Bryan Murray and his staff have been involved in the last four entry drafts and have managed personnel moves since moving up to the general manager position on June 18th, 2007, where he previously held the capacity of head coach.
The club has tended to let players develop playing in junior, college, European, AHL, and ECHL hockey rather than rushing them along to quickly throughout the ranks. As an organization they have ensured time on the big club is deserved by prospects not just a gratuity. The Sens have a tendency towards Swedish players, perhaps influenced by the presence of their captain, Daniel Alfredsson, and prospects planning on the US college route, allowing them additional time to assess talent prior to making a decision to sign them. Recently they’ve shied away from drafting Russian prospects after many misses and lack of desire for many to continue development in North America, the lone exception being Anton Volchenkov.
Left wing in the Sens organization has typically been the weakest position in terms of prospects; this tends to be consistent with many other NHL teams. Wingers can also be converted centers with the flexibility to play two positions offering them the opportunity to move up to the next level.
At the AHL level this year Kaspars Daugavins, their third round draft pick in 2006 and now in his third year with the Baby Sens, has shown progress each year. An extremely good skater and stick-handler, he also sees the ice well and makes use of his teammates to the point where the organization would like him to look to shoot more often. With a solid frame he doesn’t shy away from physical play. He is adept in both the offensive and defensive zones and should be one of the first call-ups should injury or uninspired play among wingers necessitate a call-up from Binghamton. He has NHL potential on the third and possibly second line if he continues his present development.
Colin Greening has made the jump to the pros after four seasons with the Cornell Big Red in the ECAC. He has the prerequisite size, shot and speed for the NHL and is willing to get to the dirty areas. A change to a checking role and improvement with his puck-handling skills are his keys to moving up to the NHL for this 2005 seventh round pick.
A pure offensive player at this point, converted center Mike Hoffman, chosen in the fifth round pick in 2009, will need to round out his game to become successful at this level and the next. There is no denying his hands are among the best in the organization but he needs to bulk up and adjust to the pro game working on his play away from the puck, specifically in the defensive zone.
2009 sixth round draft pick Corey Cowick and free-agent signee David Dziurdzynski are first year Baby Sens who will need to spend time developing their power forward games. Andre Petersson has top end offensive potential and is playing at least another season in the SEL with HV71 Jonkoping. He needs to get stronger, work on his defensive and offensive awareness and become a more consistent player game in, game out. Tim Spencer offers toughness and size with little else to the Baby Sens.
The Sens have some long-term prospects at center but no blue-chippers and in reality there is an overall lack of quality and depth at this position. Zack Smith made the big club out of training camp this year and plays with a tenacious style and is a good fit for either the energy or checking lines.
Cody Bass is likely the first call-up should Ottawa promote a defensive or physical center. He plays his heart out with a great defensive game, excels at faceoffs, brings feistiness, and has the size and speed required for the NHL.
Jim O’Brien has started the year with three goals in the first five Baby Sens games, an encouraging sign his offensive game is starting to come around at the AHL level. This is exactly the progress the organization was hoping to see this year after Ottawa chose him in the first round in 2007. He has a power forward’s frame, the smarts and ability with development already shown on the defensive side.
Louie Caporusso is continuing to consistently score at the U. of Michigan, leading them in goal scoring the previous two seasons. He’ll need to adjust to the pro game and get stronger to make the jump to the NHL as his 5’10 185 pound frame will be put to the test. In fairness to him he does not shy away from the traffic areas and has a quick, determined style of with and without the puck.
Swedish prospect Jakob Silfverberg, is currently in his third season of play with Brynas in the SEL. Playing against men, he netted eight goals as an 18-year old and plays a smart two-way game. Opinions vary considerably on him with some projecting him as a potential star and others as a limited role player. He is a strong skater, mature, technically-sound and defensively-responsible but needs to develop his offensive game and add an element of physicality.
Jakub Culek has the size 6’4, raw skill and playmaking ability to become a top-end offensive center but will need to improve his skating and fill out his frame. Now in his second season with the Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL, he was their top pick in the third round of the most recent draft and is expected to take on a bigger scoring and leadership role this season.
Now entering his sophomore season at Michigan State, Derek Grant brings size and offense, and looks to build on his previous season where he was close to a point a game. He was the Sens fourth round pick in the 2008 draft and will likely finish out his college career before moving up to the pros.
Ilya Zubov is back playing in Russia with CSKA Moscow in the KHL and likely no longer has a future in the Sens organization. He spent over two seasons in Binghamton trying to crack the Ottawa lineup. His high-end offensive skills have always been there but his lack of comfort in the traffic areas and his unwillingness to commit to developing in the AHL will keep him from making the NHL in the future.
After four years playing in the Swiss A league, Roman Wick agreed to a contract with the organization and began the season playing with the Baby Sens. Their fifth round pick in 2004 will have an adjustment period to the more physical play in the AHL and will have to develop a comfort zone to showcase his offensive scoring and playmaking skills.
