Butler bringing offensive punch to Binghamton
Top B-Sens prospect heating up, ranks among leading rookie goal scorers in AHL
|Bobby Butler has made a quick early impression with the Binghamton Senators, totalling nine goals and 14 points in the team's first 12 games of the current AHL season (Photo by Just Sports Photography).
When the Senators signed Butler as a college free agent, he came to the organization heralded as the leading goal scorer (29) in NCAA Division I hockey for the New Hampshire Wildcats. Now the American Hockey League is seeing that touch around the net.
Butler is coming off a huge offensive weekend as the B-Sens prepare for tonight's home matchup with the Rochester Americans at Broome County Veterans' Memorial Arena. The 6-0, 180-pound forward racked up seven points in three games, including a hat trick in Sunday's 5-0 triumph over the Syracuse Crunch. That followed another three-point effort (one goal, two assists) in a 7-3 whipping of the Adirondack Phantoms on Saturday night.
With nine goals and 14 points in 12 games, Butler ranks No. 2 among all AHL rookies in both categories. Clearly, he's adjusting quickly to the minor pro game.
"Bobby's been very good," said Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray, who oversees the organization's top affiliate in Binghamton. "The coaches are real happy with him. He's got very good stats for a first-year guy. He's a little older than some of the guys, but he's still a first-year player and he's showing his pedigree. He's a top prospect and we do expect him to play that way."
Butler made a strong push to make the big club during training camp but the numbers game didn't play out right for him. But Binghamton head coach Kurt Kleinendorst sees a player who is NHL ready in a lot of ways already.
"Bobby was close when he left (training camp)," said Kleinendorst. "In fact, Bobby's probably the kind of player that, under the right circumstances, could be playing in the NHL right now. But I will say there's a beneift to what he's experiencing right now in the American league. He gets to play in all situations. He's playing on the power play, he's playing penalty kill, he's doing 5-on-5.
"He's playing 18, 20, 22 minutes a night and getting used in all situations. And he's learning how to play the game and be responsible defensively. He can hone his craft in the American league that when he comes up here, he's more prepared to stay."
"In my four years there, I always thought I was sound in the defensive zone," he said. "That was one of the biggest parts (of the game) that the coach didn't have to worry about with me, being able to put me in all situations. It's a little different and everything's faster (in the AHL), but that was one of the good parts of my game, the defensive zone. And you generate offence from good defence."
Still, Butler knows that it's his nose for the net that is the key to eventually earning full-time employment with the big club.
"It's been pretty good," he said of his start in Binghamton. "I feel good out there and I'm getting some chances. The more chances I get, the better it's going (for me). Right now, so far, so good."
He senses improvement in his overall game with each passing week.
"We're learning something new every day and the coach tries to instill something new in us every practice," said Butler. "Every week, I've learned something new and I try to put it into my game, whether it's individually or for the whole team."
Butler and the B-Sens are headed to Scotiabank Place on Nov. 26, when they'll face off against the Hamilton Bulldogs, the top affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. The two teams played last Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal, with the Bulldogs earning a 5-2 victory.
Down on the farm
Forward Mike Hoffman scored his first professional goal in the victory over the Phantoms ... Robin Lehner stopped all 33 shots he faced Sunday to record the shutout ... B-Sens leading scorer Corey Locke (4-14-18) assisted on all three of Butler's goals against the Crunch. Locke ranks fourth in the AHL in scoring heading into tonight's play ... Binghamton (6-4-1-1) sandwiches a pair of road games (at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday, at Hershey on Sunday) around a home date with the Toronto Marlies on Saturday.