Senators Top 20 prospects

By Jason Menard

The Ottawa Senators did not make a big splash at the NHL trading deadline, chosing not to mortgage their future on a risky acquisition that may not pay off in the end, which is not surprising for a club that was built through the draft.

The Senators prospect list is rife with good quality players, but less elite talent – the type that has traditionally been the hallmark of this organization (and buoyed, greatly, by years of poor regular-season showings) — due to the club’s now almost decade-long string of success.  The sole primary affiliate of Ottawa, Binghamton’s last-place standing in the AHL is a reflection of that. Call it the price of success.

Top 20 at a Glance

1. (2) Josh Hennessy, C, 22
2. (1) Brian Lee, D, 19
3. (3) Nick Foligno, LW, 19
4. (4) Igor Mirnov, C, 22
5. (6) Kirill Lyamin, D, 21
6. (9) Brian Elliott, G, 21
7. (8) Ilya Zubov, C, 20
8. (13) Shawn Weller, LW, 20
9. (NR) Kaspars Daugavins, LW, 18
10. (5) Michal Barinka, D, 22
11. (12) Alexander Nikulin, C, 21
12. (10) Vitaly Anikeyenko, D, 20
13. (16) Tomas Kudelka, D, 19
14. (15) Cody Bass, C, 20
15. (11) Arttu Luttinen, LW, 23
16. (7) Jeff Glass, G, 21
17. (14) Kelly Guard, G, 21
18. (NR) Erik Condra, RW, 20
19. (19) Erik Gryba, D, 18
20. (20) Peter Regin, C, 20

1. (2) Josh Hennessy, C, 22
Acquired: Trade with San Jose 2006 (2nd round, 43rd overall, 2003)

While many thought the Senators gave up too much of their present in the Martin Havlat trade earlier this season, Hennessy has rapidly shown that he is going to be a huge part of their future. And as the NHL club has continued to be a force, the net gain of this trade looks promising in the long term.

Hennessy has done very well in the AHL in his sophomore season. In 55 games, he’s accounted for 23 goals and 21 points. In addition, he’s already found himself in the Ottawa line-up on 10 occasions, although they’ve been less than productive as one goal is all he has to show for his efforts.

But Hennessy has continued his strong development in the minor leagues. His performance this year follows a solid rookie season with the Cleveland Barons where he earned 63 points in 80 games. The 6’0 center probably won’t top out at the elite level of scorers, but his combination of offensive prowess, two-way play, and grit means that he could be a regular contributor in a second or third-line role in the not-too-distant future.

2. (1) Brian Lee, D, 19

Acquired: 1st round, 9th overall, 2005

The 19-year-old Fargo native has a good blend size, speed, and passing ability that made him a top pick, but he seems to have leveled off in development this season. 

But time is on the Senators’ side. The club has solid depth on the blueline, so Lee will have the opportunity – if he so chooses – to remain in college with the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. And college life seems to agree with the 6’2 blueliner.

He followed up a solid freshman season where he scored 25 points in 43 games with a similarly strong output this season, leading North Dakota to a third-place finish. In 31 games, Lee has accounted for 22 points. But, more impressively, Lee has shaken off any concerns that his game may be limited only to finesse with a commitment to bulking up and throwing that new-found weight around. In fact, he’s second on the club with 67 penalty minutes. Lee also won a bronze medal with the U.S. squad at the WJC, but he didn’t play a significant role on the club.

Lee has the size and game to move to the pro ranks, but he also has the luxury of time before him.

3. (3) Nick Foligno, LW, 19
Acquired: 1st round, 28th overall, 2006

Foligno is the type of player that coaches love to have. He’s a plugger with solid hands, shows a love of the game, and has hockey in his blood. Beyond being the son of former NHLer (and current Sudbury Wolves coach Mike), Foligno has grown up around the game and truly lives and breathes it.

In his third season with the Wolves, Foligno has continued to show an ability to combine offense (28 goals and 80 points) with grit (129 PIM in 60 games), but more importantly he is an acknowledged leader on the club.

Again, like Hennessy, Foligno isn’t going to be an offensive juggernaut, but he should develop into a solid third-line, energy forward, who can be the type of player you love to play with, but hate to play against. And his knack for a timely goal here and there doesn’t hurt his chances either.

4. (4) Igor Mirnov, C, 22
Acquired: 2nd round, 67th overall, 2003

Mirnov bounced back from an injury-shortened 2005-06 season to display that outstanding offensive production that is so appealing to the Senators. In his fifth full season with Moscow Dynamo, the 22-year-old performed at better than a point-per-game pace, scoring 21 goals and adding 23 assists in 40 Super League games.

