Senators 2009 draft preview

By Josh Chenoweth

Following a season filled with strife, the Senators find themselves with the ninth overall selection in the upcoming entry draft. The pick is a prime opportunity for Senators GM Bryan Murray to continue to restock the talent pool. It’s even more apparent that the Senators need this top 10 pick to work out due to winger Dany Heatley recently demanding a trade and captain Daniel Alfredsson entering the twilight of his career.

Top 10 prospects

1.    Erik Karlsson, D
2.    Brian Lee, D
3.    Brian Elliott, G
4.    Ilya Zubov, C
5.    Peter Regin, C
6.    Patrick Wiercioch, D
7.    Jim O’Brien, C
8.    Louie Caporusso, C
9.    Zach Smith, C
10.    Cody Bass, C

Team Needs

At the NHL level, Ottawa needs top-tier scoring forwards, especially wingers. With Heatley’s days in Ottawa likely numbered, and Alfredsson edging closer to the end of his career, Ottawa will only have one elite scoring forward left: center Jason Spezza. Ottawa will probably get back a top-six forward for Heatley, but needs more top-end talent. Players like Peter Regin and Ilya Zubov have shown promise in the AHL, but that hardly guarantees future NHL success.  This is a need that could be met via trade or in free agency.

Organizational Strengths

Ottawa’s prospect depth lies at center and defense. While there may not be any blue-chip forwards in Ottawa’s farm system, there are plenty of character players who could fill in on the third and fourth lines. Players such as Jim O’Brien, Cody Bass, and Zach Smith could become solid role players for the Senators in the near future. There is no shortage of character, something the Senators were once maligned for.

On defense, Ottawa has its one blue-chipper: Erik Karlsson. Along with Patrick Wiercioch, there’s some reason for optimism on the Senators blue line; both players possess high end offensive skills, something Ottawa does not currently have among its top-six defensemen. Ottawa owns other good defensive prospects, but there is little chance they will ever skate with the team. Vitaly Anikeyenko and Kirill Lyamin are both playing in Russia, and most likely would not be willing to play in the AHL. Mattias Karlsson (no relation to Erik), a stand-out with Binghamton this past season, appears to be returning to Sweden.

Organizational Needs

The most obvious organizational need is the lack of a blue-chip forward prospect. While there are several players with top-six potential, such as Peter Regin, Ilya Zubov and Louie Caporusso, it’s been a long time since there was an elite forward coming up the pipeline to Ottawa.  It seems likely that the team uses its ninth overall selection to grab a top-end forward. It could go a long way to providing Ottawa with the secondary scoring its lacked for the last several seasons.

Asides from Jim McKenzie, most likely a career minor leaguer, and Erik Condra, there are no right wing prospects in Ottawa’s system. There’s also a lack of left wingers, as Ottawa has a plethora of prospects are centers, though none with elite potential. A few of these centers, such as Zubov and Caporusso, can switch over to play the left side.

Another area the Senators need to address is goaltending. While the acquisition of Pascal Leclaire gives Ottawa a young goalie with elite potential, and Brian Elliott proved that he can play in the NHL, the drop-off after those two is enormous. Jeff Glass is unlikey to be an NHL regular. With the second-round pick acquired from Columbus in the Leclaire trade, the Senators might be able to have their pick of the available goaltenders.

With Karlsson and Wiercioch taken so high last year, it would be a surprise to see the Sens focus on defensemen, especially offensive ones.

Draft Tendencies

Since taking over as GM, Murray has drafted players from many different leagues. One could say though that Murray’s two first-round selections have been attempts to mirror the Stanley Cup winner of that season. In 2007, after losing in the final to the Anaheim Ducks, he took 6’2 centerman Jim O’Brien, mentioning specifically that size is needed to win. After the Red Wings won in 2008, Murray selected slick Swedish rearguard Karlsson and went on to select two other Swedish players: smallish forwards Andre Petersson and Emil Sandin.

But he didn’t forget the size lesson the of the year before. Wiercioch stands at 6’4, and fellow 2008 picks Derek Grant 6’3 and Zack Smith 6’2.

Murray has also shown a penchant for drafting players on the college track. O’Brien was playing at the University of Minnesota when he was drafted in 2007, and both Caporusso and Blood from that draft were bound for the NCAA. Caporusso played for the University of Michigan the following season, and Blood joined North Dakota for the 2009-10 season. Wiercioch is now at Denver. Grant will be joining Michigan State for the coming season.

Ottawa used to take quite a few Russians but has changed its ways. Like many teams, Ottawa has avoided taking Russians in the last few drafts. In three years, Ottawa has selected just one Russian, Ruslan Bashkirov. After he left the QMJHL to return home with his twin brother, Murray is probably even more wary of Russian players.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft selection: No. 9 – Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (Timra, SweJR)

At the No. 9 spot, if all goes well, Ottawa could nab Swedish winger Paarjarvi-Svensson. With fantastic speed, and good size (6’1) to go with his playmaking abilities, He could help to fill the void of elite wingers in Ottawa’s system. Once he gains more confidence with his abilities, and physically matures he could be a top player for years to come.