Ottawa top 20 prospects reranked

By HF Staff


the mid-way point of the hockey season, it’s time to re-rank the Ottawa
Senators prospects around the globe based on their development. There is little
doubt Ray Emery deserves to be on top of the list, and second-ranked prospect
Antoine Vermette has all but officially graduated. It is after Vermette where
the list gets cloudy, marked by a collection of six prospects who are all very
close in terms of ability. It is possible that at the end of the year, the
prospects ranked number three through number eight could be in reverse order.
Below is a mid-season ranking of the organization’s top 20 prospects.


1.  Ray Emery, G, Binghamton (AHL) – Previous Rank: 1


Emery maintains the top spot at this point in the season, a spot he has held
since Jason Spezza became a mainstay with the Senators. A pure steal in the
fourth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Emery has already endeared himself to
Sens fans despite only four career games in the NHL. A big goalie who uses his
size to his advantage, Emery is incredibly athletic. While many large goalies
rely primarily on technique to succeed, the Cayuga, Ontario product is only now
starting to fine-tune his technical skills — a testament to his raw abilities.
One of the top goalies in the AHL last year, he will once again make an
appearance in the AHL All-Star Classic this season. In 26 games with Binghamton
this season, Emery has a 2.25 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage.
In his only game with the big club, Emery stopped 27 of 28 shots for a victory,
although he is not expected to have a regular role in Ottawa until at least
next season.


2. Antoine Vermette,
C/LW, Ottawa (NHL)
– Previous Rank: 2


to graduate from prospect status, Vermette has only played three games in the
AHL this season, but has yet to hit 41 games played, so is technically still a
prospect. This season has been a major step forward for the forward, whose
career once was in doubt. After a fantastic rookie pro season with Binghamton last
season, the St-Agapit, Quebec native made the big squad if only because of
injuries. He quickly established himself as a valuable member of the penalty
kill, and slowly earned more ice time with more gifted linemates. Known for his
breathtaking speed, Vermette possesses impressive hockey sense and has the
hands and offensive skills to put up points in the NHL. Through 35 games in
Ottawa he has four goals and four assists and appears to be in Ottawa to stay.
Upon returning from his current shoulder injury, he could continue to see ice
time on a scoring line. 


3. Igor Mirnov, LW,
Dynamo Moscow (Russian Super League) –
Previous Rank: 6


Emery and Vermette, the Senators have a collection of six prospects that are
all very close, and at present time Igor Mirnov may be the best of the bunch.
The club’s second round pick in the most recent draft, Mirnov was generally
considered a first round talent, but for any number of reasons dropped in the
rankings. A fantastic skater with a great shot, Mirnov has the potential to be
a great two-way player, but needs to refine his game. Mirnov got off to a
fantastic start, but suffered a knee injury in the middle of December, which
caused him to miss the World Juniors. At the present time, he has seven goals
and 11 points in 38 games for a talented Dynamo team. One issue for Mirnov is
his conditioning, which has come into questioning in the past, and may have
caused his drop on draft day. This is not unusual for Russian prospects though,
and the Senators’ very own Anton Volchenkov came to North America in poor
shape, and is still working to rectify the problem.


4. Brandon Bochenski,
LW, North Dakota (NCAA) –
Previous Rank: 7


Senators have never had a Hobey Baker finalist, let alone a winner. That could
change this year, as Brandon Bochenski, a junior winger at the University of
North Dakota, is the early favourite for the trophy given to the top college
hockey player in the United States each year. Despite being the 238th
player selected in 2001, Bochenski has major scoring upside and could be the
answer to the Senators’ lingering question marks on left wing. The complete
package up front, Bochenski has size, skill and smarts. Blessed with great
hands and an NHL-caliber shot, Bochenski also has the size at 6’2” and almost
200 pounds to fight off checks. What makes him such an effective goal scorer
though, are his natural instincts and hockey sense. His most notable flaw has
been his skating in the past, but Bochenski has worked hard to improve his on
his quickness. After a strong sophomore season playing alongside New Jersey
Devils top prospect Zach Parise, Bochenski has been around a goal-a-game pace
all season, and currently has 20 goals and 37 points in 21 games. Bochenski has
the potential to be a big scorer in the NHL, but will most likely require some
fine-tuning in the AHL first.