Hardly flashy, but with a nose for the net, Mirnov plays larger than his 6’0 frame and is another of these grind-it-out forwards who aren’t elite talents, but have more than enough heart and grit to compensate.

The key for Mirnov is that he needs to come overseas and spend some time in Binghamton, acclimatizing to the language and the North American game to take that next step in his development.  He may prove hard to sign for the Senators.

5. (6) Kirill Lyamin, D, 21
Acquired: 2nd, 58th overall, 2004

Lyamin enjoyed a good season with the CKSA Moscow club in the Russian Super League. In 45 games, the 6’2 blueliner accounted for eight points and earned a solid +5 rating.

His play hasn’t appeared to be hampered by a season-long absence from Super League play (due to losing a roster spot during the lockout), and injury considerations last year. This season, he’s been healthy and a solid contributor to the CKSA’s blueline, but hasn’t made the step forward you might hope at this age.

Like Mirnov before him, Lyamin needs to come overseas sooner or later to develop his game, however, another season in Russia may be in the cards for the Moscow native.

6. (9) Brian Elliott, G, 21
Acquired: 9th round, 291st overall, 2003

Elliott, now a senior with the University of Wisconsin, was a workhorse last season, appearing in 31 of the club’s games. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to repeat his stellar performance as the club as a whole suffered a sub-.500 season.

Last year, Elliott had a season for the ages, posting a 25-5-3 record, behind a miniscule 1.55 GAA and .938 save percentage. This season was a different story, as Elliott struggled to a 12-16-2 record. However his play was not the key factor in Wisconsin’s troubles. In fact, his 2.15 GAA and .921 save percentage would be admirable numbers in any other situation, but a lack of offense doomed him to many nights without support.

The 6’3 Elliott should be a welcome addition to Binghamton’s roster next season as he continues his development.

7. (8) Ilya Zubov, C, 20
Acquired: 4th round, 98th overall, 2005

The Senators parlayed concerns about the lack of a Russian transfer agreement into an opportunity to draft this potential first-rounder mid-way through the 2005 draft. And their limited risk appears likely to be handsomely rewarded with the continued progress of this 20-year-old center.

Although the numbers don’t appear on the stats sheet – Zubov has only 10 points in 28 games split between the Khimik and Salavat Yulayev squads in the Russian Super League – the young center is coming into his own prodigious offensive talents. Those gifts were on full display at the WJC where he finished his six games with three goals and an assist en route to a silver medal.

8. (13) Shawn Weller, LW, 20
Acquired: 3rd round, 77th overall, 2004

In his junior season with the Clarkson Golden Knights, Weller has paced the club in scoring along with Nick Dodge (CAR). In 34 games, Weller has performed at almost a point-per-game pace, scoring 16 goals and adding 17 assists.

The 6’1 native of South Glen Falls, NY, has shown consistent development in his game. He’s also displayed a liking for the rough stuff, trailing only defenseman Phillipe Paquet (MON) in penalty minutes for the club.

Another year’s seasoning at the collegiate level appears to be in order for the winger before making the jump to the NHL. Continued work on the defensive end of his game should hold him in good stead for the future.

9. (NR) Kaspars Daugavins, LW, 18
Acquired: 3rd round, 91st overall, 2006

The Latvian native has made quite a splash since coming overseas with the Toronto St. Mike’s Majors. Showing no signs of struggling with the adjustment in the North American game, Daugavins has become a key performer for the Majors.

He’s performing at almost a point-per-game clip, with 51 points in 54 games. Daugavins was also a key player for the Latvian squad at the 2007 IIHF Div. 1 World Under-20 Championship (Group A) in Denmark, when he scored 10 points in five games.

10. (5) Michal Barinka, D, 22
Acquired: Trade with Chicago 2006 (2nd round, 59th overall, 2003)

The second prospect obtained in the Havlat trade, Barinka has had a challenging season this year. He was suspended by the club in December when he left Binghamton to be with his fiancé, whose mother had fallen ill. The suspension was levied in order to retain his rights, but was lifted as soon has he joined a club in the Czech Republic. He’s chosen to remain in the Czech Republic and has played well given trying circumstances. In 15 games, the hulking blueliner has three goals and three assists for Vitkovice HC of the Czech Elite League.

In the 17 games with Binghamton, Barinka acquitted himself nicely, playing solid defense and showing some rugged play. At 6’4, 225 he’s valued more for his physicality on the blueline as opposed to any limited offensive talents he may display.

