With limited financial resources, Ottawa has to constantly find new blood if
the Senators are to remain competitive. The Senators have a great track record
in the draft and they have an eye for talent. They are also deep in prospects,
which means they can afford to gamble and lose. But depth or no depth, the Sens
have often selected low-profile players and the gamble paid off a number of
times. Even in the first round, they often make picks who aren’t consensus
by any stretch of the imagination. Still, the emphasis seems to be on pure talent
first and foremost.
Here’s a list of players who may fit the profile this year:
Anshakov, RUS: Rising from complete anonymity to first round darkhorse
on almost everyone’s list. The reason is simple. Unlike many players exhibiting
potential, Anshakov actually delivered all year long. Also, unlike many prospects,
there are no concerns over his size. In fact, there seems to be little concerns
over Anshakov. Maybe because he hasn’t been scrutinized as thoroughly
as the others, no scouting report has underlined any real flaw. Sergei seems
fairly consistent, is involved in the game and seems to have all the tools of
a future NHLer. In an ordinary draft year, he’d have been a sleeper. But
this year, he’s now expected to go in the first round thanks to his skills
and attitude. It’s not even a question of reaching anymore. Seems like
the kind of player the Sens unearth every year. Except this gem is firmly unearthed
and now on everyone’s list.
Bouchard, QMJHL: One of the most debated prospects recently, Pierre-Marc
has offensive talent as much as anybody in this draft. He may be one of the
purest talent available this year but there are big question marks surrounding
him. For one, Pierre-Marc lacks NHL size, or even an NHL frame. He is under
the 160 pounds bar, which marks him with a red flag for a number of teams. A
closer look reveals that he probably will end up at 180lbs, at most. Of course,
supporters point at Samsonov and other small NHL players. More recently, Stan
Chistov was drafted 5th overall by Anaheim and Jiri Hudler, who is pretty small
himself, is slotted as a top 10 pick by many this year. So what is the difference,
and why does P-M has so many detractors? The key point is that Hudler has played
at a much higher level of competition than Bouchard. This is too often overlooked
but it is important to see how smallish players fare against bigger, mature
competition. The comparisons to Chistov do not sit well because the latter is
a much faster and better skater than Bouchard. He also played against better
competition. More important than his size is the lack of upper and lower body
strength. There is a tremendous amount of work to do in those areas. Bouchard
is very creative and thinks the game at the elite level. He is confident and
deadly with the puck. Can score and set up like a pro. Quick feet but he lacks
explosiveness. Away from the puck, Bouchard is not completely nonchalant. He
knows his responsibilities well but battling the puck is not his forte. A stronger
Bouchard would be faster and very dangerous. The potential is there for him
to become one of the best player out of this draft, if he works very hard.
Drouin-Deslauriers, QMJHL: Originally behind early favorite Maxime
Daignault, Jeff improved his stock this year with steady play. Is less of a
risk than Daignault and has the size to make scouts drool. Needs a lot of work
but could end up being a steal. Not talked about much in this draft, which is
puzzling. The Sens have as much depth as anyone goaltending-wise but as demonstrated
by the Flyers (who not so long ago had Boucher, Niitymaki, Ouellet and Pelletier),
things can change awfully fast. What’s more, none of the present backstoppers
has painted himself has a definite franchise goalie. It is unlikely he will
be drafted by Ottawa but this wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he was.
He may not be what the Sens want or need. But if he is still available, he will
certainly be among the top 5 best players available when the Sens’ turn
to pick comes.
Evseev, RUS: Was seen as a potential top 5 pick earlier but fell
down the rankings all year long. Evseev has all the basic skills and NHL size
you want from a good scoring winger. There was hope he might be a poor man’s
Kovalev but he suffered injuries and when playing, simply failed to deliver.
The potential is still there however and sooner or later, someone will take
a chance on him in the first round. He skates well and fast, which would make
him feel right at home in Ottawa. The key is whether the Sens’ scouting staff
thinks this was an off year or not. At 16th overall, Evseev would be tempting.
Even if Evseev never develops a scoring touch, he could still be a very useful
Koreis, CZE: Another prospect who might have been rated
higher if not for injuries. Has been hurt this year and last which makes him
an enigma. Koreis did not produce Hudler-like numbers, but his size could make
up for it. Could have Radek Bonk upside. He is a risky pick who could pay big.
