OTTAWA - Patrick Wiercioch left Denver University last summer with high hopes of making an impression in the world of professional hockey.
But the road to success has a price. And Wiercioch is paying it.
The Senators defenceman has no regrets about his decision to turn pro, but by playing a limited role, a healthy scratch on some nights, he learned the hard way under BInghamton coach Kurt Kleinendorst.
After winning a Calder Cup championship and taking a short break, Wiercioch, 20, was excited to jump on a plane from Vancouver to take part in the Senators’ development camp that wraps up Monday.
“As a whole, I thought I made some strides as a player,” said Wiercioch, who suited up for eight games with the Senators late in the season. “Every player wants more of an opportunity. I think I fall into that category.
“Toward the end of the year, when some guys got injured (in Binghamton), I had an opportunity to play. Some guys really got a chance to step up that didn’t have that chance at the start of the year. It was good for me to get the chance to come up here and play well in the games that I was up here.”
Selected 48th overall in the 2008 NHL draft, Wiercioch had four goals and 14 assissts in 67 games in Bingo.
The Senators are going to have openings on their blueline. David Rundblad already has one spot locked up, while Jared Cowen and Wiercioch are going to push for the other job, but another may open if veteran Filip Kuba is dealt.
While it would appear Wiercioch might be headed for another year with the Baby Sens, he’s determined to put on weight so he can show he’s ready to make the adjustment to the NHL.
“I’ve got to put on that size,” said Wiercioch, who has been working with a strength coach on the West Coast. “For the first time, my frame is starting to fill out. I want to come in at that 205-210 (lbs.) mark. That’s not a big stretch for me.
“The knock against me was that I was too light and I wasn’t able to handle myself. If I can’t handle myself at that weight, then I’m going to have to think about another profession.”
The Senators have been impressed with Wiercioch.
“It was an adjustment year that a lot of guys have to go through,” said director of player development Randy Lee. “A lot of guys think that they can step into the NHL, they don’t make it and they go to the AHL and think it’s a breeze.
“It’s not a breeze. It’s a very competitive league and I think he had to learn it’s a tough league to play in, that it’s going to challenge them and it’s not going to be handed to them. Kurt Kleinendorst did a great job with those young guys making them earn their spots.”
Wiercioch has looked at the depth chart and is confident it can work out in Ottawa.
“The door is open,” he said. “Last year, I learned the competitive edge that I can use to my advantage.”