- E.J. Hradek, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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Using the VUKOTA projection system of Puck Prospectus, Insider takes the temperature of key players on every NHL team. For a detailed explanation of Prospectus' proprietary GVT value metric, read more here.
Summer Skate -- Ottawa Senators
It's hard to shake the image of the Senators as a team in disarray. Over the last two years, they've lost Dany Heatley and Anton Volchenkov, endured countless Jason Spezza trade rumors, and remain one of the few NHL teams without a convincing No. 1 goaltender. Yet they finished fifth in the Eastern Conference last year and put together a 10-game winning streak midway through the season.
Trending Up: Peter Regin
Last Season: 6.5 GVT | VUKOTA Projection: 5.6 GVT
VUKOTA is a bit fooled by Regin's limited track record, but you shouldn't be. The projection system bases it's score on the limited ice time he's seen; we think he should head over the boards more often this season.
Regin is the real deal: Playing less than 13 minutes a game with little power-play time, Regin quietly posted 29 points and led the team with a plus-10 rating. He was also spectacular for Denmark at the Olympics. Only 23, there is no doubt that Regin will continue to get better, and with Daniel Alfredsson and Alexei Kovalev starting to show their age, the opportunity for Regin to move up to the top two lines will arise, which should increase his point total.
Trending Down: Daniel Alfredsson
Last Season: 15.1 GVT | VUKOTA Projection: 9.6 GVT
It will be a sad day for Ottawa hockey, and the entire NHL, when Alfredsson decides to hang up his skates. He has been the Senators' captain for 11 years, and not only is he the Senators' all-time leading scorer, he has over twice the points of the No. 2 man on the list, Alexei Yashin. Alfredsson has a lot of mileage on his frame, and at age 37 he can only be slowing down. His point totals the last three years have dipped from 89 to 74 to 71, and his GVT from 21.9 to 16.8 to 15.1. It's likely this decline will continue this season. -- Awad
E.J.'s name to know: D Jared Cowen
The ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft, Cowen made a brief NHL debut on April 8 during a 4-3 shootout loss in Tampa. The 19-year-old defenseman received 11 shifts for 6:46. A two-minute hooking penalty was his only mark on the scoresheet.
Cowen spent most of the 2009-10 season with Spokane (WHL). The big 6-foot-5, 220-pounder totaled eight goals, 22 assists and 74 penalty minutes in 59 regular-season games. Cowen also skated for Canada's 2010 World Junior team, winning a silver medal.
This year, he hopes to a crack a pretty deep group in Ottawa. Cowen's offseason training took a little hit when he was sidelined due to illness (mononucleosis). He was able to get back at it in August and he should be at full strength for camp.
Last fall, the Senators decided to carry kid D Erik Karlsson, who really found his way in the second half of the season. That tells you the team is willing to develop a young player on the big league roster.
In this case, however, Cowen isn't a skilled puck-mover like Karlsson; so the Senators might want him to continue his development in juniors. I'd guess that the Saskatoon native will have to impress in camp to have a chance to stick. Either way, he definitely figures in the club's long-term plans.
Tom Awad is a writer for Puck Prospectus. E.J. Hradek is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
14dScott Burnside and Craig Custance