Senators 2005 draft evaluation

By Nathan White

Unless the 2005 crop takes some major leaps forward, the Senators aren’t likely to put the scrapbook from this draft in a highly visible location in the Scotiabank Place lobby. While there are a couple of interesting players, you could make the argument Ottawa could have skipped this draft, and their farm system would have barely been affected. At least the draft was in Ottawa, so the team didn’t have to spend as much on travel costs.

Ottawa has traditionally done well with its first-rounders. Of the team’s first 13 drafts, all but two of its top picks have played more than 300 NHL games. With Andrei Meszaros, Patrick Eaves, Anton Volchenkov and Martin Havlat still working on solid careers, that accomplishment could wind up reading “600 games” a few years down the road. While ninth overall pick Brian Lee looks like he could continue the tradition of strong first-rounders, it doesn’t look like there are any stars here.

As with most teams, it’s the later picks who have been hit or miss for the Sens. The team that found Pavol Demitra (1993) and Sami Salo (1996) in the ninth round in and Daniel Alfredsson in the sixth round (1994) hasn’t been as successful in recent years. Their best late-rounder since then was probably Chris Neil in the sixth round in 1998, or Brooks Laich in the sixth round in 2001, although he now plies his trade for the ref=”/teams/washington_capitals”>Washington Capitals. (Note that the Sens traded Laich and a second-round pick for Peter Bondra’s 30 games and zero playoff points). In 2005, Ottawa went without that second-rounder, but had three picks in the fourth round, none of which are looking as though they will have significant NHL futures. Players such as Cody Bass, Tomas Kudelka and Colin Greening look to have shots at carving out careers, but the odds on the rest of the group being impact NHLers rest between slim and none.

Brian Lee, D, Lincoln Stars (USHL) – 1st round, 9th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 82

Lee graduated from the prospect ranks this season in terms of NHL games played, but he continued to bounce between Binghamton and the big club. He is at the head of Ottawa’s 2005 class at this point but played just 23 NHL games after getting into 53 in 2008-09 and being one of the last cuts in training camp. Eric Karlsson established himself as a full-timer ahead of Lee, but the 23-year-old from Moorhead, Minn., should have a shot to win a job next season. Of course, that was the story last year as well. The 6’3, 206-pound rearguard finished with two goals and an assist at the NHL level, while posting three goals and 12 assists in 41 games for Binghamton. For his size, he hasn’t shown much mean streak, with 12 penalty minutes in Ottawa, and 52 in Binghamton.

Vitali Anikeyenko, D, Yaroslavl-2 (Russia) – 3rd round, 70th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Anikeyenko is still with his hometown team, Yaroslavl, the team Ottawa drafted him from, and still has to be considered a prospect. The 6’3, 218-pounder has a hard shot but limited offensive skills otherwise, and is not particularly physical. The Sens have plenty of big defensemen in the system, some with more upside. While it’s possible to project him as a fifth defenseman who could see time on a second power-play unit, Lee, Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch and Eric Gryba are all coming down the pipe and could play similar roles. Anikeyenko, who turned 23 in January, used his shot as a weapon more often and more effectively in 2009-10. He increased his shots total to 105 from 66, and more than tripled his goals total to seven, six of which came on the power play.

Cody Bass, C, Mississauga IceDogs (OHL) – 4th round, 95th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 33

Bass had designs on winning a full-time spot in 2009-10 after getting into 33 NHL games his first two pro seasons. Instead, the call never came and Bass spent the entire season in Binghamton, watching Zach Smith pass him on the depth chart as Ottawa’s gritty forward call-up of choice. He tallied five goals, 11 points and 109 penalty minutes in 57 games and won Binghamton’s top defensive forward award. Heading into his 23-year-old season, Bass is right back where he was last offseason, fighting for an NHL spot. The 6’0, 209-pound Owen Sound, Ont., native is a restricted free agent.

Ilya Zubov, C, Chelyabinsk-2 (Russia) – 4th round, 98th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 11

Zubov’s NHL future is not looking bright, and it’s about time to declare him a bust. After a promising 2008-09 season, in which he tallied 52 points in 63 AHL games and appeared in 10 NHL contests, Zubov and the Sens had a falling out in the fall. When he didn’t make the big club, he returned to Russia after just one AHL game, demanding a trade. To make matters worse, he never found his scoring touch in Russia, combining for four goals and seven points in 31 KHL games with two teams. Now 23, it would take a major turnaround for the 6’1, 201-pounder to get back in Ottawa’s good books, or catch on with another team. Chalk this one up as another cautionary “Russian Factor” tale that makes teams so wary on draft day.

Janne Kolehmainen, LW, SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland) – 4th round, 115th overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

It’s hard to say what the Senators saw in the 6’3, 209-pound Finn when they drafted him as a 19-year-old. He had just two points and eight penalty minutes in 29 games that season, and has never tallied more than 11 points or 53 PIM in the Finnish League. A bigger bust than a bubble-wrap factory explosion.

Tomas Kudelka, D, ZPS Zlin Jrs. (Czech) – 5th round, 136th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Kudelka has been a solid player at the AHL level for two seasons after splitting his first full pro campaign between Binghamton and the ECHL Elmira Jackals. A broken finger limited him to 55 games, in which he managed three goals and 20 points to go with 81 penalty minutes. The offensive numbers were comparable to his 2008-09 totals of 23 points in 76 games, while he jumped from 67 PIM, showing the 6’3, 206-pound Czech’s developing mean streak. A restricted free agent in the offseason, it’s tough to project a high ceiling for Kudelka, 23. He has, however, taken steps each season, and this type of player can sometimes force his way into a decent career.

Dmitry Megalinsky, D, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (Russia) – 6th round, 186th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played:

Megalinsky might not be a bust yet, but he’s definitely a longshot. Megalinsky saw jumps in the major statistical categories in 2009-10 for Chekhov Vityaz of the KHL, setting new career highs with 16 assists, 20 points, and 98 PIM. When it comes to bringing a player such as Megalinsky or Anikeyenko over, the odds are against it. The Senators have lots of defensemen in the ranks already playing in North America, and have been recently burned by the Zubov situation.

Colin Greening, C, Upper Canada College – 7th round, 204th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Greening signed after a solid career at Cornell, where he was captain. He will likely be at Binghamton next season after tallying a career-high 35 points in 34 games as a senior. Greening’s numbers were eerily similar his final three seasons at the NCAA level. The 6’2, 211-pound St. John’s, Nfld., native will be a 24-year-old pro rookie and needs to show he can develop at the next level. A skill player and excellent skater, Greening has already taken a unique path to the pros, being born in Newfoundland, getting drafted out of a Canadian high school, playing in the British Columbia League on the other side of the continent, then getting an Ivy League education.