Senators Top 20 Prospects, Fall 2008

By Vic Alvira

Brian Lee jumps to the No. 1 spot in the top 20 Ottawa Senators prospects ranking. Four players make their debuts on the list. Three are from Ottawa’s 2008 draft selections and one is a 2005 seventh-round selection.

Top 20 at a glance

1. Brian Lee, D (7.5B)
2. Erik Karlsson, D (7.5C)
3. Nick Foligno, LW (7.0B)
4. Brian Elliott, G (7.0B)
5. Kaspars Daugavins, LW (7.0C)
6. Alexander Nikulin, C (7.0C)
7. Jim O’Brien, C (7.0C)
8. Peter Regin, C (7.0C)
9. Ilya Zubov, C (7.0C)
10. Josh Hennessy, C (7.0C)
11. Cody Bass, C (6.5B)
12. Kirill Lyamin, D (7.0C)
13. Patrick Wiercioch, D (7.0C)
14. Erik Condra, RW (7.0C)
15. Igor Mirnov, C (7.0C)
16. Ruslan Bashkirov, LW (7.0C)
17. Louie Caporusso, C (7.0C)
18. Andre Petersson, LW (7.0D)
19. Tomas Kudelka, D (6.5C)
20. Colin Greening, C (6.5C)

Key: Rank. (prev rank) Name, position 
Grade: Current Grade (prev grade)

1. (2) Brian Lee, D 

Grade: 7.5B  (7.0B)

Lee jumps into the No. 1 spot after a brilliant 2007-08 rookie season with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL.  Lee improved his defensive game extremely well and was able to keep his offensive prowess a major part of his game. Lee’s play enabled him to suit up for the Ottawa Senators for their final six games. He remained with the club for the playoffs, playing in all four games in their quarterfinal series.

Lee is becoming a complete defenseman.  He was a force on the Binghamton power play all season long and logged major minutes.  He is known mostly for his offensive touch, but his defensive game is starting to match it.  As of right now there is no reason Lee should not develop into a top-four defenseman in the NHL.  He should be in the mix for Ottawa’s defensive corps this upcoming season.

2. (NR) Erik Karlsson, D

Grade:  7.5C  (N/A)

Ottawa’s 2008 first-round pick makes his debut at No. 2 in the top 20 rankings. He led the Swedish Junior League in assists accumulated by a defenseman with 24. Karlsson also was named the best defenseman at the 2008 Under-18 IIHF World Championships. At the tournament, Karlsson managed seven points, all assists, and a team-leading +8.

Karlsson skates extremely well, and is an absolute force on the power play. He has great vision and plays with an exuberant amount of confidence.  He is an offensive defenseman, but is no slouch on the defensive side. Karlsson definitely needs to build some muscle, as he currently is only 165 pounds. Karlsson has the potential to be a very good offensive defenseman on Ottawa’s top four in the future, and has the skills to be the leader of their power-play unit.

3. (1) Nick Foligno, LW

Grade:  7.0B  (7.0B)

Foligno’s drop to the No. 3 spot was by no means for disappointing play. It is just a testament to how good both Lee and Karlsson are respectively. His strong training camp allowed him to make the Ottawa lineup for the start of the 2007-08 season. 

The young power forward plays the game very intense and with a hardnosed approach.  He demonstrated that quite well for his 45 games with Ottawa.  Foligno should see plenty of time at least on the third and fourth lines at the NHL level.  Upon improvement on his offensive game, he has the potential to be a top-six forward for the Senators down the line. 

4. (7) Brian Elliott, G

Grade:  7.0B  (7.0C)

Elliott had a remarkable 2007-08 season for Binghamton.  Elliott struggled early in the season while competing with fellow prospect Jeff Glass for the staring net minder spot. He stepped up his game immensely from November on toward the end of the season.  Elliott eventually went on to claim the starter’s role for Binghamton in February.

Elliott’s positive attitude and hard working mentality early in the season played a big part in shaking his struggles. His ability to make the big save when needed and consistent play were major contributions to his improved season.  With continuing success in the AHL, the former ninth-round pick has the potential to be a starting goaltender in the NHL.

