Senators 1999 draft evaluation

By Sean Keogh






Senators 1999 Draft Evaluation


Back in
1999, things were quite different in Ottawa. Daniel Alfredsson and Alexei
Yashin were the two biggest names on the team. Radek Bonk had yet to really
break-out, but Marian Hossa had put together a highly successful rookie
campaign considering he had torn his ACL in the Memorial Cup the year before.
Shawn McEachern was another notable forward who had scored 30 goals for the
first time in his career. On the blueline, there was no Zdeno Chara and Chris
Phillips was not a factor yet.

 

It was not
considered to be a deep draft and with the Senators coming off their best
season ever, they had the 26th pick in the draft. For a team that
had only twice had their first round pick out of the top 3, never any lower
than 15, this was a significant change for the organization.

 

The
organization had 10 selections in 1999, and so far those 10 players have played
330 games in the NHL, for an average of 33 games per pick. Only two players out
of those 10 have played more than four games, and the Senators first round pick
that year makes up 280 of those 330 games. That being said, looking back at the
draft, the Senators have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

 

Martin Havlat, C – 1st
round, 26th overall (Trinec – Czech Republic)

Status: NHL Star

NHL Game Played: 280

 

In his
draft year, Havlat was a riser. A strong finish to the season vaulted him to
third on Central Scouting Bureau’s rankings among European players behind only
the highly touted Sedin twins. The questions were not about Havlat’s skill, but
his all-round game. Nonetheless, Havlat dropping to the Senators was somewhat
surprising. Luca Cereda and Mikhail Kuleshov, both more or less busts today,
were in the two spots before Havlat, and both were less highly regarded
offensive European forwards. The Senators, even with a plethora of young talent
on board already in Ottawa, snatched up Havlat at this position and they never
looked back.

 

Many now
agree that Havlat is the best player to come out of his draft year. After
returning to Trinec and lighting up the Czech League in 1999-00, Havlat’s hype
started to develop. At 19 he came over to North America and instantly was a
success in Ottawa. In 73 games as a rookie, the flashy Mlada Boleslav native
put up 42 points, 19 of them goals. His successful debut season where he
immediately became a fan favorite for his speed, hands and willingness to make
jaw-dropping moves at top speed, earned him a place on the NHL All-Rookie Team.

 

The next
two years, Havlat’s production rose consistently. His 59 points in 67 games in
2002-03 were remarkable for a 21-year-old third liner. Two questions about
Havlat remained: defensive play and groin injuries. This past season, Havlat
answered any questions about his defensive play. Head Coach Jacques Martin
worked Havlat hard, and made him into a dependable two-way forward just as he
had previously done with Marian Hossa. Considering how players such as Patrik
Stefan, Pavel Brendl, Tim Connolly, Kris Beech, Jamie Lundmark and to a lesser
extent the Sedin twins have disappointed since being drafted in the top 10 in
1999, the Senators have to be considered the run away winners in the first
round. To get a player who scored a point a game at 22-year-old (68 points in
68 games) with the third to last pick in a first round that does not have
another player who has scored 20 goals since 2000-01, is pretty impressive.

 

Simon Lajeunesse, G – 2nd
round, 48th overall (Moncton – QMJHL)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0

 

When
selected 48th overall in 1999, Lajeunesse was thought to be a
potential steal. Although he had yet to be a starting goaltender in the QMJHL,
the talent was there. The following season Lajeunesse busted out as Moncton’s
starter, winning the Jacques Plante Trophy for QMJHL Goaltender of the Year,
and teaming with Mathieu Chouinard to give the Senators two great goaltending
prospects for the future. The Quebec City native started his final junior
season in with Acadie-Bathurst, but was dealt to Val-d’Or around mid season, to
help them with their playoff run. Val-d’Or won the QMJHL title, but the
19-year-old Lajeunesse was not in goal. Despite an 8-4 record in the playoffs,
his goals against average was over four and his save percentage a dismal .884
percent. In the Memorial Cup, his supposed understudy, 16-year-old Maxime Daigneault,
was the starter. This raised questions as to whether the Senators would even
sign the inconsistent goaltending prospect.

