Ottawa Senators have balanced group of prospects in Sweden and NCAA

By Peter Morrow

Robbie Baillargeon - Ottawa Senators

Photo: Forward Robbie Baillargeon was extremely effective as a freshman with Boston University and led the Terriers with 27 points through 35 games. Baillargeon was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators have a variety of prospects developing in Europe and at the collegiate level. There are several skilled forwards who played the 2013-14 season in the NCAA, led by Ryan Dzingel, who recently signed an entry-level contract with the Senators.

The rise of Swedish prospects through the Senators organization is unceasing. The recent graduations of Robin Lehner and Mika Zibanejad to the big club is met by three other prospects beginning their ascent. Forward Tobias Lindberg, defenseman Mikael Wikstrand, and goaltender Marcus Hogberg are honing their skills overseas, although their ceilings might not match those of their predecessors. Meanwhile, Nikita Filatov continues his KHL career without any expressed intention of making an NHL comeback.

NCAA

Ryan Dzingel, C, Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten)
Drafted 7th round, 204th overall, 2011

Ryan Dzingel signed an entry-level contract with the Senators this spring, to cap off a remarkable season for the Ohio State junior. Dzingel will suit up for the Binghamton Senators in the AHL for the season's remainder, with playoffs on the horizon. He finished the 2013-14 season with 22 goals and 24 assists, finishing among the top ten nominees for the 2014 Hobey Baker Award. The Buckeyes fell 5-4 in overtime to the Wisconsin Badgers in the inaugural Big Ten tournament, eliminating their chance at an NCAA title.

Dzingel led the Buckeyes in scoring in each of his three college seasons. His puck-handling, shooting and skating skills are elite, and he will join a Binghamton roster laced with talented forwards. Likely to remain in the AHL for the 2014-15 campaign, Dzingel could challenge for an NHL job soon.

Max McCormick, LW, Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten)
Drafted 6th round, 171st overall, 2011

McCormick is only 5'11, but he plays with a physical edge. He possesses a great shot and has learned to distribute the puck effectively, helping fellow Senators prospect and Buckeyes linemate Ryan Dzingel to a break-out year offensively. McCormick has improved in each of his college seasons, nearly eclipsing a point per game in 2013-14, his junior year. Doing so in his senior year will prove challenging, as Dzingel will not be returning to the Buckeyes, and McCormick will need to carry a heavier load offensively.

Robbie Baillargeon, C, Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Drafted 5th round, 136th overall, 2012

The 2013-14 season was a massive success for Boston University freshman Robbie Baillargeon. He began as a covert late-round draft pick, but worked his way to the top line and led the Terriers in points with 10 goals and 17 assists – tied for first in both. He was arguably the team's best forward, displaying crisp passing, stick-handling, and a strong two-way game. For his efforts, Baillargeon was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team, as voted on by the league's head coaches. He will continue to lead the Terriers into 2014-15, who lack experience and high-end talent throughout the roster. He is trusted in all situations, a rare trait for most NCAA freshmen. The learning curve continues to shorten as Baillargeon climbs the Senators' depth charts.

Quentin Shore, C, Denver Pioneers (NCHC)
Drafted 6th round, 168th overall, 2013

Quentin Shore helped the upstart University of Denver Pioneers to a NCHC title, falling 6-2 to Boston College in the NCAA tournament. Shore contributed seven goals and 18 assists to a Pioneers team which relied heavily on balanced scoring. He is a two-way center with decent size at 6'1 who can play the wing, take on power play duties and kill penalties. Shore notched two assists playing as a bottom-six forward for the USA World Junior team this winter, but will not be eligible to return.

Heading into 2014-15, Shore will help lead the Pioneers towards another bid at an NCAA title. By the time he reaches his senior year, the Binghamton Senators should have open roster spots, and the AHL is Shore's logical next step following college.

Chris LeBlanc, RW, Merrimack Warriors (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 161st overall, 2013

An overage draft pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, Chris Leblanc is another long-term project in the Ottawa Senators organization. Leblanc produced six goals and six assists through 23 games as a freshman in 2013-14, ranking third among Warriors in goals and fourth in points. He possesses a big body, listed at 6'3 and 190 pounds, and will need to use his size in order to build a pro career. Leblanc still has years to develop his overall game before the Senators figure him into the organization, but at this point, he remains a long shot to make the NHL.

