MINNEAPOLIS - Shane Prince blossomed in his third season in the Ontario Hockey League.
On Saturday, the native of Spencerport, N.Y., was handed a golden opportunity to keep growing in the city that has become his hockey home.
The Senators selected the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Ottawa 67’s left winger with the 61st pick overall. In 2007-2008 Prince started his Jr career on Maksymum Empire jr team and Stars EJHL team.
In 2010-11, Prince recorded 88 points in just 59 games after totalling 42 points in his previous two seasons.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Prince said. “I love the city of Ottawa and I know they have great fans there playing there for the last year and a half. It’s a true honour, to maybe play for the Senators. The fans really support the game and I couldn’t be happier.”
Prince gave a shoutout to 67’s coach Chris Byrne and GM Brian Kilrea for giving him a chance to spread his wings. Playing on a line with Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale, Prince emerged as a true threat each time he was on the ice.
“(Byrne and Kilrea) really helped me develop my game this year into the player that I am. (The third year of junior) makes a difference in your strength and development as a player, but the biggest thing was the opportunity I got in Ottawa.”
Prince scored 25 goals and had 63 assists and was plus-43, proof that the 18-year-old is multi-dimensional. Prince became the third 67’s player to be drafted by the Senators after Corey Cowick (in 2009) and Will Colbert (in 2003).
“We feel that Shane was a key player in Ottawa’s success this year,” Senators director of player personnel Pierre Dorion said. “He’s a highly skilled player. We just felt that at that point in the draft, we couldn’t pass up on that skill level. We feel he will have a high offensive impact down the road.”
Prince wasn’t sure whether he would wind up donning a Sens sweater.
“I talked to them a bit,” Prince, who had 20 family members supporting him at the draft, said. “I think this draft was really deep and really wide open that you could go anywhere, so it was filled with ups and downs.”
If there’s a concern about Prince, it’s that he has to get bigger and stronger, but it’s almost a moot point, as that could be said about nearly every kid taken in any draft in any year.
With their next pick, at No. 96, the Senators didn’t stray too far from home again, taking Ottawa native and Gatineau Olympiques centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau. At 5-foot-9, 163 lbs., Pageau is small, but he’s dynamic. Pageau had 79 points, including 32 goals, in the regular season, but more than proved his worth when he had 29 points in 24 playoff games.
Pageau told the Senators’ website that waiting until the fourth round to be picked will be used as motivation.
“You saw a lot of players (drafted) before me, good players, too, but I know I can play with them,” Pageau said. “I know there’s a lot of good players in the first round, second round, third round, but I know I can play with them. So I’m not stressed about it.”
Dorion referred to Pageau as “my favourite player of the draft.”
Also picked by the Senators on Saturday were Swedish defenceman Fredrik Claesson (126th), Spokane centre Darren Kramer (156), Sioux City left winger Max McCormick (171), Brandon defenceman Jordan Fransoo (186) and Lincoln centre Ryan Dzingel (204).
Including his three first-rounders on Friday — centre Mika Zibanejad, right winger Stefan Noesen and left winger Matt Puempel — Senators GM Bryan Murray hopes he went a long way in solving the team’s scoring woes.
“I always feel the years we have good drafts when we walk away from the table and the scouts are happy and excited and shaking each other’s hands because they think from their particular area they got good players and that kind of rubs off on me,” Murray said. “The players that I know, I’m happy with. Getting three first-round picks and sitting and talking to these young men, you just know they bring lots of character.”