Senators 2004 draft review

By Sean Keogh

The mark of a fine drafting team is when they can continually have a stacked prospect list despite consistently drafting late in the first round. At the 2004 NHL Entry Draft in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Ottawa Senators once again made some impressive selections and also managed to fill some gaping holes within their prospect ranks. Of the 11 players selected by Ottawa, only two of them were defensemen, where the team already had great depth but lacked anybody with legitimate top four upside. That changed though, as those two defensemen selected were the first two picks for the Senators, with eight of the nine other picks being forwards. The Senators also spread their picks around the world, with two players from Russia and the USHL, and one from each of Slovakia, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL), the CCHA and the WHL.

Andrej Meszaros, D 1st round, 23rd overall.

As established in the draft preview, the Senators had a gaping hole heading into the draft in the area of top flight defense prospects. The reality though, was that the Senators almost always draft simply by the best player available strategy, and seeing as they did not expect one of the top defensemen in the draft to fall to them, looked as if they might draft a forward in the first round yet again. The Senators got lucky though. One of the draft’s biggest risers in the final months of the season, in large part due to a solid performance at the men’s World Championships in Prague. Perhaps the greatest praise came from the International Scouting Service, who ranked the Slovak defenseman fourth among all players eligible for this year’s draft.

Despite all of this, Meszaros fell to the Senators at the 23rd selection, where John Muckler and company quickly put his name on the back of a Senators jersey. Perhaps one of the reasons Meszaros fell were differing opinions over his dynamic offensive ability.

One NHL scout told Hockey’s Future before the draft that there’s plenty of flash to him, especially when comparing him to Czech defenseman (and Anaheim ninth overall pick) Ladislav Smid. Another praised him for being solid in every zone on the ice, but despite being a great powerful skater, “there’s nothing that you would call flashy in his game.”
Nonetheless, this is a talented, mature and well developed defenseman, something the Senators desperately need. Meszaros was selected in the 2004 CHL Import Draft, 16th overall by the Vancouver Giants, and although many believe he would be better off in Slovakia, it appears that he as well as goalie Marek Schwarz, a St. Louis first rounder, planned to play in Vancouver all along.

Kiril Lyamin, D 2nd round, 58th overall

For the third consecutive draft, the Senators took a Russian with their second round pick. In 2002, the Senators took Alexei Kaygorodov and in 2003, picked up Igor Mirnov. Both have progressed very well, and both look like potential steals where they were taken. A lot of this has to do with the prowess of Senators Russian scout Boris Shagas who was quite high on Lyamin as well. Projected to go in the late first round, or at worst the early second round, Lyamin fell on draft day. Most would argue that teams were scared of picking Russians because of the serious uncertainty surrounding transfer payments making it hard to bring Russian prospects over. Nonetheless, the Senators took the big Russian blueliner often compared to New York Rangers top prospect Fedor Tjutin. Like Meszaros, Lyamin is a mature player who thinks the game very well and is a stabilizing force along the blueline. In a draft that was often criticized for its lack of depth, to get a potential top four defenseman late in the second round is once again a great move for the Senators.

Shawn Weller, LW 3rd round, 77th overall

The New York state product will take his crash, bang and score game to Clarkson University next year. Weller has good size, good skating ability and plenty of energy and physicality to his credit. That being said, Weller is not expected to be the left wing power forward Ottawa has coveted for so long. There is potential, but Weller has to prove himself at the collegiate level, having only played in the somewhat obscure Eastern Junior Hockey League up to now. Weller rose consistently throughout the season, finishing 32nd among Central Scouting Bureau’s ranking of North American skaters, and as a result, many were considering Weller a potential second round selection. He is likely to take all four years in college, but the Senators have shown a lot of interest in drafting collegiate-bound players who they then let develop for four years in the NCAA.