 

They did in
fact sign him before he had a chance to re-enter the draft, and the hope was
that Lajeunesse could once again find his form from his award-winning 1999-00
season. He started the year with Mobile of the ECHL, but quickly became a
fixture with the Senators AHL farm team in Grand Rapids. In 26 games there, he
put up a sparkling 2.11 GAA, and shared the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Trophy
for fewest goals against in an AHL campaign with fellow Senators goaltending
prospects Martin Prusek and Mathieu Chouinard. He even got a call up to Ottawa
playing 24 minutes in relief and stopping all nine shots he faced.
Unfortunately, Lajeunesse struggled the following season with the Senators new
AHL affiliate in Binghamton and he was consequently dealt to Florida for spare
part Joey Tetarenko. This past season was a disaster for Lajeunesse in the
Panthers system, playing only 11 games between the ECHL and AHL, struggling at
both levels. His future is cloudy, and certainly his inability to duplicate a
successful campaign has made him one of the stranger prospects to ever be
drafted by the Ottawa Senators.

 

Teemu Sainomaa, LW – 2nd
round, 62nd overall (Jokerit Helsinki Jr. – Finland)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0

 

Former
Senators draft guru Jarmo Kekalainen loved to draft out of his native Finland.
In 1999, he felt he had a scoop on a big Finnish winger named Teemu Sainomaa,
and used the team’s third selection, second of the second round, on the raw
talent. Attractive because of his big frame and nose for the net, Sainomaa put
up nine points in 11 games with Jokerit’s junior team in his draft year.
Unfortunately he struggled at the Elite League level, scoring only four goals
in 129 games at that level in four seasons from 1999 to 2003. Despite being
labeled the type of player who would thrive on the smaller ice surface, he has
never come over to North America and at this point, he is no longer worth
tracking as a prospect. Considering fellow Finn and current Panthers winger
Niklas Hagman went eight selections later, among other notable players, this
was a significant low-light for Kekalainen while in Ottawa.

 

Chris Kelly, C – 3rd
round, 94th overall (London – OHL)

Status: NHL Prospect

NHL Games Played: 4

 

Nobody has
ever asked Chris Kelly to light the world on fire with his scoring, but when
the Senators drafted the Toronto native out of London of the OHL, they saw more
than offensive upside. A November birthday made him the youngest Senators pick
out of North America in 1999, and his maturity was part of what made him
attractive to Ottawa. A born leader and well-developed defensive players, Kelly
never duplicated his 36 goals or 77 points that he posted in his draft year,
but he progressed as an all-round player. His first professional campaign
included a brief stint in the United Hockey League, along with fourth line duty
in Grand Rapids of the AHL. The next two years he improved dramatically in
Binghamton, even earning a four game call-up this year to play with the
Senators. While in the NHL, Kelly impressed with his ability to play on the
penalty kill, and blocked several shots which must have impressed the coaching
staff. Unfortunately for Kelly, the stint ended with a serious knee injury that
also damaged a successful minor league season. Still a prospect, Kelly has a
fair shot at a roster spot next season with Ottawa, and has developed his game
to the point where he could become a decent checking line forward in the
NHL. 

 

Andrew Ianiero, LW – 5th
round, 154th overall (Kingston – OHL)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0

 

Some
players never really improve after their draft year, and Ianiero is one of
them. Drafted in the fifth round after an impressive rookie campaign with
Kingston of the OHL, the Hamilton native never really broke out in the OHL.
While his point production increased minimally in each of his first three
years, the Senators did not feel he was worthy signing. He re-entered the draft
in 2001, but was not taken and played his fourth season in Kingston as an
overager, where he only put up six more points than he did in his draft year.
At this point in his career, Ianiero is playing under contract in the ECHL, and
had a good 2003-04 campaign, but is no longer a prospect considering at 23
years old he has yet to play in the AHL.

