Sunday was a day Ottawa Senators’ fans, coaches, and players alike had been waiting for. Since being drafted third overall October 6, watching him skate at the World Junior Championship, anticipation has never been higher to see a Senators’ player make their debut with the club.
And with that Tim Stuetzle took the Canadian Tire Centre ice for the first time, albeit for a practice only.
No one can be blamed for the buzz surrounding the youngster, especially after his jaw-dropping 10-point performance (five goals, five assists) in five games for Germany during the WJHC.
Stuetzle was hyped himself to get to the rink – who wouldn’t after spending seven days in quarantine upon his arrival from Edmonton?
Picked up from his hotel at 6:40 a.m., Stuetzle arrived at the CTC to meet the equipment staff, trainers, and physio team. After being fitted for team clothing, the Viersen, Germany native met with coaches for a video session prior to hitting the ice for the first time in a Senators’ uniform.
Stuetzle’s new roomie, Brady Tkachuk asked him to lead the morning stretch.
“Brady told me I should lead the stretch, so it was kind of funny, but I liked to do it. I mean they make it easy for me. I chatted this morning with other guys. I feel just great,” said an elated Stuetzle, who will reside with Tkachuk and Josh Norris during the season.
Stuetzle appreciated the gesture from the pair, “They asked me. I think it’s very nice, right away from them. I think it’s going to be much easier for me to get to know everybody really good. I’m also very excited for that.”
All in all, it was a great day for Stuetzle who will turn 19, January 15, “It was very exciting just getting here, and getting to know everybody, all the boys. I’m looking forward to being able to play with them. it was an unbelievable day. It was a great practice. I think my confidence is pretty good, but it’s very different to be on the ice with NHL guys. For me, it was very exciting. I was nervous at the beginning. The boys did their best to get the nerves away from me. I felt good. I felt confident on the ice with them.”
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 10, 2021
Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith was also proud of what he viewed from Stuetzle during practice, but pledged a few words of caution, “He looked good, obviously. His skating is exceptional. He can make plays. He’s good on the power play. So, for a young guy, you just don’t want to give him too much. You want to just give him the absolute do’s and the absolute don’t. But I think part of development is learning on the fly. Today, he was with (Derek Stepan) “Stepper,” who he was in the hotel with. But the kid looked really excited to be out there. It’s great when you get young guys with energy like that.”
Stepan was equally excited to get out on the ice for the first as well. the 30-year old commented via Zoom Sunday morning that he was “fired up” and it was like riding a bike “straight up a mountain” getting back on his skates after completing quarantine protocol. Stepan arrived in Ottawa the previous Sunday after his wife, Stephanie gave birth to a baby boy December 30th.
Stepan who centred a line with Stuetzle on his left and Evgenii Dadonov on his right in his first Senators’ practice, formed a bond with Stuetzle during his seven-day quarantine.
Heading into his 11th NHL campaign, the affable Stepan added, “”He’s a good kid. I was joking with my wife who has three little ones at home that I adopted a German 18-year old.”
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 10, 2021
The Arizona resident appears rejuvenated after performing well for the Coyotes in the Edmonton bubble (one goal, four assists in five games), and is more than happy to fill a mentor role with a young Senators’ group.
“I really want to find the game I had in the bubble. It mirrored the game I had in New York (with the Rangers), that’s the game I’m looking to get back to. I’m never going to stop leading. I’m always going to be a part of mentoring, teaching the young guys along the way. Hopefully, they’ll listen to me, jump on board with me, hopefully not get too sick of me. I think it’s really important that your young pieces in your organization are going to be your core pieces – to make sure they’re doing things in my eyes that are the right way. I’m not saying I have a crystal ball and know exactly the right answers, but I have a lot of tools that I can pass on that I was given when I was younger. That’s something that’s important to me. And that’s something that’s a part of me in my NHL career – I’ve always had it.”
The wide-eyed Stuetzle definitely followed Stepan’s lead while in quarantine.
“He’s like a great mentor. He really helped me a lot during quarantine. We ordered food. He helped with that. We had workouts. We got know each other pretty well. He’s a great guy, a great leader, and I think he’s an unbelievable player as well. So, I think it’s great to be around a great veteran. I’m going to learn from him.”
Having 845 NHL games under his belt including postseason, Stepan told Full Press NHL, he isn’t worried about his late start to Senators’ training camp.
“For the most part, a lot of the systems I’ve seen or I’ve played. There’s not a lot of x’s and o’s that I need to learn. It’s more about kind of building chemistry with my line mates, where they’re going to be, and what they’re going to do in those systems.”
A restricted free agent with the Rangers in September 2013, Stepan signed his deal only three days prior to the season, and played in the opener.
While Stepan is fully aware what’s expected of him, Stueztle acknowledges he’s under the microscope, and isn’t taking anything for granted.
“I mean it’s great, but first I need to prove it on this level is my goal. I hope I’m going to have a good training camp and after that, play a good season. That’s my goal. It’s great to see everybody excited, but first I have to prove it at this level of hockey.”