Europe

Mikael Wikstrand, D, Frolunda HC (SHL)
Drafted 7th round, 196th overall, 2012

Based purely on numbers, Mikael Wikstrand is looking increasingly like a potential late-round steal for the Senators. He continues to thrive offensively overseas, playing at home in Sweden's professional system. As a standout 19-year-old last season, Wikstrand led Mora IK defenseman in scoring in Sweden's Allsvenskan league. This season, he was second in team scoring before joining Frolunda HC in the SHL, where he recorded 11 points in 19 regular season games. During the playoffs he notched only one goal and an assist, as Frolunda fell in seven games to Linkopings HC.

A closer look at Wikstrand's game reveals several holes that still need patching. Despite his ability to create offense, his skating could improve. He has good size (6'2, 196 pounds) but could increase strength. In all likelihood, Wikstrand will remain in the SHL at least for the 2014-15 season before making the jump to North America. The Senators are in no rush to accelerate Wikstrand's career, as a host of young defensemen currently occupy NHL spots, and depth was recently added to the Binghamton blue line. Wikstrand is a burgeoning young talent, but patience will be crucial to unlocking his NHL potential.

Marcus Hogberg, G, Linkopings HC (SHL)
Drafted 3rd round, 78th overall, 2013

Since being drafted nine months ago, Marcus Hogberg has been fighting for playing time. He has been all over the map, but managed to record 32 starts over the course of 2013-14. Starting out on Linkoping's under-20 team, he moved up to the club's SHL team before being loaned to Mora IK of the Allsvenskan, where he claimed a starting position. He went 5-8, recording a 2.93 goals against average and a .892 save percentage, before returning to Linkoping and helping their playoff push. Splitting goaltending duties with Christian Engstrand, Hogberg helped upset Frolunda HC in a seven games to advance to the semi-finals.

Another small sample of Hogberg's play was on display at the World Junior Championship in Malmo. In exhibition play Hogberg stopped 21 shots to shut out Team Canada, and stopped 13 shots to shut out Norway in the round robin, though Oscar Dansk (CLB) backstopped Team Sweden to an eventual silver medal finish. Hogberg's 6'5, 212 pound frame and skill are promising, but time will reveal what his ceiling is. He faces stiff competition in the Senators crease, as fellow Senators goaltending prospects Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard led their respective CHL teams to winning records.

Tobias Lindberg, RW, Djurgarden J20 (SuperElit)
Drafted 4th round, 102nd overall, 2013

As the youngest European prospect in the Senators' system, Tobias Lindberg is another long-term project. Lindberg currently plays in the Swedish junior system, a familiar breeding ground for several former Senators prospects. Jakub Silfverberg (ANA), Lehner, and Erik Karlsson were all drafted out of Sweden's under-20 league, but all were drafted in the first two rounds. Lindberg went in the fourth round, and is more of an unknown talent. Through 38 games this season, he has scored seven goals, 15 assists, and a career-high 93 penalty minutes.

While Lindberg's puck skills are not top-end, he possesses a big frame and skates well – two attributes upon which he can build an NHL career, likely as a third- or fourth-line player. If he grows into his 6'3 frame and learns to use his size, he could provide depth for the Senators several years down the road.

Nikita Filatov, LW, Ufa Salavat Yulayev
Trade with Columbus Blue Jackets, June 25th, 2011

At this point Nikita Filatov is several years into his KHL career, without any known interest in returning to play in North America. Filatov was the Columbus Blue Jackets sixth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, but failed to earn a full-time NHL role. He left midway through his AHL stint with Binghamton in 2011-12, despite posting seven goals and five assists in his final 15 outings.

Filatov is considered an elite skater, puck-handler, and goal-scorer, but his production has dropped off immensely in the past two seasons. In 82 total regular season games played for Ufa, Filatov has recorded 23 goals and 18 assists.  His two-year KHL contract expires this spring, but even if Filatov opts to make another crack at an NHL career, the Senators might not have room for him.

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