Fresh off a 41-point season (14 goals, 27 assists), Colin White’s first full NHL campaign, Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion signed the then 22-year old to a six-year, $28.5 million contract.
At the time, Dorion said in a statement, “We’ve identified Colin as one of our core young players who will help drive our team’s success in both the short and long term.”
However, the Boston area resident took a step back in the first year of his deal. White garnered only seven goals, 16 assists in 61 games.
What went wrong for the player who was seeking to make great strides in his development last season?
Only nine games in, a groin injury hampered White for a long period, and he could never get into the groove he had going in the 2018-19 season.
“Nine games in, I hurt my groin really bad. I tried to tough it out. I came back. It felt pretty good. Another bump and bruise, and it happened again, White said via Zoom media availability Tuesday.
A lack confidence crept in. “I felt a little pressure last year. My confidence wasn’t where I wanted it to be. With that nine-month break, I’ve got that back. I’m skating, making plays, doing whatever I can,” White added.
White, the league’s 21st overall in 2015, utilized the extended time off to bulk up and reset himself mentality.
“Anytime you get nine months off, you have time improve your game and work on your body too. Right after that last game in March – when it happened, I hit the gym two weeks later. A big mindset of mine was put on weight, and big weight too. With that weight on, I’ve been skating for four-five months. I feel a lot stronger out there.”
White’s coach agrees with he youngster’s self-assessment. “He’s been very good. He’s come back with renewed confidence. He’s bigger, he’s stronger, and he’s just getting to work,” D.J. Smith explained. “Sometimes in your sophomore year, it happens – they call it the sophomore jinx or whatever they call it. I don’t know if he was ready for that challenge just yet to take on the one or two centre (spot). Then he kind of lost his confidence a bit. It looks like he’s come back and put the work in, and he’s been one of our hardest workers every day.”
Smith also mentioned the acquisition of veteran players such as Cedric Paquette, Derek Stepan give White someone to lean on when times are tough. “I think that’s where you get older players to help you through tough times. Young kids can really dwell on the game. They have a tough time bringing it home. I remember reading a story about (Islanders) Josh Bailey. He used to bring the game home with him, really get busted up, and Josh who I had in junior, had a child – then he went home, enjoyed his family and came back renewed every day. He found himself getting back into the rhythm, getting scoring, playing the way he used to play. I think as a young guy sometimes you do that – take the game home with you. Older guys will leave it at the rink.”
While the 23-year old has been turning heads early in camp, skating on a line with Nick Paul and Austin Watson, White can’t take anything for granted. The centre-ice slot for the Senators is a crowded one. Youngsters Logan Brown, Josh Norris, along with Artem Anisimov, newcomers Paquette, Derek Stepan and holdover Chris Tierney are all vying for openings, as is White.
Brown, Paquette, Tierney, and White possess the versatility to shift to the wing. However, the preference remains for White to line up in the middle.
“At this point in we see him as a centre. He has a skating ability to cover a lot of ice. He can make plays, but his versatility gives us a couple of options. I think you can never have enough centres. I think with his growth you’re going to see this year, he’s going to give us a lot of hockey,” Dorion noted recently.
White told Full Press NHL, “I’ve been playing centre the whole time (in camp). I think that’s where I want to be.”
One thing is for certain; heading into his fourth full pro season, White is motivated, refreshed, and ready to stake a claim among the Senators’ top forward core.