 

Martin Prusek, G – 6th
round, 164th overall (Vitkovice HC – Czech Republic)

Status: NHL Player

NHL Games Played: 48

 

The
Senators in the late 1990s quickly became notorious for finding late round
gems, drafting out of Europe. Often times these players such as Daniel
Alfredsson and Magnus Arvedsson, were much older than the top players taken in
their draft year. Prusek was another one of these instances, being taken in the
sixth round as a 23-year-old goaltender. After playing two more seasons in the
Czech Republic, the lanky Ostrava native came over to North America and
proceeded to dominate. Known for his remarkable resemblance to NHL superstar
and fellow Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek, Prusek put up some of the best
numbers the AHL had seen in the last 50 years in his first season with the
Senators minor league affiliate in Binghamton. He won the Baz Bastien Memorial
Trophy as the AHL’s top goaltender among other awards, and forced the Senators
to deal back-up goalie Jani Hurme to make room in goal for the 2002-03 season.

 

To date,
Prusek has played in 48 NHL games, posting a 28-9-4 record in those contests,
along with some sparkling numbers (2.23 GAA, .913 save percentage) along the
way. What is incredible about Prusek is that he came to North America with
virtually no technical coaching. His idea of playing goaltender was to simply
stop the puck any way he could, and it had been successful for him considering
his supreme athletic ability. This past season the Senators worked hard with
Prusek to round out his game and it could pay off as there is a good chance
this sixth round pick could be the Senators starter next season.

 

Mikko Ruutu. RW – 7th
round, 201st overall (HIFK Helsinki- Finland)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0

 

Being the
younger brother of Jarko and the older brother of Tuomo is probably the most
notable accomplishment of Mikko Ruutu’s career thus far. Drafted out of
Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League, the lanky Finn came over to play one
season with Clarkson University only to return home the following season. While
Jarko and Tuomo are now regular players with Vancouver and Chicago
respectively, Mikko is now doing television commentary for hockey games back in
Finland.

 

Layne Ulmer, C – 7th
round, 209th overall (Swift Current – WHL)

Status: NHL Prospect

NHL Games Played: 1

 

Ulmer has
always been able to score goals. In his draft season, he put up 40 goals. He
followed that up with 50 goals in 1999-00 and then 63 in his final junior
campaign. His total over those three years in the WHL was matched only by
former stud prospect Pavel Brendl. Regardless of his development offensively,
Ulmer did not get a contract with the Senators when he finished his junior
career. The problem is that despite decent size and a great shot, Ulmer is
slow, inconsistent and often times he would neglect his defensive
responsibilities. After the Senators let him walk, the New York Rangers signed
the North Battleford native and has played three seasons of professional hockey
with that organization. This season, he played his first NHL game with the
Rangers, but considering his deficiencies, he is unlikely to ever stick in the
NHL.

 

Alexandre Giroux, C – 7th
round, 213th overall (Hull- QMJHL)

Status: NHL Prospect

NHL Games Played: 0

 

Seldom in
their history have the Senators picked a player off a local junior team. They
found a steal in Hull in 1999, as they selected Alexandre Giroux out the
Gatineau-area team. Drafted as a string bean of a center at 6’3” and 165
pounds, Giroux proceeded to break out the following season scoring 52 goals and
99 points with Hull. He repeated that performance in 2000-01, splitting the
season between Hull and Rouyn-Noranda. Nonetheless, the knock on Giroux was
still his underdeveloped frame.

 

Giroux earned a contract with the Senators, and had a
reasonable first season with Binghamton putting up 27 points in 70 games, with
limited ice time. He was solidifying his status as a solid prospect with the
organization. Most importantly in his first few seasons in the AHL, he bulked
up to close to 200 pounds. This past September, he was one of the last cuts for
the team, after a fantastic training camp and pre-season where he showed not only
offensive upside, but a willingness to play physically as well. He hit the
ground running with Binghamton, but suffered an early on in the season and lost
much of his momentum. The Quebec City native was dealt to the New York Rangers
along with rearguard Karel Rachunek at the trade deadline, and it is possible
that he could earn a spot on a rebuilding Rangers squad next season.

 

Konstantin Gorovikov, C – 9th
round, 269th overall (SKA St. Petersburg- Russia)

Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0

 

Already 22
years old when he was drafted, Gorovikov had played a couple of seasons in the
Russian Super League with some success offensively. He played the next two
seasons in the now defunct International Hockey League with the Senators
affiliate in Grand Rapids, but only put up 16 goals in the two seasons.
Undersized and hardly a physical factor, the 1999 ninth round pick returned
home following the 2000-01 season and will most likely play out the rest of his
career in the Russian Super League.