The third overall pick in the NHL Draft last October admitted being nervous as he was on the ice with his Senators teammates for the first time on Sunday.
“Being on the ice with guys from the NHL… for me, it’s really, really exciting,” he said with a smile. “I was nervous at first but like I said before the boys did their best to keep me away from the nerves so I felt good and I felt very comfortable on the ice with them .
There was the mandatory tweet of the much-vaunted rookie by his new teammates, and he even led the team to the center of the ice at the winger’s request. Brady Tkachuk.
Stuetzle played the left wing on a line with Evgenii Dadonov and Derek Stepan. Stepan was also making his Sens training camp debut on Sunday morning after spending the last week in quarantine at the same hotel as Stuetzle.
Stepan, who was acquired by Ottawa on Boxing Day, was delayed in arriving at camp due to the birth of his third child. Stuetzle and Stepan bonded over the past week at the hotel, with the veteran becoming a bit of an adviser to the youngster.
Senators head coach DJ Smith said time together was one of the reasons he paired them up on a line in Sunday practice.
“I got to know him a little bit,” said Stepan, an 11-year NHL veteran. “He’s a good kid. I was joking with my wife, but I have three little ones at home and I adopted an 18 year old German.
The young recruit enjoyed the tutelage as the duo did their best to prepare for camp.
“He’s like a great mentor and he really helped me a lot during my forties,” added Stuetzle. “We had training sessions at the hotel and we are getting to know each other very well.”
Not since Jason Spezza was selected second overall by Ottawa in 2001, has there been so much enthusiasm in the run-up to the nation’s capital. Stuetzle seems ready to prove that the euphoria surrounding his arrival is justified.
“I mean, it’s great for me obviously, but first I have to prove [myself] here at this level, ”Stuetzle said. “And that’s my goal. I hope I have a good training camp and play a good season, and that’s my goal. So it’s great that everyone is so excited, but first of all I have to prove [myself] at this level and play good hockey.
The past few months have been a whirlwind for Stuetzle. He broke his hand a week after the draft while training with his club team in Germany. Two months later, he joined the German squad for the World Juniors in Edmonton. The German captain led his team to the country’s very first appearance in the quarter-finals, where they lost 2-1 to Russia. Stuetzle finished with 10 points in five games and was named the tournament’s top forward.
Then it was in Ottawa, where fans and teammates just can’t seem to get enough of the gregarious Stuetzle. The recruit has already moved from the hotel and to a house shared by Tkachuk and Josh Norris.
“I’m also very excited for this,” Stuetzle said.
In a city where there hasn’t been much excitement around its hockey team, the arrival of Stuetzle has certainly created a renewed level of anticipation for the season ahead. Stuetzle is expected to make his NHL debut on Friday when the Senators open their season against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It also happens to be Stuetzle’s 19th birthday, giving Sens fans yet another reason to celebrate the rookie.