Singing Chabot’s praises

Karls­son says Sens rookie de­fender ‘fur­ther ahead’ than he was at age 20

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - SPORTS - KEN WAR­REN kwar­ren@post­media.com

OT­TAWA — The way twotime Nor­ris Tro­phy win­ner Erik Karls­son sees it, Thomas Chabot has all the mak­ings of be­ing a fu­ture NHL star him­self.

The Se­na­tors cap­tain went so far as to say the 20-year-old Chabot is more ac­com­plished than Karls­son was at that age.

“He is from (Canada), he is more ac­cus­tomed to the way things work than I was at the time,” Karls­son said Fri­day, af­ter the Se­na­tors hit the ice for the first time at train­ing camp. “I still think he’s prob­a­bly fur­ther ahead than I was when I got here, which is al­ways a good sign.”

Just in case the Chabot hy­peme­ter wasn’t high enough al­ready, Karls­son has cranked it up an­other notch.

In­ter­est­ingly, Karls­son’s foot in­jury — he’s still weeks away tak­ing his first skat­ing strides post­surgery — has cre­ated an open­ing for Chabot to show­case him­self in all sit­u­a­tions.

Karls­son says Chabot has al­ready proven that he can suc­cess­fully deal with lofty ex­pec­ta­tions, dom­i­nat­ing in the ju­nior ranks with Saint John of the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League and on the world ju­nior cham­pi­onship stage.

“When­ever he’s go­ing to be able to take that next step, whether it’s now or in a cou­ple of months or in a year, I think that how­ever it plays out, he’s go­ing to have ev­ery op­por­tu­nity in the world to be a world-class player in this league,” Karls­son said.

“I think he made a lot of im­prove­ments and a lot of progress, both per­son­ally on and off the ice from (last year). It’s just the ex­pe­ri­ence part of things. He’s a lot more com­fort­able than he prob­a­bly was last year.”

Chabot was dom­i­nant en route to be­ing named Cana­dian Hockey League de­fence­man of the year and the most valu­able player at the world ju­niors.

Drafted by the Se­na­tors with the 18th over­all se­lec­tion in 2015, Chabot recorded 10 goals and 35 as­sists in 34 reg­u­lar sea­son games with the Sea Dogs last sea­son. He added five goals and 18 as­sists in 18 play­off games. At the world ju­niors, he posted four goals and six as­sists in seven games.

“They were ex­pect­ing him to be re­ally good and he de­liv­ered that,” Karls­son con­tin­ued. “And even when he was play­ing re­ally (well), they ex­pected more and he did that, as well.

“Just be­ing a year older, go­ing through the pres­sure that goes with be­ing a top prospect in Canada, that has helped him a lot and go­ing to help along and speed things up and mov­ing for­ward into his pro­fes­sional ca­reer.”

Se­na­tors fans will likely see Chabot on the ice in Mon­day’s pre-sea­son opener against Toronto at the Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre.

A few words of cau­tion are nec­es­sary here.

Be­fore any­one anoints Chabot as the Calder Tro­phy win­ner as NHL rookie of the year just yet, let’s also re­mem­ber that Karls­son ex­pe­ri­enced his share of hic­cups be­fore he rose to the top of the lad­der among NHL de­fence­men.

Karls­son rode the bus in Bing­ham­ton for a month in his rookie sea­son of 2009-10, play­ing a dozen games in the AHL be­fore be­com­ing a reg­u­lar on the Se­na­tors blue line.

In his first full NHL sea­son in 2010-11, he pro­duced ex­cel­lent of­fen­sive num­bers — 13 goals and 32 as­sists in 75 games — but was of­ten a dis­as­ter de­fen­sively, fin­ish­ing with a plus-mi­nus rat­ing of mi­nus-30.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, it takes longer for a de­fence­man to es­tab­lish him­self in the NHL than it does for a for­ward. The pres­sure of mak­ing a mis­take is mag­ni­fied that much more.

Chabot, who was paired with Ben Harpur dur­ing Fri­day’s prac­tice and in­trasquad game, is do­ing his best to block out the noise of what others are say­ing about him.

“When­ever I have the chance to play in the pre-sea­son, I’m go­ing to try and show them that I can play in this league,” he said. “I’m try­ing not to read any­thing about me in the me­dia and so­cial me­dia or any­thing like that. I’m com­ing in ev­ery day just try­ing to work as hard as I can and we’ll see what’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

That said, it might be just a tad dif­fi­cult to put blin­ders on to what the Se­na­tors cap­tain says about him.

Chabot has of­fen­sive gifts galore, in­clud­ing a long skat­ing stride that looks al­most ef­fort­less, but he rec­og­nizes he must earn the trust of Se­na­tors coach Guy Boucher by show­cas­ing he can hold his own in­side his own blue line. It was a point of em­pha­sis through­out his fi­nal ju­nior year.

In the early go­ing of train­ing camp, Boucher is also test­ing Chabot to see how the left-shoot­ing de­fence­man can take care of busi­ness while play­ing on the right side of the ice.

“I’ve played a few times on the right side dur­ing my ca­reer,” Chabot said. “Ob­vi­ously, as a lefty, play­ing on the left side is bet­ter, but I don’t mind play­ing on the right side at all.”

JEAN LEVAC/POST­MEDIA

De­fence­man Thomas Chabot skates dur­ing Ot­tawa Se­na­tors rookie camp last week in Ot­tawa.

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