5. (4)  Kaspars Daugavins, LW

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

Daugavins is adjusting well to the North American game with another successful season in the OHL.  The young Latvian is quite an offensive juggernaut, putting up 74 points in 62 games for Mississauga. 

He has the passing tools, but had been wary to utilize his shot in the past. This year he improved upon that with his jump from 18 to 40 goals. Daugavins is also not afraid to get his nose dirty when battling for the puck.  With his creativity when carrying the puck and added scoring punch, he has the potential to be a top-six forward in the NHL.

6. (8)  Alexander Nikulin, C

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

Nikulin’s move over from Russia has been a positive sign in terms of his overall development. He had a strong campaign with Binghamton in the 2007-08 season, putting up 14 goals and 50 points in 71 games.

Nikulin is a strong two-way player. His supremely talented offensive gifts are matched by his work ethic and defensive ability. The major hurdle had been getting Nikulin over to North America.  With that now accomplished, the young Russian has a chance to put his skills to use for Ottawa in the near future with his continued success in the AHL.  Nikulin can develop into a top-six forward.  At the very least he could be an effective third or fourth line player, but he would have to add a physical side to his game.

7. (6)  Jim O’Brien, C

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

O’Brien left the University of Minnesota to suit up as a rookie for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. He finished fifth in rookie scoring with 21 goals and put up 55 points in 70 games.

O’Brien does a little bit of everything while on the ice. He can put the puck in the net, but also is a strong back-checker, penalty killer and smart decision maker. O’Brien consistently brings the physical edge to his game, whether it’s a battle for the puck along the boards or a powerful check. He is still quite a ways from the NHL, but with more development he has the potential to be a top-six power forward.

8. (9)  Peter Regin, C

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

Reign continues to impress over in the Swedish Elite League. He was third in scoring for Timra IK in the 2007-08 season and almost doubled the number of points he amassed from his 2006-07 campaign, going from 16 to 31 points (in 51 and 55 games). His consistent improvement from season to season in the Swedish Elite League is displaying his potential to take his game to greater heights

The Danish star is an offensive guru. He oozes talent and makes intelligent decisions with the puck. Known for his passing skills, Reign has now started to put the puck in the back of the net more frequently. Regin has the talent to develop into a second line forward at the NHL level.

9. (3)  Ilya Zubov, C

Grade:  7.0C  (7.5C)

Zubov drops six spots for the fall 2008 rankings. In his first season for the Binghamton Senators as a 20-year-old, he put up a decent season of 38 points in 74 games.

Like his fellow countryman Nikulin, Zubov’s move to North America to continue his development has shown his dedication to play in the NHL. Even with his average season in the AHL, Zubov showed flashes of spectacular play. His creativity with the puck and speed on the ice are still major assets to Zubov’s game. Zubov has the potential to become a second or third line forward in the NHL.

10. (5)  Josh Hennessy, C

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

Hennessy continues to drop, as he falls five spots in the fall 2008 rankings.  He seems to be at a standstill in his development.  He went through another disappointing season for the Binghamton Senators, his production even declining from the year before and he has struggled to find his touch that made him a second-round pick in 2003.

Hennessy is a hard worker and shows great passion on the ice. His skill set is still there, he just has not been able to find it on a consistent basis. Hennessy needs to improve on his defensive game as well. With his passionate attitude and strong work ethic, Hennessy should be an effective third or fourth line player in the NHL.

11. (16)  Cody Bass, C

Grade:  6.5B  (6.0B)

Bass makes the biggest jump in the rankings.  He started the year in the AHL but was called up to Ottawa in December. His hardnosed and aggressive style of play kept him a regular for the Senators. He suited up for 21 games for Ottawa and put together two goals and four points. He also scored his first playoff goal in game two of the quarterfinals against Pittsburgh.

The young forward’s bulldozer type of play makes him a powerful asset for any team. He plays a very defensively sound game and never gives up on a play.  Bass’s tenacity and feistiness attribute to a perfect grinder role. He should have a successful future for the Senators as a grinder/energy forward on the lower lines.

12. (11)  Kirill Lyamin, D

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

Lyamin had a strong season with Khimik of the Russian Super League with seven points in 40 games and 77 penalty minutes.