5. Brooks Laich, C,
Binghamton (AHL) –
Previous Rank: 3


the Senators, the 2001 draft has yielded a plethora of very good prospects and
young players and Brooks Laich is another player selected by the team that
year. The 193rd player selected in his draft year, Laich wasn’t even
ranked by Central Scouting, but busted out in his two subsequent junior
seasons. In his final year, he not only was a finalist for the rookie of the
year in the WHL, but put up six points for the Canadian entry at the 2003 World
Junior Championships. This year, Laich got off to a slow start, but has picked
it up of late. With 18 points in 32 games, the Wawota, Saskatchewan native will
only improve his offensive production before eventually making the big squad. A
hard-working forward with size and speed, Laich may not have the skills to be a
major scoring threat, but regardless, should make at least a great third line


6. Patrick Eaves, C,
Boston College (NCAA) –
Previous Rank: 5


story of Patrick Eaves is pretty simple. He would be a better prospect if not
for the injuries. Had the Boston College forward not suffered a major
concussion last year, he most likely would have gone much higher in the 2003
NHL Entry Draft. A coach’s player, Eaves’ father was the bench boss for the
gold medal winning American squad at the World Junior Championships, and Eaves
showed off his talents at this tournament. While not big, Eaves does play an
abrasive style, and will sacrifice his body to block shots and make plays.
While Eaves is a scorer in college, he may simply team with Laich to form a
great third line in the future. This season, Eaves has already suffered two
minor injuries, one to his knee in December, and a chest injury since returning
from the World Junior Championships. Despite missing time with injuries and to
go to the World Juniors, Eaves still has five goals and 18 points in 16 games.


7. Jan Platil, D,
Binghamton (AHL) –
Previous Rank: 10


Jan Platil’s point production has been disappointing in his first professional
campaign, the former Barrie Colts defenseman is still a very promising
prospect. Despite producing a fair amount of offense from the blueline in
junior, Platil looks to be more of a physical, punishing defenseman, at least
in the pro game. A very raw player, the Kladno, Czech Republic native should
see much more ice time next year as some of the older defensemen in Binghamton
graduate or move on. Platil only has one assist in 40 games this season,
although his 72 penalty minutes show he is still bringing his physical brand of
hockey to the ice.


8. Alexei Kaigorodov, C,
Mettalburg Magnitogorsk (RSL) –
Previous Rank: 4


one time there was talk Alexei Kaigorodov was considering coming to North
America this season after a fantastic 2002-03 season with Mettalburg in the
Russian Super League. After putting up eight goals and 22 points in 46 games
last year, Kaigorodov was selected to play for the Russian World Championship
team, rare for a player so young. This was in large part because Kaigorodov is
known for being an incredibly smart and responsible two-way player. This season
has been a major disappointment, as he has only two goals and seven points 35
games. That being said, Kaigorodov had only four assists in his first 31 games,
but has two goals and three points in his last four games, and could be pulling
out of a prolonged slump. Kaigorodov could be much higher on this list at the
end of the season. 


9. Billy Thompson, G,
Binghamton (AHL) –
Previous Rank: 13


of two prospects acquired in exchange for Jani Hurme at the start of the
2002-03 season, Billy Thompson is a huge goalie who has had a good start to his
professional career. Emery’s backup was at one point pushing for more
significant playing time, before cooling off. The Saskatoon native does not
have starter’s potential, but could be a very good backup, and if Emery
graduates next season, could have several good years in the AHL before playing
with the big club. For a number of reasons, Thompson has played 20 games this
season, and has a 2.79 GAA and .902 save percentage in those games.


10. Christoph Schubert,
D, Binghamton (AHL) –
Previous Rank: 8


to Platil in many ways, Schubert has not busted out this season the way the
Senators had hoped. With Brian Pothier up with the big club, he has failed to
take on a great offensive role with Binghamton and only has two goals and seven
points in 42 games. With a good frame and good mobility, Schubert needs to improve
his consistency to take the next step in his pro career.