Peter Regin, C 3rd round, 87th overall

Drafted out of the veritable hockey hotbed of Herning, Denmark, Regin is close to as good a prospect as Denmark has ever produced. With the Senators depth of young talent, they can take a flyer on this slick forward, who is what scouts call highly-skilled but still very much of a perimeter player. Of course Regin is hardly a safe pick. Playing in Denmark is not the best way to develop your offensive skills. One quirky thing about Regin that one NHL scout takes note of is that “he uses a stick that only comes up to about his rib cage but once he gets used to a longer stick he’ll be a better pro prospect.”

The good news is that Regin was selected by the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors in the CHL Import Draft and appears to be set to come over and play in the CHL. This is a sink or swim situation for the Herning native, but if he can adjust well to the North American game over the next two seasons, he could one day be a scorer in the NHL.

Jeff Glass, G 3rd round, 89th overall

The Senators do not lack for goaltending prospects, but they saw something they liked in the Kootenay Ice goaltender, and picked him in a deep draft for goaltenders, with their third and final third round pick. Another big but athletic goaltender for the Senators, Glass was not expected to go quite so high. A back-up last year in Kootenay, Glass played 57 games for an average Ice squad, but really came on in the second half especially. This second half surge caught many scouts’ eyes, and had many putting him in the second tier of goaltenders. There is work to be done with Glass because he is a bit raw, but so was Ray Emery when the Senators selected him in the fourth round of the 2002 Draft.

Alexander Nikulin, C 4th round, 122nd overall

There is a lot to like about Alexander Nikulin, another player who Senators Russian scout Boris Shagas was very high on. Despite being eligible to opt into the 2003 Draft, Nikulin would have been one of the youngest players selected last year, so with another year to develop, he showed his skill this year in the CSKA system. With good size, great skill and plenty of offensive upside, Nikulin needs a chance to play next year in the Russian Super League to test himself.

Jim McKenzie, RW 5th round, 141st overall

Almost a full two years older than many of the top prospects in this draft, McKenzie was one of the top players in the USHL last year, finishing fifth in league scoring with 64 points. Although not extraordinarily tall at 6’1”, McKenzie is thick and likes to use his size to his advantage. This is player who does not thrive in one area, but is rather complete and well-rounded. He is headed to Michigan State University next year where he will take his time developing his game.

Roman Wick, RW 5th round, 156th overall

Senators head scout Frank Jay had said before the draft he was looking to take more physical players in this draft as opposed to pure offensive forward. Roman Wick is definitely the latter, but when he fell to the Senators in the fifth round, they could not help but take the Swiss forward. Similar to Regin in that he is very gifted but in need of playing at a higher or more physical level, Wick was also picked in the CHL Import Draft by the Red Deer Rebels. Assuming Wick does follow through and come over to North America, he will also be in a sink or swim situation like Regin.

Joe Cooper, RW 7th round, 219th overall

Several eyebrows were raised over the selection of Joe Cooper, a Miami University forward who had all of one goal last year. Of course, there is often a method to every scout’s madness, and with Cooper, the allure is his energetic physical play and impressive speed. Although Cooper’s statistics are misleading considering his very limited ice time, this is not an offensive prospect. Cooper has three more years of college and should receive an increase in playing time each year. He is a potential checker and nothing more.

Matthew McIlvane, C 8th round, 251st overall

Once again a physical player who is bound for a U.S. college program, McIlvane is another thick-bodied forward who likes to throw his weight around. In fact he has often been called the hardest hitting forward in the USHL last season. Not only that, but McIlvane has some goal scoring upside. He plans to go to Ohio State University next year, but is at least four or five years away from the NHL.

John Wikner, LW 9th round, 284th overall

The twin brother of Calgary sixth rounder Fred Wikner, John is the first Swedish forward drafted by the Senators since Magnus Arvedsson 1997. He and his brother have played hockey together for years in Sweden, but the Sedin twins they are not. John Wikner likes to crash and bang, and is known for being almost dirty at times. His careless use of his stick has gotten him in trouble in the past. If Wikner could work on his skating a bit, and improve his commitment to defensive play, there is the possibility he could one day play the role of fourth line pest in Ottawa.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission from the editorial staff.