Center Jean-Gabriel Pageau burst on the the scene as a 20-year-old with his hometown Senators during the lockout-shortened 2013 season.
Pageau scored two goals and four points in nine regular season games before adding four goals and six points in 10 playoff games as the surprising Senators defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the first round.
Since then however, Pageau an Ottawa native, has just two goals in 28 NHL games and a minus-5 rating. He spent much of last season with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton.
“For sure I think after my good playoffs two years ago, expectations went really high,” Pageau told the Ottawa Sun last week. “I don’t want to say last year I had a bad year, I want to say it was a learning year. I learned that nothing is guaranteed and you always need to work for your spot. You need to deserve to be there. That’s why I’m working hard this summer to make sure if I have my chance this year I’ll catch it and stay there.”
As Don Brennan points out in his piece, it appeared there may be room for Pageau on the big club when general manager Bryan Murray dealt Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars; however, any room at center was quickly filled by the signing of David Legwand.
Presently the Senators have Kyle Turris, Mika Zibanejad, Legwand and Zack Smith filling center ice roles meaning Pageau, who is in the final year of his entry-level contract, will likely have to go back to the AHL and wait for a phone call.
Pageau was helped by the departure of fellow center Stephane Da Costa, who signed with the KHL’s HC CSKA Moscow this summer.
“For sure I see myself in the lineup,” Pageau said. “I always believe in myself and I’ll always believe in myself. But I know it’s going to be hard. That’s basically why I’m giving a little extra every morning … just work hard and give everything I have to make sure I do my best.
“If I go to camp and do my best, I’m sure they’ll find a way to find a spot in the lineup for me.”
Pageau says he got direction from Senators coach, Paul MacLean, on where he can improve heading into the 2014-15 season during the team’s exit interviews in April. One thing the 21-year-old does have working for him is his face-off abilities. With Spezza, the team’s top centerman gone, Pageau’s intangibles could prove worthy to the Senators if he has a stellar camp.
Related: Under Pressure: Turris, MacArthur & Ryan