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In 2020-21, the Ottawa Senators struck gold while Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Tim Stuetzle roomed together.
Now, here comes the trio of top prospects Jake Sanderson, Ridly Greig and Tyler Boucher, who are living and working out together in Ottawa for the summer, all aiming to eventually be part of the Senators lineup themselves.
All three are at development camp this week, but Sanderson’s on-ice activities will be limited while he recovers from a second wrist surgery.
“It’s definitely pretty funny,” Boucher said of the living arrangements. “We like to give it to Ridly a lot. Just me and (Sanderson) chirping him. And then (Ridly) and I will go at it. But it’s a lot of fun. We’re going out for dinners together. Playing a lot of tennis, actually.”
While they’re all relative kids — Boucher turned 19 in June, Sanderson turned 20 earlier this month and Greig turns 20 in August — Boucher says he is learning by simply absorbing how his roommates go about their business.
The Senators drafted him 10th overall last July in the hopes he could one day develop into a power winger in the NHL, but his past two seasons, including a string of injuries and a move from Boston University to the Ottawa 67’s midway through last season, have been an exercise in frustration.
“I want to go into training camp and my goal is to make the team,” he said.
“Last year, I had a bit of a rough year with injuries and stuff and I couldn’t get into a groove. It was a weird year for me, but I think hitting the re-set button is a good thing for me and I decided to stay here in the summer to put in the work with these guys.”
Sanderson, the Senators’ fifth overall pick in 2020, has spent the past two seasons with the University of North Dakota and has eyes on stepping directly into the NHL. Greig, meanwhile, was taken with the 28th pick in 2020 and has played with both Brandon in the WHL and Belleville of the AHL, while battling through a series of COVID-19 quarantines for the past two seasons.
“It’s great to learn from those guys,” said Boucher. “They’re a little bit older than me and (Sanderson) is a great leader. He’s going to be a huge part of the Senators in the future. They’re both studs. It’s good to be around them. We all have the same goals. That’s a positive thing for all of us.”
The Senators have a number of options with Boucher, who scored seven goals and seven assists in 24 regular season games with the 67’s, followed by netting one goal and one assist in four playoff games.
They could send him back to what should be an older and more competitive 67’s team in 2022-23, or let him try his hand with Belleville.
Before that decision needs to be made, Boucher will be aiming to crack the USA lineup for the world junior tournament that has been re-scheduled after being postponed due to COVID-19 complications.
“I expect a lot from myself and I put a lot of pressure on myself to be good, so I’m doing everything I can to prepare,” he said.
Adding another dimension to the summer set up is the fact Boucher could end up playing against Greig, who is expected to be a major piece of the Canadian squad.
“We were talking about that,” said Boucher. “If I have a big camp (with the USA) and end up on that team, I think it would be pretty funny. I told (Greig) I would run him if we end up playing each other.”
Greig, a feisty, edgy centre who has, at times, dominated in the Western Hockey League — he had 26 goals, 37 assists and 92 penalty minutes in 39 games with Brandon — considers himself a leader during development camp.
“I’ve been here a couple of years now, so maybe I do have a leadership role,” he said. “Taking some of the younger guys, at least, and kind of show them the way, I guess, just leading the way on the ice.”
Apparently, Greig is also showing the way on the tennis court, too.
“He has his serve down,” said Boucher. “A nice overhead serve. I’m still working on that. I tend to hit the net a lot or hit it out of the court. I’ve got to tune up a few things, but I’ll be good. I’ll be back.”
STAYING AT HOME
The Senators opted against bringing Finnish prospects Leevi Merilainen and Roby Jarventie to development camp. Merilainen, a goaltender who played in Kingston of the OHL last season and Jarventie, who played in Belleville, are part of the Finnish national team that will be at the world junior tournament in Alberta in August. “Flying here and then flying home and then flying back, we think is a little much,” said development coach Shean Donovan. “We just want them to have success at the world juniors. Just not beat Canada.” … Defenceman Tyler Kleven, who played with Sanderson at the University of North Dakota, is also not attending, due to a “family situation.”