Barinka is welcome to return to Binghamton next season, but that will all depend on how his family issues are resolved.

11. (12) Alexander Nikulin, C, 21
Acquired: 4th round, 122nd overall, 2004

Nikulin enjoyed a breakout season last year with CSKA Moscow of the Russian Super League. This year, however, has been more trying for the young center as a collarbone injury sidelined him for a couple of months.

However, when he has been in the line-up, he has shone brightly. Last year, in 51 games he accounted for 22 points. This year, in just 29 games, he’s put 16 points on the board. Not blessed with great size, Nikulin has shown a solid work ethic and an edge to his game that should serve him well.

Expect another season in Russia for Nikulin, who may be hard to lure to North America.

12. (10) Vitaly Anikeyenko, D, 20
Acquired: 3rd round, 70th overall, 2005

Another member of the Russian squad that took home silver at the WJCs, Anikeyenko announced his arrival at the tournament with a thundering check on Canadian tough guy Steve Downie (PHI), which knocked him out of the game for a bit.

His commitment to a solid defensive game was on full display as he ended the tournament with a +6 rating. He also performed well at the Four Nations Tournament earlier this year.

At 6’4 and 200 pounds, Anikeyenko has time and space to fill out that huge frame of his. And while he’s never going to be a key offensive performer, he will be looked to as a body-moving, crease-clearing defensive defenseman.

13. (16) Tomas Kudelka, D, 19
Acquired: 5th round, 136th overall, 2005

Kudelka is another Senators prospect who participated in the WJCs, although his Czech squad didn’t enjoy much success.

After tasting the professional ranks with a five-game stint with Binghamton last season, after a stellar rookie season with the WHL‘s Lethbridge Hurricanes. This season has seen more of the same, as the 19-year-old blueliner has continued to refine his offensive talents with 37 points in 53 games, including 12 goals.

He continues to show the offensive gifts that mesh well with the needs of the modern NHL. With continued growth from his 176-pound weight level on a 6’1 frame, Kudelka could become a solid performer at the professional level.

14. (15) Cody Bass, C, 20
Acquired: 4th round, 95th overall, 2005

The heart and soul of the Mississauga Ice Dogs was ripped out and sent south of the border when captain Cody Bass was traded to the Saginaw Spirit at the OHL deadline. It marked yet another upheaval for the young center, but he’s continued to display the grit, timely scoring, and leadership that’s defined his career.

A badly-timed injury kept him from performing to his fullest and he was an early cut from the Canadian World Junior squad. He was dissatisfied with his play early in the season, with 16 points in 23 games. But the trade to Saginaw appears to have agreed with him, as he’s ramped up his production, with 19 points in 24 games, which included a blistering 15 points in 16 games pace from the point of the trade.

Bass is another of these players who ply their trade in intangibles. He has excellent leadership qualities and plays the game with an edge. A fan favorite wherever he goes thanks to his mix of skill and effort, he should play a key role in Binghamton next season and has the potential to move up the ranks faster due to his focused effort on the defensive aspects of the game.

15. (11) Arttu Luttinen, LW, 23
Acquired: 3rd round, 75th overall, 2002

In his first season on North American ice, Luttinen has found the step up in competition a bit of a challenge. His less-than-stellar performance to date can be partly attributed to the transition to the AHL, and a better gauge of his development will come next season.

After enjoying great success with HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League, Luttinen signed a contract with the Senators and was expected to compete for a roster spot. His willingness to play a more rugged style of game, complemented by his offensive breakout last season when he scored 18 goals and added 26 assists in 56 games made him an attractive, dark-horse candidate.

Unfortunately, the transition hasn’t gone smoothly. Despite often playing alongside Hennessy, Luttinen has only put up modest numbers to the tune of eight goals and 22 points in 55 AHL games.

16. (7) Jeff Glass, G, 21
Acquired: 3rd round, 89th overall, 2004

In 2005, Glass was on top of the world, having earned the title of the CHL’s goaltender of the year and backstopped Team Canada to WJC gold. Only a couple of years later, Glass is finding out what it’s like to be on the losing end of the equation.

For a goaltender who, throughout junior, posted outstanding numbers – a 15-16-3 rookie season being the worst mark of his career – playing on the basement-dwelling Binghamton Senators club has to be a trying experience. On one hand, he gets to see a lot of rubber, but on the other, losing can take its toll on a player’s confidence.

