The 2008-09 NHL season ended with the Ottawa Senators missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996. The team was in decline, but the 2009 NHL Draft proved to be a fruitful one in what became a relatively quick and successful rebuild. General manager Bryan Murray's staff made quality selections, covering each positional area of the ice.
Today, first-round pick Jared Cowen is logging top minutes alongside one of the NHL's top defensemen in Erik Karlsson. Second-round picks Jakob Silfverberg and Robin Lehner are both NHL quality talent while fifth-rounder Mike Hoffman is one of the AHL's best forwards.
Jared Cowen, D, Spokane Chiefs (WHL) – 1st round, 9th overall
Status: NHL player
NHL games played: 144
This NHL season in particular, Jared Cowen has earned mixed reviews. He currently plays top-four minutes on Ottawa's blue line, ranking third on Ottawa's roster in time-on-ice per game, behind Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot. Cowen has been Karlsson's defensive partner the past few months, at least in even-strength play, which is a largely defensive responsibility.
Cowen impressed as an NHL rookie, managing five goals and 12 assists in the 2011-12 season. He missed the majority of the shortened 2012-13 NHL season however because of a hip injury, and did not dress until the end of the regular season. He was re-signed to a four-year contract this past fall worth a reported 12.4 million dollars.
For the most part, Cowen has visibly struggled to meet expectations for his lucrative new contract. Increased playing time has forced him into playing tougher opponents. He can still dominate physically, use his long reach and positioning to play strong defensively, but his weaknesses have been exposed. Lack of quickness, shaky puck-handling skills, and unpredictable passing have all been on display at times.
That all being said, Cowen is still only 23 years old and by no means fully developed. His injury in 2012-13 probably set back his development a little as well, but with time he should be able to address his various on-ice deficiencies.
Jakob Silfverberg, LW, Brynas IF Gavle (SHL) – 2nd round, 39th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 79
Silfverberg stayed in Sweden for three seasons following his selection at the 2009 NHL Draft, managing 104 points in 150 games. He finally made his way across the Atlantic in the fall of 2012 and appeared to make a seamless transition. He notched 29 points in 34 AHL games with the Binghamton Senators during the NHL lockout, and played the entire 48-game season on Ottawa's top two forward lines. He notched 10 goals and nine assists, making an excellent first impression in Ottawa.
The gifted scorer became a key part in a package deal destined for the Anaheim Ducks, in exchange for Bobby Ryan. In 31 games, shortened by missing 25 games due to injury, Silfverberg has six goals and nine assists for the Ducks. His recent selection to Team Sweden's Olympic roster further indicates that he has made good progress.
Robin Lehner, G, Frolunda HC (SHL) – 2nd round, 46th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 47
When the Ottawa Senators chose to trade away Ben Bishop in 2013, Robin Lehner became the undisputed heir to Ottawa's crease behind Craig Anderson. His trajectory since winning a Calder Cup trophy and AHL playoff MVP title in 2010-11 for the Binghamton Senators has been re-assuring for the Senators' future. In a backup role, Lehner has amassed a .921 save percentage and 2.76 goals against average. Well-known for his intensity and aggressiveness, bolstered by proven ability and his 2010-11 accolades, Lehner has the skillset to make a lasting impact in the NHL.
For the time being, Lehner is pushing current Senators starter Craig Anderson for more starts.
Chris Wideman, D, Miami RedHawks (CCHA) – 4th round, 100th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
At 23 years old, Chris Wideman is having a breakout season for the Binghamton Senators. Nearly six years after his draft selection, in his second pro season following a four-year college career, Wideman is blooming into a potent offensive defenseman. He moves the puck quickly, skates well, and boasts a wicked point shot to generate consistent offense. Through 44 games this season, he has six goals and 28 assists, which is tied for third among defensemen in the AHL.
Defensively, Wideman plays a smart game to account for his 5'10, 175 pound stature. He uses his stick well and plays with an added edge, having collected 60 penalty minutes to date. He has served on the bottom pairing, most recently paired up with stay-at-home bruiser, Ben Blood. He is in the final year of his entry-level contract, but should earn an extension.
Mike Hoffman, C, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL) – 5th round, 130th overall
NHL Games Played: 7
Hoffman was selected by the Senators following a 52 goal, 94 point season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. He followed that up with an 85 point season with the Saint John Sea Dogs that saw him earn league MVP honors.
He went pro in 2010-11 and his talent has undeniably translated to the AHL level. Second in AHL scoring with 23 goals and 32 assists, Hoffman leads one of the AHL's most potent offenses in Binghamton. His challenge, for the remainder of the season and heading into 2014-15, must be to make a positive impact whenever he gets the chance for the Ottawa Senators.
Notre Dame senior Jeff Costello was named captain of the Fighting Irish, not for his scoring abilities. He is a fierce two-way player and a vocal leader, currently seventh in team scoring with 14 points in 27 games. Instead, he leads in penalty minutes, with 60. If the Senators feel they need more toughness in the organization, Costello is a good choice. Otherwise, he might fall by the wayside of a franchise stacked with talent up front.
Currently, Binghamton looks jam packed with capable forwards. At the very least Costello could serve as an organizational depth player in the ECHL – a hard worker, a character guy with room still to grow, and it will be interesting to see where he lands in the near future.
On a Binghamton Senators roster laced with goal-scorers and playmakers, Corey Cowick provides a physical presence. Cowick is the prototypical checking forward – he hits hard, drops the gloves, and provides lots of energy on the fourth line. He is a reliable penalty killer, seen as a team leader and character player. Cowick also tacked on nine goals, eight assists to his name this season.
Once an Ottawa 67's OHL player, the Ottawa native skated with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL after being drafted. He has gradually worked his way up, but to skate with the big club seems unlikely barring major injuries. Still, his consistent playing time under head coach Luke Richardson is reason to view him as an undervalued asset to the club.
Brad Peltz, LW, Avon Old Farms (Connecticut high school) – 7th round, 190th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Brad Peltz spent another season at Avon Old Farms after his selection at the 2009 NHL Draft. He then spent a year with the Boston Jr. Bruins of the EJHL before finally joining Yale University in 2010-11. His stay at Yale was brief, as he appeared in a combined 10 games through two seasons.
He eventually signed a minor-league deal with the Senators in 2012 and appeared in 13 ECHL games with the Elmira Jackals and Trenton Titans. He is no longer playing professional hockey in North America.
Michael Sdao, D, Lincoln Stars (USHL) – 7th round, 191st overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Still battling for regular playing time in Binghamton, Michael Sdao's 6'4, 220 pound frame leads the Senators in penalty minutes despite only 36 games played. A Princeton University graduate, Sdao can be a force on the ice, with a powerful shot and more disciplined play.
He figures to be a depth player for the Senators' minor league system for years going forward. The Senators organization, both in Ottawa and in Binghamton, pairs up players of Sdao's mold with smaller, more mobile puck-movers. If Sdao can establish a reliable defensive game, he could be very useful to the Senators.