11. Philippe Seydoux, D,
Kloten Flyers (Swiss League) –
Previous Rank: 12


another well-rounded defenseman within the system, Philippe Seydoux has had a
good season with Kloten. Through 17 games, the Senators 2003 third round pick
has registered two goals and four points, but is known more for his physical
play than his offense. The question about Seydoux is whether he can play his
nasty, in-your-face style in the much tougher North American professional


12. Julien Vauclair, D,
Binghamton (AHL) –
Previous Rank: 11


labeled the Swiss Laukannen, Julien Vauclair is similar to Seydoux, although he
does not bring enough of a physical game to the rink. An AHL All-Star for the
first time in his career, Vauclair has two goals and 16 points in 42 games this
season, and even played his first NHL game with the Senators. Vauclair may make
the Senators as a seventh defenseman next year, or else he will be picked up on
waivers by another organization.


13. Mattias Karlsson, D,
Brynas (Swedish Elite League) –
Previous Rank: 9


Matthias Karlsson did not get selected to the Swedish World Junior team,
although he should have no problem making the squad next year. Despite having impressive
potential, Karlsson has not had a great season, having failed to record a point
in 34 games in the Elite League. With the farm team for Brynas, he has put up
eight points in 15 games.


14. Alexandre Giroux,
LW, Binghamton (AHL) –
Previous Rank NR


project of sorts, Alexandre Giroux was drafted as a 6’3” beanpole who weighed
only about 160 pounds. Now up to 197 pounds, the Quebec City native has started
producing more offense this year with 23 points in 38 AHL games, and was one of
the final cuts in training camp for the Senators. Has the potential to be a
good checker who can produce some offense as well.


15. Chris Kelly, RW,
Binghamton (AHL) –
Previous Rank: 17


Kelly is a bit of a forgotten prospect within the Senators organization. Never
a huge junior scorer, Kelly provides speed, grit, leadership and intelligence,
and has quietly put up some offensive numbers in the AHL this season. His 28
points in 42 games are impressive, as is his team leading +12 mark. In reality,
Kelly likely will never be more than a fourth liner with penalty killing


16. Scott Dobben, LW,
Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) –
Previous Rank: 18


a terrible 2002-03 campaign, Scott Dobben has put together a good overage
season this year, combining with top prospect Jeff Carter to form a potent
offensive unit for the Soo. So far, the Drayton, Ontario native has posted 49
points in 45 games, and has begun to use his size more to his advantage. Dobben
will most likely play in Binghamton next season, if he is signed before July 1st.


17. Sergey Gimayev, D,
Severstal Cherepovets (RSL) –
Previous Rank: NR


his selection to the Russian World Junior Team was somewhat of a surprise,
Gimayev had a successful tournament, and has played the entire season in the
Russian Super League. Despite being part of a less than stellar squad, Gimayev
has yet to receive significant ice time, and only has one goal in 36 games. The
problem for Gimayev is that he loves to play physical hockey, but unlike other
defense prospects such as Platil and Seydoux, he may not have the size or mass
to play his style effectively in North America.


18. Johan Bjork, D, MIF
Redhawks (SEL) –
Previous Rank: NR


final Senators prospect to participate in this year’s World Junior
Championships, Johan Bjork is an all-round blueliner who has good skating
ability and decent size, but does not excel in any one area of the game.
Similar to Karlsson, the 2002 fourth round pick has split time between the
Elite League and the juniors. In 27 games with the big club, he has only a
single goal, but at the junior level, he has produced nine points, four of them
goals, in 16 games.


19. Neil Komadoski, D,
Notre Dame (NCAA) –
Previous Rank: NR


a senior in college, Neil Komadoski has a chance to play for Binghamton next
season, but whether or not he gets signed is a question mark. A physical,
steady, defensive defenseman by trade, the Missouri native hopes to follow in
his father Neil Komadoski Sr.’s footsteps. The senior Komadoski played over 500
games in the NHL, although the Senators organization is unlikely to be the
place where Komadoski breaks into the league. Through 24 games, Komadoski has
registered 13 points.


20. Greg Watson, C,
Binghamton (AHL) –
Previous Rank: 15


a highly touted prospect who went in the early second round to Florida in 2001,
Watson failed to improve throughout his junior career and has had anything but
a good start to his professional career. Big and tough with decent skating
abilities, Watson clearly lacks some offensive skills, as evidenced by his four
points in 37 games thus far, but could make the NHL in a very limited role at
some point.



The mid-season rankings were compiled by Scott
Petersen, Nick Quain, Sean Keogh and Carl Weisbrot.