Ottawa Senators prospects began their morning Tuesday making tight circles all around the ice and hopping over sticks on one leg in front of the watchful eyes of well-respected skating specialist Shelley Kettles.
They finished the day grabbing each other by the collar and throwing mock punches as part of a spirited self-defence lesson from fighting coach Guy Ouellette.
From one extreme to the other, the Senators are attempting to cover all the bases at development camp in the growth of their next wave of talent.
“Yeah, polar opposites,” said development coach Shean Donovan, with a laugh. “Shelley is a huge part of our staff and you have to have that now, because skating is such a big part of the game. Everybody does it, that’s how you get better. The skating is so much better than it was 10 years ago. And it’s going to be so much better in 10 years from now.”
As for the physical side of things, Donovan says it’s more about making sure every player knows how to handle physical situations.
“Guy was a part of the organization in years past and we brought him back,” said Donovan. “He worked with guys like Matt Carkner and Chris Neil. It’s nice to have him here to help guys just be confident. There’s the odd guy who has (fighting) as part of his game and they’ll use this more, and there are some guys who can maybe use the techniques so they don’t get hurt. You don’t want kids to get hurt. That’s the biggest thing.”
All of the above was welcomed by Oskar Pettersson, drafted in the third round, 72nd overall, by the Senators on Friday.
Pettersson, who says he embraces the style and brand of hockey employed by Senators captain Brady Tkachuk — he scored 25 goals and 11 assists in 46 games with Rogle’s junior squad in Sweden last season — is soaking up whatever he can get before returning home.
“Especially now, the skating stuff we did is very good for me,” said Pettersson. “It’s an area I need to improve to get to the next level. I’m taking in everything she says so I can be at my best.”
It’s not exactly a summer vacation for Pettersson, who was experiencing jet lag earlier in the week after flying into Ottawa from overseas Sunday.
Once he’s back in Sweden, he’ll be attending a national junior camp — for the world championships to be held at Christmas, not the tournament in August — and will then attempt to crack the lineup for Rogle’s senior team.
“There have been some crazy days,” he said. “A little bit stressful at the beginning, with the flight getting here. There’s so much to take in. It’s just a great experience being here, competing with the other prospects and learning all the different stuff.”
Along the way, there will be some downtime downtown, as Pettersson says he and some of his fellow Swedes plan to see the city.
The entire group will check out Bluesfest on Wednesday night.
GROWING UP FAST: In just about any sense, centre Phillipe Daoust was a late bloomer. Now 20, he’s ticketed to go back to Belleville of the AHL next season, riding a wave of confidence after winning the Memorial Cup with the Saint John Sea Dogs.
The road to get there has been a long one. As a 16-year-old growing up in Barrie, he was 5-3 and 140 pounds, overlooked in the OHL Priority Selection draft. He ended up going north, playing with the French River Rapids in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“I was born in November, always a small kid, shorter, a lighter weight (than his peers), but my dream was always to play in the NHL and the highest level possible,” said Daoust. “A lot of my buddies did get drafted into the OHL, and I would still train with them and I was motivated to either join them in the OHL or find a way to play against them in the future.”
Daoust eventually found a home with Moncton in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and after a decent rookie season, the Senators selected him in the sixth round, 158th overall in 2020.
Last season, the Senators signed him to an entry-level deal and gave him a long look with Belleville — he had five assists in 15 games — before shipping him back to Moncton.
Moncton, in turn, traded him to Saint John, where he scored 24 goals and 23 assists in 38 games. Saint John lost in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs, but had an automatic berth in the Memorial Cup as the host team.
“It has been a crazy year, starting in Belleville and cracking the lineup there,” said Daoust. “I learned a lot. It’s a great coaching staff. I loved the experience down there, but they thought the best thing for me was to go for a Memorial Cup run.”
Donovan says Daoust’s story is one of dedication, battling size issues early on to develop into a highly skilled centre who excels in power play situations.
“You’ve got to deal with confidence issues, realizing that you are a good player,” he said.
“It’s going to be a big year for him next season. He has really high-end skill and makes his linemates get better.”