It is very difficult to assess him and it is also impossible to predict where he
will be taken. When playing, Koreis has been inconsistent, sometimes showing
great qualities, sometimes not playing very well. He is rated across the board
by different scouts. There are concerns over his skating. What makes Koreis
somewhat special is that few players possess this mix of size, power and skills
this year. Koreis also excels defensively. Could end up being a versatile NHLer
you can count on. He seems like a good match for the Sens.
Taticek, OHL: This is a name we have heard more and more, lately.
Playing in North America, Petr had lots of exposure and is somewhat of a known
quantity. After a few games, he grows on you as a diligent and talented player.
Despite the very high ratio of assists versus goals, Taticek has a decent scoring
touch but he seems to challenge himself into making the pretty play. He needs
some work in that area has he sometimes tends to opt for low-percentage plays.
Like many young playmakers, Petr thinks too much right now but this is nothing
to worry about. It is part of the maturing process when playing in junior hockey,
where you have that extra second to figure out what to do. Regardless of all
that, Taticek is a known quantity. He offers skills, has great size and is reasonably
well-rounded. One of the few players talented enough to maybe one day play on
a first line. He certainly has the confidence to do so. Could be gone by the
time the Senators make their choice. If not, he will be among the top candidates.
Vagner, QMJHL: Highly-regarded by many, thanks to his all-around
abilities. Vagner plays well both ends, skates well and although only 6 foot
1, packs a lot of meat on that frame. He is mature for his age, physically.
Some say he lacks a mean streak but it is somewhat overstated. The problem with
Vagner is the lack of any edge. He has no glaring weakness but does not seem
to do anything particularly well. Seems to have second pairing potential and
not much more. Could be a useful guy but there is little risk of hitting a home
run with that player. This year he’d be a good first round selection,
but maybe a little lower than 16th overall. The Sens could still be tempted
but it seems unlikely he will be their choice.
Unusual Suspects: They would be surprise picks. But you can
still make sense of those picks if you look closer.
Bergenheim, FIN: A very energetic player. Will most probably not
become a first liner but has the potential to be a good second line support
player that dominating teams like to have. He is fast and plays the game NHL-style.
He is inconsistent but reportedly has a good attitude. Some are concerned by
the lack of scoring but even if Bergeinheim kept struggling in that area, he
could still be a good utility player. He needs to polish his play and have a
better understanding of the game. Overall has good tools and the will to improve.
Could be a hit or miss at the NHL level. This is probably too early for Bergenheim.
He somewhat redeemed himself in tournaments late this year, scoring a few goals.
This could make the difference for him.
Fernholm, SWE: Plagued by injuries for a long time now, Fernholm’s
name is often whispered as a potential sleeper pick. Has impressive size, which
is rare among good players in this draft. The raw talent seems to be there but
has lost valuable development time playing in a sub par environment the rare
times he could actually play. The Sens often make gutsy picks and Fernholm could
be their man if they are convinced he is a player. Has “boom or bust”
written all over him but what if Fernholm was simply an honest 3rd pairing defenseman/7th
blueliner? His story seems similar to what Allen is going through in Vancouver.
In any event, the drafting future of Daniel could depend as much on doctors
as it depends on scouts. Anyone willing to draft him early would no doubt want
to be sure he isn’t damaged goods. His name is on everyone’s lips
right now, but it seems unlikely the Sens would draft him this early.
Koltsov, RUS: Failed to opt-in in 2001 and did not rise in 2002.
This is a concern for some teams. Has not elevated his game and the scouting
reports mostly remains the same; he is on the small size, extremely talented
but undisciplined. Playing in the NHL might challenge him at last, or he may
simply not be able to keep up with this regimen. However, for his size, has
kind of a mean streak. He is also a confident player which many scouts like.
Sometimes rise up to the occasion in big games. Seems to have a Vladimir Malakhov
attitude but without the tools. Should have improved more than he did but an
organization convinced they can turn the kid around will pick him sooner or
later, in the 1st round. The Sens have been daring with certain of their selections.
They will look past his bad reputation and if they think he is the right player,
will pick him.
Stephan, SWI: A sleeper, the kind of pick the Sens could surprise
observers with. The fact he could play in European leagues for a few years would
mean it is one less goaltender to deal with. While it never hurts to have outstanding
depth at any position, goaltending sometimes offer a real challenge because
sooner or later, all these kids need to play somewhere once junior is over.
Playing in European leagues as opposed to the farm solves this problem in part.