Bobby Butler was a finalist for the Hobey Baker NCAA award last year and was a highly-sought after college free agent after finishing his stellar career at the University of New Hampshire. He excelled in the Sens training camp this fall and could have made the team if not for some veterans ahead of him with fewer options remaining to be sent down to Binghamton. Butler brings skill, size, leadership, a scorer’s touch and a desire to do whatever is necessary to succeed. Ottawa will closely monitor his progress and he will be one of the first call-ups should injuries occur or some scoring be required on the big club.
This will be Erik Condra’s second year with the Baby Sens after completing his senior year at the University of Notre Dame. Originally a seventh round draft pick in 2006, he’s progressed steadily and has learned to use his speed and playmaking skills to create opportunities around the net and offers strong play along the boards. He’ll be counted on to add to his point total of last year.
Ryan Keller has proven to be a scorer at the junior, FNL and AHL level and all that remains now is for the opportunity to take it to the next level in Ottawa. He has great offensive finishing skills which are offset by his lack of size and strength.
Waiting in the wings are 2010 picks Markus Sorensen, the speedy, diminutive forward, who continues to play with in the SEL and Mark Stone who has started the season on fire with Brandon in the WHL. They will need a couple of more seasons before making a case to be included in the big club lineup. Jason Bailey offers size and toughness and was originally a third round pick in 2005 by Anaheim before coming over to the Sens organization in a swap for Shawn Weller.
Defense holds the key to the future with Ottawa as they are rich with many potential two-way prospects. The progress this group makes will go a long way to determining whether Ottawa will rejoin the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
One of the last cuts from this year’s camp was Jared Cowen who impressed with his poise and agility for his huge 6’5 frame and by landing several big hits throughout the pre-season. Another year with Spokane in the WHL should allow his offensive game to develop more; he should dominate the opposition forwards most games. The future for this first round pick in the 2009 draft will certainly be in the NHL likely as early as next year.
After being selected 17th overall by the St. Louis Blues in the first round in 2009 David Rundblad was acquired by Ottawa on a draft day trade for their first round pick, the 16th overall this past summer. Rundblad brings high-end offensive potential with his skating, first-pass, stick-handling, and offensive instincts. However, like fellow Swede Erik Karlsson, Rundblad must work on his play without the puck and become more consistent. He’s playing with Skelleftea in the SEL and will likely be brought over to North America next season to develop further in the AHL with the Baby Sens.
Making the jump to professional hockey this season is Patrick Wiercioch, who played the previous two seasons at the University of Denver. Wiercioch made a good impression in training camp this year and brings a solid two-way game with good puck skills, size and power-play point capability. He’s with the Baby Sens getting some seasoning and needs to work on his strength and skating to have success on the next level.
Another collegian who joined the organization from the ranks of the collegians recently is Eric Gryba who played six games with Binghamton at the end of last season and is with the Baby Sens currently. His size and physicality set him apart from many of the other defense prospects. Skating, lower-body strength and agility are areas for improvement for the Boston U grad.
Geoff Kinrade and Derek A. Smith are two previous collegian free-agent signees who provide depth with the Baby Sens, each have had a cup of coffee in the NHL and now have been surpassed by prospects with higher upsides. Craig Schira is another depth defenseman and former free agent signed from the WHL’s Vancouver Giants who’s entering his second year in the organization and needs to improve his skating, strength and consistency to make it to the next level.
Other recent Sens draft picks currently developing further as US collegians are Chris Wideman, Ben Blood, Bryce Aneloski, Mark Borowiecki and Michael Sdao. As collegian players, they offer the organization an opportunity to gauge their progress and development with the benefit of signing them when they feel they’re ready to move up to the professional level.
Vitaly Anikeyenko and Kirill Lyamin, two high draft picks in 2005 and 2004, continue to play in the KHL despite overtures by the organization to come over to North America to develop in the AHL. Their window of opportunity to play in the NHL is closing.
Tomas Kudelka has returned to Europe to play in Czech and now the FEL, Mattias Karlsson to the SEL while fellow former draft picks Dmitry Megalinsky, Sergei Gimayev and Vitaly Atyushov play in the KHL and likely will not remain in the Ottawa Senators plans moving forward.
Blue-chip defenseman Erik Karlsson recently graduated as a prospect and continues to demonstrate his slick skating, stick-handling, great first-pass, an accurate shot ,and overall great offensive feel in Ottawa. However he is an X factor in both zones and must work on his decision-making and play without the puck. He also needs to get physically stronger.
Long an area of need for the club, they now have now a viable prospect at the goaltending position in goalie-of-the-future Robin Lehner. Depth here is needed and should be addressed in the next drafts or through free agent signings.
After spending last year in junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL, Lehner will continue his development this year in the pros with the Baby Sens. Due to the recent injury to Pascal Leclaire, he is currently playing with the big club and the team will try to offer him at least a few starts in the NHL this year. He’s a butterfly goalie with excellent size at 6’3 220 pounds, great quickness has impressive lateral mobility and offers a great overall skill set. He plays angles well and challenges shooters but needs to improve his rebound control, puck-handling and become more consistent overall. The team will look to ease him along with the idea he will be their starter several seasons from now.
Article was written by John Henkelman.