Auld trade Stone stunner for Sens
Aedan Helmer, QMI Agency
|Senators draft pick Mark Stone has been brilliant for Team Canada. (FILE PHOTO)
OTTAWA - No one would have thought much of it at the time, but the July 8, 2009 trade that sent Alex Auld to the Dallas Stars for a sixth-round draft pick may well go down as one of Bryan Murray's best with the Senators.
It certainly didn’t seem like a blockbuster.
Auld had fallen to third on the depth chart behind Pascal Leclaire and emerging rookie Brian Elliott. A sixth-round pick usually doesn’t amount to much, but ... assistant GM Tim Murray stepped up to the Staples Centre podium to select Mark Stone, a little-known right winger out of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, the 178th pick of the 2010 draft.
And the Mark Stone era began for the Senators.
“I think our staff has done a good job with later-round picks and our development staff, our strength and conditioning staff in Ottawa have done a great job with him,” said Murray, in Alberta with Bryan Murray, Pierre Dorion and a full contingent of scouts tracking Stone’s progress at the world junior hockey championships. “It’s very gratifying to see him (succeed).”
A household name now, Stone spent most of his draft year on the injury shelf, playing only 39 games on a deep Wheat Kings squad as his stock fell.
The Senators passed on Stone in his first year of eligibility, but the following year scouts “made a strong case for him, and the rest is history,” said Murray.
“I didn’t even go to my draft,” Stone told QMI Agency after scoring a hat trick in Team Canada’s Boxing Day opener at the World Juniors. “I went to our cabin and followed it on the Internet. Obviously, I was getting a little bit nervous. But once my name was called ...”
Stone attended his first development camp that summer, and returned to junior to lead the Wheat Kings with 106 points in 71 games. His reward was an invite to Team Canada’s evaluation camp, where he dominated on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Columbus rookie Ryan Johansen.
With Ryan Strome at centre in place of Johansen, the line has been Canada’s best.
Murray said “it hasn’t always been pretty” for scouts watching the power winger’s stride, and said “there’s no question” the knock on his skating is what made Stone available in the sixth round.
“He’s never going to be the best skater in the league, but it is (getting) better,” said Murray. “He’s got great hands, and I think his hockey sense, the way he thinks the game and the way he works are going to allow him to overcome whatever deficiencies there are at the end of the day in his skating. He’s a big body who gets the space, he’s not easily moved away from the net, and when that puck comes around him, it’s in the net.”
When Stone returns to the Wheat Kings, where he led the Western League with 65 points in 33 games, he’ll get a pretty good idea of what it will take to crack the Ottawa roster from former Senators coach Cory Clouston, who landed in Brandon as the Wheat Kings bench boss after being cut loose from the Senators’ organization.
Murray said Clouston has no spite against the organization, at least when it comes to handling their star prospect. When Stone returned to the club, armed with a new entry-level contract, Clouston named him team captain.
“I don’t think Cory’s that type of guy anyway, but even if he was spiteful, there’s no issue because (Stone’s) the best player and (Clouston) wants to win, so the best player’s going to be on the ice all night long, and that’s the way it’s been,” said Murray.
“I’m sure he can get some insight on the things he has to get better at, how hard it is to play in the NHL, and how you have to be on all the time. Cory being there in the AHL and NHL, there should be some good insight on the everyday things that go into playing, and mostly off ice. The on-ice stuff will take care of itself.”