Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More on new prospect Winchester

Jesse Winchester, the newest Senator who was signed just days ago after finishing his college career at Colgate University, participated in his first Senators practice today, according the Sens official site. And, while he's not going to be eligible to play for Binghamton or to play for the Sens in the playoffs, head coach Bryan Murray is still anxious to get Winchester some playing time in a regular-season game to see how the Long Sault, Ontario native fits in, and assess whether or not he'll be an Ottawa Senator next season--sort of a glorified tryout period, with a lot of pressure.

With that in mind, I'd like to follow up the Sens Army exclusive scouting report from Colgate Maroon-News sports editor Paul Kasabian with two more interviews, first with Maroon-News hockey writer Ruben Leavitt, and afterwards with Winchester's teammate (and Ottawa-native) Tom Riley from the Colgate Raiders.

First off, I asked Leavitt the same four questions which were posed to Kasabian:
  1. What kind of game does he play? Is he a finesse player, or a power-forward?
    What is great about Jesse is that he can be both a finesse player and a grinder. He has amazing hands that can fake a defenseman out of his jock, but his lower-body strength is such that he is not afraid to take the puck behind the net and to battle along the boards. Many of his points have come off the cycle down low. I would rank his finesse and battling capabilities as basically even. He's not a terribly big guy, so I wouldn't necessarily label him as a power-forward.
  2. Does he see any special teams ice time?
    Jesse sees plenty of special teams ice time. His unit with Tyler Burton and Peter Bogdanich was the #1 unit for the PP, and Jesse was consistently put out for the PK as well (he and Tyler would split time, either he or Tyler would make up half of the #1 PK forward line, the other would be put out second).
  3. How does the coach/how do his teammates speak about him?
    The coaching staff and Jesse's teammates give nothing but high praise for Jesse. They are all extremely proud of his accomplishments and can't wait to see him playing in the NHL. They think he is a great leader--vocal when he needs to be, but more that he sets the tone. I have seen him on numerous occasions come out for the first shift of a game or the first shift of a period and lay a heavy hit to get the Raiders going.
  4. I've heard he might be NHL-ready already; what are your personal opinions on that statement?
    I don't know if I'm the most qualified person to assess whether Jesse is NHL-ready, but I can say this: He has a good head on top of those shoulders, so I think his hockey smarts must be NHL-ready. He's a great two-way player, and was one of the leading scorers in one of the toughest leagues in the country. I think he'll make a great addition to the Senators.
And last, but not least, are the words from Riley (who was fourth in scoring on Colgate this past season with 26 points in 41 games) on Winchester's value to the team:
"Winch is a talented player with a great sense for the game. His main strengths are his skating and his strength. He dominates players in battles along the boards and has breakaway speed. He was our captain and leader this year. Great guy and I can't to see him play for my favorite NHL team."
So, everyone asked seem to be saying the right things about Winchester, and I'm looking forward to see him play a game or two for the Sens. Considering Murray's ability to sign free agents out of college--including the likes of Chris Kunitz and Dustin Penner--things looks pretty promising.
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