Jimmy McDowell thrived offensively a season ago. Spencer Abraham displayed improved offensive ability on the opening day of training camp Tuesday.
But defense will decide their future in Erie. “We’re going to be think about who’s going to be best defensively for us,” head coach Kris Knoblauch said, referring to the last of three overage spots on the roster.”
Abraham is the better skater, Knoblauch said, while McDowell is more physical. Both move the puck well. “For us to be an elite team in our conference,” Knoblauch said, “we’ve got to take away a lot of goals against.”
Both players will earn plenty of ice time in exhibition games. McDowell said he won’t change how he plays during those games. “I’m going to keep playing my game,” McDowell said. “They already know what I can do.” Meanwhile, Abraham is used to proving himself. “I’ve been an underdog all my life,” said Abraham, a former 15th-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection.
Club officials have a decision to make, McDowell said. The decision won’t be easy, Knoblauch said. “We’re very fortunate to have those two with us,” he said. “They’re two great, quality guys (that are) very popular in the dressing room and really have a lot of pride for the Otters organization.”
* Late arrivals: G Oscar Dansk and LW Andre Burakovsky, the two Import players on the roster, are expected to arrive at camp today. Bassin allowed him to remain at home in Sweden for a few extra days while attending a family wedding. Burakovsky’s temporary visas have been completed, GM Sherry Bassin said.
* No room for error: With few roster spots available, club officials condensed their on-ice schedule this week. So the rookies and free agents that opened camp today have two practices and two-and-a-half scrimmages to showcase their skills before Wednesday’s first round of cuts. “It’s our pressure,” said D Owen Headrick, a 13th-round pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection. “If you make too many mistakes out there, you’re gone.”
Club officials will spend the first two days of camp determining which prospects deserve to remain beyond the first two days of camp. “At this point in time all we’re trying to find out for the next 2 days is somebody that shows something,” Bassin said.
* Surviving a scare: D Riley Robertson (3rd-round pick, 2012) felt his left shoulder pop out during the opening workout. That’s a bad sign for a player with a history of shoulder problems. Yet the 6-foot 5-inch, 195-pounder returned to the ice for the Prospect Game, and scored the scrimmage’s lone goal.
* On the mend: RW Sean Darroch (11th-round pick, 2011) hoped to make the team in his third camp. But a freak accident during a tournament game in Brampton, Ontario, in June – an opposing player’s skate sliced through nearly all of the Achilles tendon in his leg – has hindered his progress on the ice. Darroch missed the past two months while recovering from surgery. He skated in today’s prospect game, but without contact.
“Things happen,” he said. “I just have to keep playing and hope for the best.”
* Less is more: D Patrick Murphy (5th-round pick, 2011) slimmed down to 180 pounds from 200 in the offseason. He has seen the improvement on the ice. Now he hopes that will be the key to finally earning a full-time spot. “I hope to stick (with the team) this year,” he said.
* Inside information: C Trent Fox (5th round, 2013) said he has an advantage having F Dane Fox, his older brother, at camp. But he still has to earn his spot.
- Victor Fernandes