Glass and Kelly Guard have split the netminding duties almost down the middle and there’s been little to choose from between the two. Glass sports a 8-19-2 record behind a 3.86 GAA and .894 save percentage, while the incumbent starter Guard boasts an equally modest 9-18-3 record with the same save percentage. And except for the fact that Guard’s GAA is almost half a goal better than his rookie counterpart, there’s been little separating them.

After a stellar season with the ECHL‘s Charlotte Checkers, Glass had the opportunity to come in and lay claim to the starter’s role, but has yet to do so. Of course, working to his advantage is that Guard hasn’t exactly grasped the starter’s position with an iron fist.

17. (14) Kelly Guard, G, 21
Acquired: Free-agent signee in 2004

One could flip a coin on any given day and swap the 16th and 17th spots on these rankings. A free-agent signee out of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, Guard hasn’t been able to replicate the dream season he enjoyed at the junior level in 2003-04 when he backstopped the Rockets to the Memorial Cup as the host city.

In that year, Guard put up an outstanding 44-14-4 record in 62 appearances. His 1.56 GAA and .925 save percentage were only eclipsed by his stellar performance in the Memorial Cup where he allowed only three goals in the four games and posted a .971 GAA. Since then, his performances at the professional level have been decidedly mediocre.

This season, he’s paired with Glass to be what can only be charitably called an average goaltending tandem. And with no one stepping up to lay claim to the crease, both he and Glass now have to worry about whether opportunity has passed them by with the impending arrival of Brian Elliott.

With Ray Emery firmly entrenched in Ottawa and Martin Gerber’s contract making him a challenging trade commodity, Glass, Guard, and Elliott will be playing a game of musical creases next season, with the loser heading down to the ECHL.

18. (NR) Erik Condra, RW, 20
Acquired: 7th round, 211th overall, 2006

Condra made quite the splash with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, finishing as a finalist for the CCHA rookie of the year award after a freshman season where he scored six goals and added 28 assists in 36 games. And the 5’11 winger from Trenton, MI continues to make waves in his sophomore season.

This year, Condra has upped his performance and has scored at better than a point-per-game rate. In 36 games he’s tallied 39 points, including 13 goals. But what’s been most impressive about the late-round pick’s performance this year has been his continued development on the defensive end, which has been evidenced by his team-leading +22 rating.

Condra is another one of a deep group of Senators prospects who leave it all on the ice. With two more years of collegiate eligibility ahead of him, the club will probably take it slow with the winger. He’s a low-risk pick that has plenty of upside and can benefit from time to develop his game.

19. (19) Erik Gryba, D, 18
Acquired: 3rd round, 68th overall, 2006

While some pundits had anticipated that the Saskatoon native could have been a first-round selection for a defense-needy NHL squad, concerns about Gryba’s skating ability saw him fall to the third round, where the Senators were willing to take a chance on the physically imposing blueliner.

At 6’3, 225 pounds, Gryba’s calling card has to be the physical game, because he is not blessed with swiftness of foot. However, he’s a smart passer who has shown a knack for playing the game in the other team’s zone.

As a 17-year-old with the USHL‘s Green Bay Gamblers, Gryba put his offensive prowess on display to the tune of 15 points in 56 games – modest totals for certain, but they definitely made a statement that he was more than just a bruiser. Although 205 penalty minutes indicate he wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around.

His freshman season has seen Gryba excel physically and defensively, but his offensive output has left something to be desired. In 33 games, the NCAA rookie has only accounted for one goal and one assist, but he backed his modest offensive totals with a solid +8 rating. In addition, the freshman led his squad in penalties with 68 minutes.

There’s something to be said for knowing your limitations, and Gryba has smartly worked within that framework – and his imposing frame. Continued development on skating and speed will serve to complement his robust game.

20. (20) Peter Regin, C, 20
Acquired: 3rd round, 87th overall, 2004

Although he won’t be eligible to participate, when the 2008 WJCs roll around, Regin will be able to watch his native Denmark squad with pride knowing that he played a key role in them joining hockey’s elite.

Regin has enjoyed an impressive season to date, with the highlight coming in his five-game performance at the 2007 tournament. His six points, split evenly between goals and assists, and +5 overall rating helped pace Denmark as they, along with Kazakhstan, earned a promotion to next year’s A Pool.

Regin has also enjoyed continued modest development with Timra IK. After last season where he posted 11 points in 44 games (and enjoyed another similarly strong performance in the WJC – although the team was unable to escape Division I), the 6’1 center has posted numbers to the effect of nine goals and 16 points in 51 games, leading his club to the top of the Swedish Elitseiren.

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