September 29, 2016 - 2:22 PM
OTTAWA - If Matt Puempel wants to play for Guy Boucher, he'll have to prove to the Ottawa Senators new head coach he can keep up with the pace.
Puempel, taken No. 24 in the 2011 NHL draft, is one of several "bubble" players Boucher is looking at closely. The 23-year-old forward has been getting a lot of game time so far this pre-season.
"We like what we see," said Boucher. "Right now, for me, what's important is: can the guys keep up the pace at an NHL level?
"The more we move on, the more there's NHL players in the lineup so you're playing against better players and can you maintain the pace you need? He's done well, but like all the young guys, you want to be better defensively."
Puempel has played in 39 career NHL games, registering four goals and two assists.
Projected to be a top-nine forward, Puempel has yet to show his offensive ability at the NHL level. He scored 30-plus goals three times with the OHL's Peterborough Petes and would've likely had a fourth if not for an injury.
He had 30 goals and 18 assists as a rookie with the AHL's Binghamton Senators in 2013-14. He has scored 12 and 17 goals, respectively, the last two years but to his credit was recalled to Ottawa.
The Senators signed the left-winger to a one-year, two-way deal this summer. And although Puempel is no longer waiver eligible, his top priority is playing well and impressing Ottawa's new coaching staff.
"I'm just enjoying each day and having fun with it," said Puempel. "Whatever happens you just control what you can control and then let the rest take care of itself."
Puempel played in consecutive pre-season games earlier this week and scored in one. Overall, he was satisfied with his performance.
"I was happy with how things went in the couple games," he said. "Obviously you're playing with different linemates a little bit more than normal so that's an adjustment."
Puempel isn't the only player looking to impress.
Forwards Ryan Dzingel and Nick Paul are also fighting to earn Boucher's approval. Both saw time in the NHL last season and didn't look out of place.
"You've got to come every day and work your hardest and try and be the hardest worker at the rink every day," said Paul. "At the end of the day if you work hard and put everything out there you put it in their hands."
With forwards Clarke MacArthur and Mark Stone both injured and Curtis Lazar sidelined with mononucleosis, the three youngsters all have the chance to impress. But time is short as the Senators are hopeful Stone and Lazar will return shortly.
Once again, in Boucher's opinion it will all come down to which players can keep up.
"Pace is everything to me . . . it's all about the pace," Boucher said. "Can you sustain it? Can you maintain it? Are you slowing our team down or are you accelerating our game?
"I want to accelerate the game, that's for sure."
MacArthur who is recovering from a concussion, took to his Instagram on Thursday to reach out to fans with an update.
"First off, I want to thank the team and its fans for all of the support after the unfortunate incident Sunday," he said. "To me, it was simply a hockey play that ended in a hit causing me to suffer a concussion, a play that could happen at any point.
"We have been encouraged by how my body had reacted in the days since the injury and the team has been great to give me all the time I need to rest and recover. I will continue to consult with doctors and my entire support group, but I felt it important to let everyone know that my intentions are to work towards returning to the ice soon."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016