Talk confidently and carry a big stick. That’s Mark Stone’s operating philosophy to earning a full time right wing spot with the Ottawa Senators.
“I feel like I need to dominate when I’m out on the ice and show I can play at the next level,” Stone said about taking part in his fifth development camp this week with the Senators. “When it comes right down to it, if people can see the things I’ve gone through from my first development camp to my fifth, I’m just trying to show that I’ve become better over time.”
Stone, who just turned 22, was once considered a longshot because of his skating – “the first time I saw him, I did not project him to be an NHL player,” says Senators GM Randy Lee – but has overcome that and a series of injuries to put himself in the hunt for a spot somewhere on the club’s top two lines next season.
He finished out the 2013-14 NHL season on a line with Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris, replacing the injured Bobby Ryan in the lineup, and then embraced his opportunity to extend his season by joining Binghamton of the American Hockey League in the playoffs. Stone has always had great hands and a knack for finding the net, but has struggled to stay healthy ever since making his grand NHL debut playing on a line with Jason Spezza in the 2012 playoffs against the New York Rangers.
While the Senators right side has become a tad crowded following the Spezza trade to the Dallas Stars – newcomer Alex Chiasson joins Stone, Ryan, Chris Neil, Erik Condra and possibly Curtis Lazar (Lazar also plays centre) – Stone isn’t intimidated. He’s welcoming Chiasson with open arms.
“I know he’s a good player, I’ve watched Dallas play,” said Stone. “He works hard. I’m sure he’s going to come in here and play well.
That said, Stone isn’t selling himself short, either.
“My mindset is, the way I played at the end of the year, I’m an NHL player. Now, it’s a matter of finding a role and being able to do it consistently. I was able to do it for a 12-game span, but now I need to do it for an 82-game season.
“Once you get that taste, it’s something you want to do every day. I’m not going to differ from that goal until I’ve finally made it. I’m not take taking anything for granted.”
Lee says Stone’s development has been impressive because of how he has approached improvement. While many players are committed to working out, they tend to focus on areas where they’re already strong. In Stone’s case, he sought out the advice of Senators power skating coach Marc Power and conditioning coach Chris Schwarz to improve the weakest part of his game.
“He made himself an NHL player,” said Lee. “He’s one of those guys who really invested in himself and did it wisely. He worked on everything, he wanted to engage (others) to find out what to do for next phase of his career.”
Stone could create bitter-sweet problems for the Senators in trying to find a way to keep him on the big-league roster. Could Lazar be at centre? Could Ryan move to left wing, a spot where he saw some time while in Anaheim?
“Some guys have taken some pretty hard roads to get here and when you see that, it makes you want to work that extra bit to get there,” he said. “If I can come in during training camp as well as I feel I did at the end of last season, I can’t see why I can’t play on this team.”
DZIURZYNSKI RETURNS: Dave (Dizzy) Dziurzynski signed a two-year, two-way contract extension Thursday. Dziurzynski scored 13 goals and 12 assists in 68 games with Binghamton last season and has 34 goals and 59 assists in 269 AHL games. The 6-3, 215-pound left winger scored two goals in 12 games with the Senators during the 2013 season, but he was on the wrong end of a devastating punch from Frazer McLaren of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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