The Ottawa Senators have done a great job of unearthing NHL-caliber players in the later rounds of the NHL Draft, getting the most out of their late picks to provide support for their top players. The Senators have leaned strongly towards the Swedish junior circuit, a league their scouts are very familiar with, but the organization has also taken chances on hometown kids. General Manager Bryan Murray made a point of drafting hard working, supporting cast-type players in 2013.
Curtis Lazar, a potential two-way second-line player, was drafted in the first round even though there were more offensively talented players still on the board. With the next two picks, the Senators took hulking netminder Marcus Hogberg and budding power forward Tobias Lindberg from the Swedish junior circuit. Rounding out their 2013 draft class is super pest Vincent Dunn, Ben Harpur, Chris Leblanc, and Quentin Shore.
Curtis Lazar, C, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
1st Round, 17th Overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 198 lbs
Curtis Lazar scored 30 of his 38 goals in the final 45 games of the season, clawing his way back into the conversation as a potential top 15 pick after a disappointing start to the 2012-13 season. The second overall pick in the WHL draft in 2010, Lazar scored 20 goals in 63 games in his first full season with the Oil Kings and then led the team with 19 points in 20 games in the playoffs. On a team that featured a lot of NHL-drafted talent, a red flag was raised when Lazar went goalless for the entire month of November.
During the Canada Winter Games two years ago, Lazar's offensive ability was on full display and off-the-charts brilliant, captaining Team BC to gold and breaking Sidney Crosby's record (16) with 17 points in six games. His offensive exploits landed him on scouts' radars, but Lazar's poor start this year made it difficult to get an accurate read on his offensive potential. Some scouts began to wonder if Lazar would top out as a good depth player. Even on the Oil Kings powerplay, it was hard to see what Lazar could do because the Oil Kings had smaller, more offensive players who controlled puck. As one of the WHL's stronger forwards (Lazar placed in the top 10 for both pull strength and upper body power tests at the combine), he was used primarily as a screen. Though the CHL does not officially publish ice times for its players, it is known that Lazar had less ice time than some of his first round peers.
But scouts who have seen a lot of Lazar said it was not a concern. He does not possess a lot of high-end, offensive ability, certainly not enough to be a marquee first line player, but he does have excellent speed, a heavy wrist shot, the requisite competitive spirit to offset his 5'11 height, and the willingness to outwork everybody to score his goals.
Lazar has spent his entire Oil Kings career as a center, but the Senators are deep at center and have lined him up alongside left winger Cory Conacher and center Mika Zibanejad at the development camp.
Long-term, Lazar projects to be a two-way, second line player who has the ability to fill in on the top line. Worst-case scenario, scouts believe Lazar will be a splendid third-line checking winger, though the Senators are more optimistic and believe he can be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL when he reaches his optimal playing weight.
In all likelihood, Lazar will play another season with the Oil Kings before turning pro.
Hockey's Future shot video of Lazar at the 2013 NHL Draft. You can view his extended remarks in this HF video.
Marcus Hogberg, G, Linkoping J20 (SuperElit)
3rd Round, 78th Overall
Height: 6'5 Weight: 212 lbs
Despite being ranked as the fourth-best European goalie by Central Scouting, the Senators took a chance on 6'5 Swedish goalie Marcus Hogberg, drafting him over number one ranked Juuse Saros (NSH), Ebbe Sionas, and Luka Gracnar.
A butterfly-style goalie who covers a lot of the net with his big frame, Hogberg is also technically sound and is considered to be one of the best in his age group. His competitive nature has allowed him to consistently elevate his play when it matters most and he has represented Sweden at virtually every single level.
With Linkoping, despite being named the SuperElit's top goaltender last season, Hogberg split his starts with Jacob Johansson, a good goalie in his own right who is a year older. In 23 games, Hogberg finished the season with a 2.41 goals against average and .917 save percentage. As a testament to his talent and ability to shine in big games, Hogberg also appeared in three Elite League games, posting a respectable 2.57 goals against average.
Next year, Hogberg will spend the entire season at the senior level with Mora on a loan in the Hockey Allsvenskan, where he will get an opportunity to fight 20-year-old Lithuanian goalie Mantas Armalis for the starting job.
Tobias Lindberg, RW, Djurgarden J20 (SuperElit)
4th Round, 102nd Overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 187 lbs
The Senators selected Tobias Lindberg with the first of two picks they had in the fourth round. Spending the majority of the 2012-13 season with Djugarden's top junior squad, Lindberg scored nine goals and 22 points in 43 games and also made a short five-game appearance with the senior squad where he registered one assist.
A 6'2 forward who drew little fanfare and was interviewed by only two NHL teams, Ottawa not being one of them, Lindberg was vacationing in Europe when he was drafted. Ranked 99th among European skaters, Ottawa scout Vaclav Burda compares Lindberg's potential to Colin Greening, a seventh round pick who worked his way up from the bottom and since fashioned himself into a strong role player for the Sens.
At the moment Lindberg is not yet physically mature nor experienced enough to make the jump to North America without a couple seasons in Sweden. It is still uncertain whether he will play with the senior team or return to SuperElit next year.
