Lehner, Gryba breaking into pro game

by Russ Cohen || AHL On The Beat Archive 

The Ottawa Senators have done a nice job of scouting the past few years and the best sign of that is the amount of late-season signings they had to bolster their team in Binghamton and to ensure some future success for the parent club.

The B-Sens are fighting for a playoff spot and while they do that two of their recent draft picks have turned pro and they will get some valuable experience down the stretch.

The first of the two players was goaltender Robin Lehner. The Swedish product was one of top European goalie prospects heading into last year’s draft and after a strong first season in the Ontario Hockey League he turned pro when his junior season ended.

“Ottawa wanted me to come over after a great season with the Soo Greyhounds (Sault Ste. Marie),” said Lehner, a second-round draft pick by Ottawa in 2009. “I got a lot of experience and the lifestyle is different and getting used to North American rinks has been an adjustment. The organization has believed in me. They helped me out so much you want to return the favor.”

For a European player, the first season in North America can really give that player some culture shock because of the differences in the two societies.

“Everything, the food is different and there is so much more hockey talk in Canada then in Sweden,” said the talented 18-year-old backstop. “Over in Sweden we did other stuff but here everything is all about hockey. I haven’t changed my style but my structure. The angles are different and I had to adjust my old game to fit these rinks.”

For now this talented young netminder will have to use his old mask since it takes time, more than he had, to create a new one.

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“It takes a while to paint it. I haven’t decided what will be on it. The logo on my current mask is from my former team Frolunda and there is a picture of a friend who crashed his motorcycle.”

While Lehner is making that adjustment, defenseman Eric Gryba’s college career came to an end and he turned pro. Once again the Ottawa organization effectively communicated what he could expect when that happened and now the former Boston University regular was embarking on playing his first game as a member of the Binghamton Senators.

“I kind of knew they wanted me to come after the season to play. It’s exciting to get to know the guys and see what it’s all about. I’ll learn what I can and kind of take it all in.”

At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Gryba is known for his toughness and now he’ll get a chance to follow in the footsteps of Ottawa’s Anton Volchenkov.

“I tried to model my game after guys like him,” said the 68th overall pick in 2006. “I’m a physical stay-at-home defenseman. I like a rough game. I enjoy that aspect of the game.”

As it turns out both players are adjusting to life in Binghamton. Lehner has found that he has a favorite sandwich.

“Quizno’s, smokehouse chicken is my favorite.”

Gryba has a more refined palate.

“I’m into sushi. That’s my new thing. Right now I like spicy tuna and spicy rainbow maki.”

Binghamton fans can expect to see both of these players a lot more in the future but for now they can get a sneak peak of two players who should have pretty big roles in years to come.