they? Whatever it was Dominant Dany did off the ice, at the end of the day he usually went home with a goal or two added on to his totals.

Young players in the Senators organization are again watching Heatley in awe. But now he is setting a bad example.

"I think I'm caught up in it, just like a fan, to see how the situation unfolds," highly touted Senators prospect Patrick Wiercioch said of the saga at the team's development camp yesterday. "It's not for me to judge. I'm not part of the locker room. You don't really have the privilege to judge a person unless you know who they are and what their situation is.

"Obviously, he's gained a lot of respect in the league for what he's done. You don't become a 39-goal scorer, in what some people would say was an off year, by fluke. He's obviously a gifted player that wants to seek other opportunities."

Wiercioch, Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen will one day form the Big Three of the Senators' defence, with Karlsson expected to arrive on the scene as early as next season. He's added eight pounds in the last 2 1/2 months and now weighs in at 170 lbs., which the team thinks might be enough for him to play with the big boys.

The offensive talents he has displayed this camp indicate he is more than ready for the NHL. He really is a treat to watch.

"I signed because I want to play here and I'm going to do everything I can to get a spot on the team," said Karlsson. "But it's a long way there and I've got to work hard for the rest of the summer and come back in September and try to play as good as I can.

"Hopefully, it will be enough."

Among the skills he is developing, the slick Swede is learning how to stickhandle around ticklish questions. Asked about the Heatley situation, Karlsson said: "It's hard for me to say. Of course he's a great player, he's one of the best players in the league, so of course he's an important player. Ottawa would like to keep him, but I don't know what happened from the beginning. I've never seen anything like this before."

Would he ever asked to be traded over a rift with a coach?

"I had a lot of coaches that I didn't like," Karlsson said, smiling. "You just hang in there, I guess."

Ice chips

The Senators are among a small group of teams trying to sign unrestricted free-agent C Mike Comrie, with the price tag believed to be in the $2-million-per-year range (all terms US). Comrie is expected to come to terms on a deal sometime next week ... Since midway through last season, Wiercioch has gained almost 20 lbs. and now stacks 197 lbs. on his 6-foot-5 frame. After picking up a point per game in his freshman season at the University of Denver, he is clear on his goal for next season. "I want to play in the NHL," said Wiercioch. "As soon as possible. If it's next year, hopefully I get the opportunity to. If not, I'll be more than happy to spend another year or two in college to develop." ... Karlsson said he didn't get down to the Byward Market to enjoy the Canada Day festivities because of the exhaustion from putting in long days at the development camp. Told he missed out on a lot of fun, the 19-year old just smiled. Reminded that a year ago he was quoted as saying there was a lack of pretty girls in Ottawa, Karlsson did some backpedalling. "That's when I didn't know how to speak English," he fibbed. "I didn't know what I said."

DON.BRENNAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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