By Daniel Taylor 
BELLEVILLE – Top-level competitive hockey may have disappeared from the Belleville community, but not for long
If you haven’t heard, the Yardmen Arena will soon be home to pro hockey for the first time as the Binghamton Senators, AHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators, are relocating to Belleville for the 2017-18 season.
Next year’s lineup is expected to be strong, possessing speed, skill and loads of young talent up front to keep fans on the edge of their seats.
Journalist Joel Vanderlaan follows the Senators. He says Belleville Sens fans can expect much change in the lineup heading into next season.
“The AHL is always evolving, every off season you get more guys sign on two-way deals. Yesterday (Jan. 24) they actually made a trade, acquiring Tommy Wingels from the San Jose Sharks. They traded their captain Zach Stortini and Buddy Robinson, a big winger, a young player that they really liked in Binghamton, so it’s always changing.”
Boston College Centre Colin White is the Senators top prospect, drafted 21st overall in the 2015 NHL entry draft. White is a powerful two-way centre with much offensive upside. He has 12 goals and 9 assists in 23 games with Boston University this season and could be in the AHL to start next season.
In addition to White, Belleville may also have the privilege in watching top prospect Thomas Chabot. Another 1st rounder drafted 15th overall in last year’s NHL entry draft, Chabot was named the MVP at this year’s world junior championship in Montreal. He is having a great year in junior playing for St. John’s of the QMJHL and is steadily becoming one of the NHL’s top defensemen prospects.
“Thomas Chabot could be in Belleville next year or in the NHL. I think he’ll be in the NHL, the NHL is always getting younger, you look at Mitch Marner with the Leafs, I think Chabot will be there, but there is that chance if he needs a little more time developing he could be in Belleville”, said Vanderlaan.
The Ottawa Senators current roster is full of players who have developed in Binghampton and went on to have respectable careers in the NHL, making Yardmen arena a perfect place to see the NHL’s future. Player’s such as Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and former Senators star Jason Spezza are a few examples of players who are impactful NHL players who began their craft in Binghamton of the AHL.
Ottawa Senators star Mike Hoffman playing for the Binghamton Senators during the 2013-14 season.
Vanderlaan says he can see a similar trend with Binghamton’s current roster.
“The AHL is always moving and transitioning, it’s used as a tool for the NHL. You see guys like Nick Paul, former 2015 Canadian world junior player and North Bay Battalion, a big bodied winger. I think he could be making that step soon. The goaltending has been a hotspot this year because of Craig Anderson’s personal leave. We’ve seen Matt O’Connor and Chris Dreidger come up and down and they’ve only been backing up in the AHL, they have good AHL numbers, so if Mike Condon doesn’t re-sign you could see one of them go up to the big club. There’s a lotta guys”, said Vanderlaan.
Another prospect to look out for next season is 2015 Canadian world junior captain, Curtis Lazar. Lazar has been up and down in the system, having spent time with both the NHL and AHL Sens over the past three seasons. This year Lazar has one point in 27 games for Ottawa and was sent down to the AHL after the Wingel trade with the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday of last week. Lazar is a name we may see in Belleville to start next season.