Binghamton a proving ground for Senators prospect Colin White

Author: Don Brennan, Ottawa Sun
Date: Apr 3, 2017

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - Hours before making his pro hockey debut Wednesday night, Colin White admitted he has allowed himself thoughts about where and when he would like to play his first NHL game.

Naturally, his lifelong dream would be realized right in his own backyard, in one week’s time.

On April 6, the Ottawa Senators line up for their third last tilt of the regular season at TD Garden, about 30 minutes from where White spent the past two years at Boston College and 45 minutes north of where he grew up in Hanover, Mass.

No doubt taking a face-off against Bruins star centre Patrice Bergeron — a player White admires and has been compared to — is a moment he would cherish.

“I’ve looked at their schedule and that would be special if that came true,” White, Ottawa’s top forward prospect, said following the morning skate at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena, home to the AHL’s Binghamton Senators. “But I’ve got to prove myself tonight, and the next couple of games. We’ll see what happens from there.”

What happens may or may not already be determined.

White signed an amateur tryout contract with the organization on Monday, and while active negotiations are headed toward him inking an entry-level contract, the full Year 1 of it would be burned if White makes his debut this season.

White said he did not leave school early because he has received promises about when he will given a chance to make the jump. But the Senators did not want him going back to school next year and risk losing him, the way the Nashville Predators lost Jimmy Vesey, either.

“No, nothing like that,” White said when asked if he had been given any guarantees to lure him away from Boston College. “Just personally, I wanted to get here and start playing at that pro level. My agent and (the Senators) are still working on contracts and negotiations. I have no idea what’s going on with that right now. I just play hockey and focus on that for now.

“I wanted to prove myself, personally. This is a personal goal to come down here. A personal thing.”

Yet the decision to embark on a pro career now was not made alone.

“I think a lot went into it,” said White, who plans on taking summer courses to complete his degree. “My family, my agent, friends … a lot of people influenced me. Ultimately, I thought it was the right decision, and I was ready to make the jump to the next level. I’m really excited that I did it.”

White starred for Team USA in its gold medal run at the world junior championships over Christmas, but he wasn’t quite able to match his offensive numbers from his freshman year at Boston College, when the Screaming Eagles advanced to the Frozen Four.

He did, however, make strides as a player.

“As a team we weren’t as deep as last year, so definitely every game I was going up against their top line, top defencemen,” said White, who slipped from 19 goals and 43 points to 16 goals and 33 points. “That was a good adjustment for me. All those guys that I went up against are signing contracts now, so I’m expecting the same thing. And a faster pace. It’ll be fun.”

Binghamton coach Kurt Kleinendorst says White was “just this big smiling face” when he arrived in town this week. He may have been the big man on campus, but in Bingo he quickly became just one of the boys.

It’s Kleinendorst’s job now to get White NHL ready. Whether that’s now or for next season.

“It’s just a matter of getting him acclimated to the pro game, because it’s a different beast,” said Kleinendorst. “It’s different. Now it’s waking up in the morning, and it’s all about hockey. He doesn’t have to go to classes anymore. That’s a good thing. And, really, it’s just getting him up to speed with what we do as an organization.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know where this is going to lead. But for us, what we want to do is make sure these guys are ready for when that opportunity comes.”

On Wednesday, White centred a line with Mike Blunden and Max McCormick. He also worked the point on the B-Sens power play, but stayed on the bench during shorthanded situations.

“There’s no sense in giving him too much, too soon, but that’s not to say I won’t use him to kill penalties at some point,” said Kleinendorst. “For us tonight, 5-on-5 structure is important. It’s not rocket science but it is a little bit different. The way Guy (Boucher) would like our guys to play, because we instil in our guys what Guy instils in his.

“We’ll be patient with him. We’re not going to bury his butt on the bench, that’s for sure. We’ll be forgiving. But at the same time, I’m excited to see how he responds.”

His instincts would be put to an immediate test on the shrunken ice surface dimensions in Binghamton.

“That’s the one thing I would say, the biggest difference, for him, is just how much smaller the rink is here,” said Blunden. “It’s not NHL size. It is tighter. Every play you have a split second less, compared to if we were playing in another team’s barn, just because we’re on a smaller rink here.”

“But after that we’re on the road quite a bit.”

For three, actually. The B-Sens next home game is April 7. Whether White is with them at that point remains to be seen.

“I think the fact that he’s here, the fact we’ll have a chance to see how he can do here, then we’ll have a much better idea and understanding of exactly where he is,” said Kleinendorst. “Because it’s not college hockey. This isn’t the world juniors. This is the American Hockey League. This is a bridge to the NHL. It’s a great, great place for every player, at least to see and experience at some point.”

As for White, he’d like nothing better than to be a part of Ottawa’s playoff push next month.

“Yeah, definitely. I think any player is hopeful of that,” he said. “For me personally, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of and I want to do. For it to happen this year would be really special. So I’m going to work as hard as I can for that to happen.”

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