BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – Not every rookie gets a taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs during their first full season in “The Show”, but for Ottawa Senators defenseman Fredrik Claesson, that was exactly the case.
With the Eastern Conference title on the line last spring, the Senators faced the reigning champions, Pittsburgh Penguins, in an INTENSE seven-game battle that neither side deserved to lose, in all honesty.
While it was the Sens who ultimately fell to the Pens in that fateful Game 7, Claesson was still extremely grateful for the rare opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup.
“Playoffs was something I never will forget,” said Claesson, a native of Stockholm, Sweden. “You’re excited and anxious that you want to win so much. It was so much fun.”
Claesson also experienced the Calder Cup Playoffs during his first two seasons with the Binghamton Senators, Ottawa’s former American Hockey League affiliate, in 2013. However, contending for Lord Stanley was quite the different experience.
“Playing in the playoffs is something special. The atmosphere, fans screaming, and every play matters – it’s the best!” Claesson said.
Claesson definitely seems well-adjusted to NHL life in Ottawa, but he’ll never forget the exact moment at Binghamton’s arena that changed his life forever.
“Coach called me into his office, and I had a feeling it could have been this moment I had been waiting for, and it was. So, I packed up my stuff and went to Ottawa,” said Claesson of his first call-up in 2015.
Luke Richardson, himself a former Senator and then the head coach of the B-Sens, was the one to deliver that good news. It’s memories like these from his days in Binghamton that Claesson now reflects on after the move of the affiliate to Belleville, Ontario, this summer.
“Meeting so many good people like coaches, teammates, and staff, but also the movie theatre – I loved it!” Claesson recalled of his time with the B-Sens.
It’s almost certain that Claesson’s memories of Binghamton will live on forever as many teammates from his AHL days, including Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, have also been promoted from the B-Sens.
“It’s great playing with guys you already know and have been hanging out with for some years,” explained Claesson. “It was a great feeling!”
Claesson, who posted three goals and eight assists during the 2016-17 season, signed a one-year, one-way contract extension with the Sens back in February. As he enters his sophomore season in the NHL, the defenseman remembers what he learned from his years in minor hockey.
“Work hard, and don’t sit in front of the phone or computer all the time!” encourages Claesson. “And be patient! It takes a long time for some guys, so believe in yourself!”
Claesson and the Senators will open their season at home on Thursday, October 5, against the Washington Capitals while the new Belleville Sens will play their first game in franchise history on the road against the Laval Rocket on Friday, October 6.