It’s a little early to anoint the arrival of "Timmy Franchise."
Give the kid a chance to settle in before we measure him for his bronze statue.
Still, there was no mistaking the excitement in town, and online, as rookie forward Tim Stuetzle took part in his first practice with the Ottawa Senators.
Stuetzle, after spending a week in quarantine in Ottawa following his participation in the world junior championships in Edmonton, was picked up by one of his new teammates at 6:40 a.m. Sunday and after meeting members of the team and staff, was on the ice for a morning skate.
At the urging of Brady Tkachuk, Stuetzle led the stretch.
“That was kind of funny,” Stuetzle said in a Zoom call with reporters. “But I liked to do it.”
Stuetzle, who doesn’t turn 19 until the day of the Senators season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Canadian Tire Centre on Friday, was smiling as cameras caught him stepping onto the ice for the first time. He was beaming again on the Zoom call.
“It was very exciting just getting here and getting to know everybody, getting to know all the boys,” Stuetzle said.
“It was just an unbelievable day until now. It was a great practice and I am so excited to be here now.
Stuetzle incredibly excited to finally join Senators at training camp
Veteran Derek Stepan, who was also in quarantine this past week after his wife gave birth in Arizona on Dec. 30 to the couple’s third, has already earned the name “Step-dad” for his role as mentor to Stuetzle. The two got acquainted through physically-distanced workouts at the hotel. Stepan was also centre on a practice line Sunday flanked by Stuetzle on his left and Evgenii Dadonov on the right.
“I got to know him a bit,” Stepan said of Stuetzle. “He’s a good kid. I was joking with my wife that I have three little ones at home and I adopted a German 18-year-old.”
Interestingly, Stepan used part of his time in quarantine to study up on this young forward from Germany who dazzled his way to being named the top forward by the IIHF Directorate at the tournament for a German team that punched above its weight. Ottawa of course, made Stuetzle the third overall draft choice on Oct. 6.
Stepan has been researching clips of Stuetzle in action, and noted his obvious skill at Senators practice on Sunday. More than anything, though, Stepan has been impressed by Stuetzle’s character as expressed over the past week.
“I kind of got the sense even before I got on the ice with him that he carries himself in a mature way, which is a great thing for an 18-year-old,” Stepan said.
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Acquired in a Dec. 27 trade with the Arizona Coyotes, Stepan likes the fact that despite all the buzz preceding him, Stuetzle didn't arrive here acting like he owned the place. Stuetzle is confident, brash in his play, especially playmaking, but brings a measure of humility to all this fanfare.
“He’s a kid, you can see just in one practice, has a lot of talent,” Stepan said. “And it was good to see that he was nervous, too. He was a little nervous before practice, so he eased his way in and did a good job of making himself comfortable.
“Like I said, he's a good kid. It's really easy to work with him.”
Stuetzle is getting used to all the attention, first as an 18-year-old playing with men in the German League. Then, the top three-selection, followed by his WOW factor at the world juniors. Even the way he tapes his stick -- bare at the bottom, with a band of tape horizontal across the blade -- sparked a fire. The Spittin’ Chiclets Twitter feed called the stick tape a “crime scene” and made other references not suitable for a family audience.
This could become a thing in Ottawa -- minor hockey players doing ‘The Stuetzle’ with their stick tape. Or, ‘Timmy Tape’ style.
Stuetzle takes all the hype in that long stride of his.
“It’s great for me, but first I need to prove myself at this level,” he says. “And that’s my goal. I hope I’m going to have a good training camp and play a good season. It’s great to have everybody excited but first I have to prove myself at that level and play good hockey.”
Senators head coach D.J. Smith was thrilled to finally have his full roster available for the first time in camp. Along with Stuetzle and Stepan, defenceman Erik Brannstrom came out of quarantine. He was held out as a precaution after having been in the vicinity of someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Smith’s first impression of Stuetzle:
"His skating is exceptional,” Smith said. “He can make plays. He’s good on the power play.
“For a young guy you just don’t want to give him too much, just give him the things, the absolute do’s and absolute don’ts. But I think part of development is learning on the fly and (Sunday) he was with Stepper, who was in the hotel with him and is helping him.
“The kid looked excited to be out there and it’s great when you get young guys with energy like that.”
Smith intimated that veteran centre Chris Tierney may also work in with Stuetzle, to help insulate him a little as he begins his NHL career. The head coach is already thinking about matchups with a pair of upcoming games against John Tavares, Auston Matthews and company.
Despite lofty expectations, Stuetzle knows he needs to prove himself
“He’s responsible,” Smith said of Stuetzle, “and at some point, he’s going to play in all situations.
We want to put him where he has the best chance to succeed and obviously how he’s doing will dictate that. He’s a young player and we want him to develop properly.”
While Stepan may be his “Step-dad,” Stuetzle won’t be living with a family. He will be sharing living quarters with a pair of 21-year-olds -- Tkachuk and Josh Norris.
“They asked me and it’s nice,” Stuetzle said. “It’s going to make it much easier for me to get to know everyone.”
The last we heard of Tkachuk’s living arrangement, he was the quarterback in an indoor tackle football game with Norris and Colin White during quarantine.
Now it’s game on with Stuetzle.
Hopefully, they have good house insurance.