Senators: Draft History and Trends

By Sean Keogh

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It’s hardly a
secret the Ottawa Senators consider the NHL Entry Draft to be of great

The annual draft is important to all franchises but holds special meaning to
small market teams, like the Senators, who use it as the main way to gain
assets. It’s the life-blood of their developmental system.

The 2002-03 President’s Trophy winning Senators are continually among the best
teams in the NHL because of their abilities at the draft table, not because they
continually chase big name free agents like many of their big market peers.

Looking at the
Senators roster, there are no fewer than 13 players on the roster drafted by the
Senators, and several more including Wade Redden, Todd White and Shane Hnidy who
have come up through the Senators system. The Senators have players on their
roster who were drafted everywhere from first overall to 229th. Upon
further review though, it’s clear that certain types of picks have turned up
better results for the Senators.

Where they come

The first trend to
notice is the Senators draft very well out of Eastern Europe, specifically the
Czech Republic and Slovakia. Six of the franchise’s twelve first round picks
were born in Slovakia, Russia or the Czech Republic. Five of them (Alexei Yashin,
Radek Bonk, Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Anton Volchenkov) have all made the

Jakub Klepis, the missing member, was the first round pick in 2002 and was dealt
for spark-plug Vaclav Varada.

Hossa, Havlat and Bonk are all
core players on the Senators integral to the team’s current and future
success. It wouldn’t be overzealous to include Volchenkov in that group for
the future either.

The Sentators
are sometimes credited with the movement towards picking older, proven players
from European ranks. Players like Roman Cechmanek, Frantisek Kaberle and Niclas
Havelid are prime examples of established players brought in from overseas.

Part of the reason
the Senators had such success drafting out of Europe was due to former director
of amateur scouting Jarmo Kekalainen, who actually played for the Senators in
the 1993-94 season. He departed after last season, for a similar job with the
St. Louis Blues but it’s not yet known how much of an impact his departure
will have.

The other six
Senators first-rounders have all been drafted out of the Canadian Hockey League,
four with the first overall selection. Alexandre Daigle has become the poster
boy for the term draft day bust. But among the other CHL picks, Bryan Berard
turned into star defenseman, and Wade Redden and Chris Phillips is developing
into the player the Sens thought he’d be when they drafted him. Jason Spezza,
of course, is only 19 years old, and appears to have a great future ahead of
him. The two other North American first round picks were Tim Gleason and Mathieu
Chouinard. Gleason, like Klepis, was dealt before the NHL’s trade deadline to
bolster the playoff run. Chouinard, who re-entered after being taken 16th
overall in 1998, was selected a second time by the Senators in 2000. He may be
done with this organization with his contract up this summer.

When they’re

The Senators have had
success in the middle rounds of the draft. Up until 1997, the Senators drafted
what turned out to be little other than depth defensemen Stan Neckar (29th
in 1994), Radim Bicanek (27th in 1993) and Patrick Traverse (50th
in 1992). While all three played in a Senators uniform, all have had trouble
keeping a regular role around the league.

That pattern turned
around in 1997. The Senators added Jani Hurme (58th overall), Josh
Langfeld (66th overall), and Magnus Arvedsson (119th
overall). The success continued into 1998 with Mike Fisher (44th
overall) and Petr Schastlivy (101st overall). Both were impressive
selections. Top prospects Antoine Vermette, Ray Emery and Alexei Kaigorodov have
also been picked up in the middle part of the draft.

Late round gems are
where the Senators have outperformed almost every team in the NHL. In 1993, when
the Senators selected Pavol Demitra 227th overall, few would have
thought he’d emerge as an elite player. Unfortunately for the Senators, it
would not be in Ottawa.

Team captain Daniel Alfredsson
leads the franchise in most offensive categories and was a sixth round pick in
1994. Sami Salo and Karel Rachunek were added in the ninth and final rounds of
drafts of 1996 and 1997 respectively. Both are legitimate NHLers allowing the
Sens to either make a trade to fill another need or immediately fill a spot in
the lineup.

Other European
players the Senators have drafted in the late rounds include Martin Prusek, the
team’s back-up goaltender, Andreas Dackell, now with Montreal and Chris Neil,
the team’s fourth line bruiser.

It’s hard to judge the success
of players grabbed in recent drafts, but a little projection shows the Sens have
continued the tradition of draft day coups. Christoph Schubert and Stefan
Schauer are German defensemen with legitimate shots of one day playing in the

The late rounds of
2001 produced Brooks Laich, Jan Platil, Brandon Bochenski and Toni Dahlman. All
of these players have the chance to make an impact with the Sens in the near
future. Platil and Laich should turn pro next year, while Bochenski is expected
to take another year of US College hockey. Dahlman is already a versatile

Change of the

The Senators draft
team has undergone a lot of change recently. Andre Savard, a former general
manager of the Canadiens who remains in their system in the area of player
development, was the head scout for the Senators from 1995 to 2000. Trevor
Timmins, the former director of hockey operations with the Senators, joined
Savard in Montreal last summer as well. The final departure over the 2003 summer
was that of GM Marshall Johnston. John Muckler and his spotty draft record have
since replaced Johnston’s renowned scouting abilities.

Newcomer Anders
Hedberg is the director of player personnel, while long-time scout Frank Jay is
the current head scout. This draft is a major test for this new group to see
where they’ll rank in history at an important part of the Sens’ game plan.

In the past the team
has never shied away from taking risky players with the potential for a big
return. Hossa and Havlat are perfect examples of how the Senators braintrust has
used their instincts and staff and simply taken what they believed was the best
player available.

If history means
anything, the odds that the Senators use their first round selection on an
offensive player are pretty good. The front office has seen the wonders coach
Jacques Martin has done with numerous young players, molding them into complete
pros. In later rounds there will be a handful of wild card picks, many of them
players with some question marks surrounding them, but with plenty of potential.

The draft table will
have a significantly different feel to it this summer. But what will not change
is the emphasis placed on the draft. It is no secret that the primary source of
players for the Senators team is the draft. And, after winning the President’s
Trophy this past season, it’s tough to argue with that kind of success.