It’s always tougher the second time around.
Thomas Chabot was one of 36 Ottawa Senators prospects wrapping up the organization’s annual development camp Monday in Kanata. For Chabot, one of Ottawa’s two first-round draft picks in 2015, it was his second time through this camp. Given his progression through the 2015-16 season as a member of the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL, the 19-year-old defenceman was expected to be a stand-out this week.
But those who have a say in Chabot’s future as a Senator were left wanting more.
“Average,” said Senators assistant general manager, Randy Lee when asked of the prospect’s performance. “I thought Thomas should have been a bit more intense. I think Thomas should have dominated.
“Thomas and I have talked about it and I think he could have given a bit more to this camp.”
After Chabot’s name was called for the 18th selection of the 2015 NHL Draft, the six-foot-two blue liner immediately raised eyebrows in the nation’s capital. He impressed enough of the staff at training camp last fall that they paired Chabot with Erik Karlsson for a couple of days.
There may not be a more intimidating task to ask of a then-18-year-old than to play with a guy fresh off a second Norris Trophy win.
Perhaps the pinnacle of last season for Chabot was not only being selected to represent Team Canada at the World Junior Championship in Helsinki, but quickly emerging as one of the team’s top two defencemen alongside Joe Hicketts. Up until Monday, you were hard pressed to find an ounce of criticism towards the Quebec native in the National Capital Region.
“When a guy goes from having such a good World Juniors, being on the top pairing, controlling a lot of games in junior,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion back on July 1st, “I think at times, I think it’s tough to step into the league at 19-years-old, but a lot of teams are doing it. Why not us?”
It’s praise like that that made Chabot’s performance at camp a little surprising.
“He’s a very special player,” said Lee. “He worked so hard last year and I just thought that the impact he would have made on this camp would have been a bit more.”
The conversation Lee had with Chabot must’ve stuck with him. Following the Senators’ tradition of a 3-on-3 tournament to wrap up camp, Chabot owned up to his disappointing week.
“I’m their first pick last year, they expect a lot from me,” said Chabot. “I don’t think I did what they expect this year from me. I’m going back home. I’m going to work hard in the gym and get ready to come back for rookie camp.
“I’m going to try to work as hard as I can this summer and get back here and work for a spot.”
If Chabot stays true to his word, the 2016 Ottawa Senators Development Camp could easily prove to be just a tiny blip in his career path.
Ottawa only has six defenceman on their roster at this point, and it sounds like the Sens’ brass is going to continue to give the 19-year-old every opportunity to crack the NHL lineup come this fall.
“You’ve got new coaches in the NHL and a new head coach in the American Hockey League,” said Lee. “You get a fresh slate to create a new impression of who you are and leave a good picture of what type of player you are. So when they start visualizing what their team is going to look like they start to pencil you in.”