Sens' Lehner has goal in mind

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:58 AM ET

Senators goaltenders Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott have been served notice. Robin Lehner is gunning for a job.

As the Senators opened development camp Tuesday with 31 players reporting to Scotiabank Place for physicals, Lehner is determined to stop pucks in Ottawa next season.

While there are 78 days until camp opens in September, the 6-foot-3 Swedish goalie is heading into the summer with a clear goal in mind.

“I want to take a spot,” said Lehner. “Maybe it’s not reality for people, but I have to aim for it. There are two very good goalies in this organization and I want to compete with them. I want to do the best I can.”

Selected 46th overall, in the second round of last year’s NHL draft, Lehner, who will turn 19 next month, has tremendous upside.

While blueliners Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch are going to compete for spots on the Senators’ blue line, Lehner is their top prospect.

The Senators believe Lehner, who had five shutouts last season, is going to need time and don’t want to rush him to this level. Right now, they project him to be the starter with the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton.

“I’m glad he has that attitude. You want a player to come into camp thinking that way,” said director of player personnel Pierre Dorion. “He’s a young kid, he’s confident and he’s got all the talent in the world.

“Mentally, I think he’s almost there because he’s such a competitor. The NHL can expose a slight weakness or whatever, so he’d almost have to be perfect to push for a spot with the team.”

After a standout performance at the rookie tournament last September in Kitchener, Lehner played junior with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, finishing with a 27-13-3 record and a 2.47 GAA.

Not only were the Senators impressed by the fact the European prospect elected to play in North America, he made the adjustment smoothly and became one of the top league’s top goalies.

“I felt like I had a decent year. I learned a lot and that was the goal,” said Lehner, who has another year of junior eligibility. “My goal wasn’t to come here and shine. It was to develop and to teach myself how to work.

“I think I was able to accomplish that. I wouldn’t be as far as I am right now if I hadn’t come over, so it was worth it. I’m happy with the decision and how it worked out.”

Perhaps the biggest adjustment for Lehner wasn’t just the North American style of play, it was also the lifestyle of riding the bus in junior and playing in front of large crowds every night.

“In Sweden, it’s mostly friends and family (in the stands),” said Lehner. “Over here, there are big crowds and a lot of attention.”


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