Stephan was impressive at the WJC, but word is that is his usual form. Seems
steady and confident. Confidence is key and Tobias is calm and collected. Might
be rated higher if he played elsewhere. Great size, performed well, good tools.
Stoll, WHL: Has not improved by leaps and bounds but did not fall
too much. Stoll has captained Team Canada at the WJC, in which he had a better
showing than the previous year. He is also hailed has a hard working player
with leadership qualities and talent. There is a rift in assessments, however.
Some see him as a good 2nd liner, others has a mediocre 3rd line forward. But
looking at this draft, many of the bottom 1st round favorites have a similar
projected upside and more question marks. He is a coachable kid who will work
toward his goal. However, he would not be the best player at 16th overall.
The Senators could judge that they lack and need this kind of player in the
organization but it seems unlikely.
Mirror, mirror: After this review of the various candidates,
here are five jumping at you. This writer feels one of them is likely to be drafted 16th overall by the Senanors.
1-D Denis Grebeshkov: Not flashy, but extremely convincing
by his steadiness. Even though he is labelled as mature, there is still room
to improve even more. The Sens are never blinded by promises such as size and
instead concentrate on skills and smarts. Sure, the blueline is packed, there
is plenty of depth at that position in the organization. But the magical letters
B P A (best player available) could make the difference.
2-C Petr Taticek: Seems a notch above most
of the others. Has great upside, few weaknesses. NHL size and mindset.A potential
home run. He would feel right at home in Ottawa. The Sens are thin in the middle.
Things are looking up on the farm but the arrival of Spezza and Vermette, sooner
or later, would be filled by Taticek. The Sens like creativity.
3-C Jakub Koreis: The Sens may need to replace Radek Bonk
sooner or later, and Koreis could be their man. He is a power center who could
help the Sens. The lack of size and strength in the organization goes deep all
the way to the prospects. With Nash gone, he may be the best forward combination
of power and skills. Injury concerns aside, he is a good bet and could pay big.
4-LW Daniel Paille: This would not be a conventional pick
for the Senators, but might be a welcome change. If the Sens want to change
the outlook of the team and make this a team that will go to war, Paille might
be an excellent choice. His skills are somewhat underrated. Plays hockey the
way it was meant to be played, with heart, determination and smarts. He is every
coach’s dream. To build a contender, you need such players. Has 2nd line upside
and will be versatile.
5-G Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers: Several Sens fans may be scratching
their head reading this. Yes, the Senators have a stable of netminders, many
carrying interesting potential. However, Jeff may be one of the most underrated
prospect this year. He would be a surprising selection but would that be a first
for the Senators? They have surprised everybody more than once. He is extremely
raw, but his size combined with his quickness make him a great prospect. He
is intimidating and his confidence has improved drastically. His upside is not
much different from Pascal Leclaire, who was drafted much higher in a much deeper
pool. Depending on where he is selected, Drouin could be the steal of the draft.
Many of the potential 1st rounders this year seem to hold 3rd line promise.
There is the possibility Drouin will end up a #1 goaltender. Now, would you
prefer a 3rd liner to fill the shoes of a good player on a scoring line, or
a bargain chip like Drouin to get that good player?
Can you say Boucher for Handzus? Repeat like a mantra: BPA, BPA, BPA…
Senators’ selections in 2002: It should be an interesting
draft for Sens fans. The team will have a chance at reaching a few times in
the 4th round, where they will pick three times. Even though there hasn’t been
too much noise, it is not impossible the Senators will be active this week-end
and maybe trade up or down, or acquire players. It seems Rick Nash, who will
be gone very early, would be what the Senators need. But after the big Yashin
trade last year, it seems unlikely they will pull a similar stunt two years
in a row. It seems more likely that the Sens will have scouted europe very thoroughly
and surprise us all by calling names we have not heard much of. This draft is
not only thin in talent. It seems there aren’t too many players of impressive
size. More than ever, the Senators may look for boom-or-bust players, with a
few hard workers here and there.
Possibilities: 1-D Jesse Lane, QMJHL small and energetic,
sometimes outshines teammate Martin Vagner in Hull. 2- D Johnny Boychuk, WHL:
Can deliver nasty checks but very raw. Will likely be gone. 3- C Alex Steen,
SWE: Hard work and a well-rounded game. Not a difference maker but could be
invaluable in a support role. 4- C Patrick Thoresen, QMJHL: Blessed with natural
talent. Offensive flair but inconsistent. Needs work but could pay big. Is rated
across the board.