Ben Harpur, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)
4th Round, 108th Overall
Height: 6'5 Weight: 208
A 6'5 defensive stalwart, Ben Harpur is another player who is considered a project. Having just moved to defense with the Niagara Falls Rivermen in Midget AAA, Harpur is still getting used to his new position. He has the size to be a solid defensive defenseman, using his strength and size to play a physical game while using his long stick to knock pucks away. He is intriguing mostly because of his size, since his technical skills and hockey sense are currently below average. He also has not yet completely grasped the nuances of playing defense.
As a newly converted defenseman, Harpur has trouble maintaining his positioning and gap control during transitions, two skills that are growing increasingly more important. Harpur had trouble containing smaller, quicker forwards, often getting caught flat-footed. When he does manage to contain them, sometimes he loses focus and gets caught out of position.
The Senators are taking a chance on a player who improved by leaps and bounds in his second year but is still considered very raw. Harpur will most likely play out his junior career and spend a few seasons with Binghamton before getting the call-up. His career trajectory would not be unlike Eric Gryba's, a 3rd round pick in 2006 who played four years at Boston University and two full years with Binghamton before making his presence felt in the 2013 NHL Playoffs. The Senators expect Harpur to be a depth defenseman, perhaps a third-pairing regular who can also log minutes on the penalty kill.
Vincent Dunn, C, Val d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
5th Round, 138th Overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 181 lbs
There is no need for Vincent Dunn to drop the gloves "30 times," as he said he would if the coaches asked. When describing his playing style, scouts and coaches will say "like Brad Marchand" – relentless speed, a nose for the corners and, most importantly, an insatiable need to get under opponents' skins.
Dunn's 98 penalty minutes, his second straight season with at least 90 penalty minutes, was third on Val d'Or, though the two players ahead of him, Guillaume Gelinas and Jeremie Fraser, played more games and had less to offer offensively. Dunn is the best (or worst) kind of pest, the type that can irritate to no end but also score. Dunn had to work hard for his 25 goals, which was five times his rookie total, but a player like him does not score the pretty ones anyway. His release is on the slower side and his puck distributing ability and skating are considered average, but he finishes his checks, is rarely caught out of position, and blocks shots.
Dunn does have a tendency to let his emotions get the better of him, which leads to mental mistakes and bad decisions on the ice. In November, he was suspended for two games for making a racial slur towards Mooseheads captain Trey Lewis. One other concern scouts have is Dunn's inability to win faceoffs consistently. These are considered minor wrinkles, however, and some consideration has to be given to Dunn's young age, as his birthday, September 14, is just one shy of the draft-eligible cutoff date.
Though drafted out of Val d'Or, Dunn will suit up for the Gatineau Olympiques next year and play closer to his home in Hull. Gatineau, just next door to Ottawa, allows the Senators to keep a close eye on Dunn. Just like how the Senators expect Harpur's progression to mirror Gryba's closely, Dunn's comparable is good friend and future teammate Jean-Gabriel Pageau, another undersized, never-say-die forward who also played in Gatineau.
Chris LeBlanc, RW, South Shore Kings (EJHL)
6th Round, 161st Overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 190 lbs
A '93 player, LeBlanc is an overage player who will suit up for Merrimack College this fall. Before suiting up for the South Shore Kings in 2012-13, where he posted 13 goals and 33 points in 45 games, LeBlanc captained the Winthrop Vikings at the Massachusetts high school level. In his senior year, he scored 24 goals and 46 points and was named to the All-State "Best of the Rest" team, an honorable mentions list of the state's best hockey players.
What scouts notice first with LeBlanc is his large 6'3 frame. The Warriors will have a lot of juniors coming back for their senior seasons, which means LeBlanc can be eased into a depth scoring role and will not be counted on to carry the team offensively. On the flip side, Merrimack has not been a particularly strong program over the past two seasons in Hockey East, which means LeBlanc will not have a chance to play with more talented players who can really help further his game. The Sens have dipped into Merrimack's program before, signing forward Stephane Da Costa as an undrafted free agent.
Quentin Shore, C, Denver Pioneers (WCHA)
6th Round, 168th Overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 187 lbs
Despite being ranked 80th by Central Scouting in 2012, Quentin Shore was passed over in the draft that year. It was both curious and disappointing for Shore, who had developed a reputation for scoring big goals for the NTDP U18 squad – in 60 games with the team he scored eight game-winning goals.
This year, even though Shore was not ranked by Central Scouting at all, the Sens decided to take a chance on him after a strong freshman season with the Denver Pioneers where he scored 10 goals in 39 games. As part of "Colorado's first hockey family," Shore becomes the third brother to suit up for DU, following Drew (FLA) and Nick (LAK). (Youngest brother Baker will likely follow suit down the road). Skating on the third line with wingers Matt Tabrum and Ty Loney for most of the season, Shore was lauded for his strong two-way play and versatility, playing on both special teams and filling in some shifts on the wing as well. He is a very coachable player, rarely takes shifts off, and does whatever necessary to help his team.
There was some talk in December that Shore would leave DU and join the Portland Winterhawks to play alongside NTDP U18 teammate and friend Seth Jones (NSH). There was also the promise of more ice-time, especially on the powerplay, but Shore eventually stayed in Denver and played out the year. With Jones expected to make the Nashville Predators lineup, there is less incentive now for Shore to move to the WHL. Drew and Nick both left DU after their junior season and in all likelihood Quentin will do the same.
Hockey's Future shot video of Senators GM Bryan Murray and Assistant GM Tim Murray at the 2013 NHL Draft. You can view their extended remarks in this HF video.