Lyamin continues to shut down opponents on a consistent basis. He punishes forwards with powerful checks and aggressive approach to the game. Lyamin has the potential to be a powerful stay-at-home defenseman for a team’s second pairing.

13. (NR)  Patrick Wiercioch, D

Grade:  7.0C  (N/A)

The Senators 2008 second-round draft pick makes his debut in the top 20 rankings at No. 13. Wiercioch put up 21 points in 40 games for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL last year. He stepped up huge for the Lancers in their postseason run by notching two goals and 11 assists in 14 playoff games, en route to claiming the championship.

Wiercioch has decent height at 6’2, but can stand to put on some weight. Wiercioch carries the puck well and has an offensive touch to his game. While his strong suit at this point is his offense ability, he can hold his own in various defensive situations. Defensemen usually take longer to develop, and Wiercioch should be no exception. Once fully developed, he has a ceiling at being a top-four defenseman in the NHL, and at the very least a bottom pair defenseman.  He turns 18 this week.

14. (14)  Erik Condra, RW

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

Condra had another successful season for the University of Notre Dame. He led the Fighting Irish in points for the third straight season in 2007-08. He established 15 goals last season, which was a career high for him at Notre Dame.

The tenacious forward is becoming an intriguing prospect for Ottawa. He brings great leadership qualities, as demonstrated by his alternate captain status with Notre Dame. Condra is a fast skater who also is not afraid to get his nose dirty in front of the net. He has demonstrated an x-factor quality to come through in the clutch. Condra has the tools to develop into a solid top-nine forward at the NHL level, particularly one that gives the opposing team fits and shows up on the score sheet.

15. (10)  Igor Mirnov, C

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

Mirnov had a season to forget in the Russian Super League. He struggled heavily for HC Dynamo in 2007-08 by putting up only three goals in 24 games. After continuous battles with the coaching staff, he was eventually transferred to Metallurg Magnitogorsk.  Mirnov did not receive as much ice time as he was accustomed to, but he did manage nine goals, along with 15 points in the 23 games played for Metallurg.

Mirnov has enormous offensive talent, with explosive speed and a lethal shot. He has the potential to be a top-six forward at the NHL level. He is a feast or famine prospect, as it is likely top-six or bust for the young Russian if he ever decides to make the commitment to the North American game.

16. (12)  Ruslan Bashkirov, LW

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

Bashkirov took a step backwards in terms of development after a disgruntled season. He decided to return to Russia for 2007-08, signing with Khimik Mytischi. Bashkirov was unable to make the team and was sent to Crystall Electrostal of the Russian Second League. He continued his struggles while playing there.

Bashkirov was drafted by the Peterborough Petes of the OHL in the CHL import draft. Unfortunately, it does not appear that he will play for the Petes. Bashkirov is only 19 and still could be a major part of the future for the Ottawa Senators. He has a great offensive touch and is a strong competitior.

17. (15)  Louie Caporusso, C

Grade:  7.0C  (7.0C)

Caporusso’s first season in college hockey for the University of Michigan was very successful. He played a majority of the time on the Wolverines third line during the 2007-08 season.  He was still able to make a significant impact by putting up 12 goals and 21 points in 33 games despite missing 10 games with an injured knee.

The small speedster is developing nicely. He is very fancy with the puck and has to make up for his size by using his speed and craftiness to his advantage. Caporusso also is very efficient in taking face-offs. He has shown his ability to score goals in the clutch. Caporusso was third on the Wolverines in game-winning goals with four. He is still far away, but with continued improvement he could become a top-six forward in the NHL.

18. (NR)  Andre Petersson, LW

Grade:  7.0D  (N/A)

Ottawa’s 2008 fourth-round pick makes his debut on the top 20 rankings at No. 18. Petersson had a brilliant 2007-08 season with HV 71 in the Swedish Junior League. He notched 16 goals and 38 points, in 36 games played. Petersson also was tied for the most points on the Swedish team in the 2008 Under-18 IIHF World Championships with eight.

Petersson is an exceptional skater and gives opponents fits when carrying the puck. He has an above average shot and passes very well. He has amazing talent, but he needs to work on his dedication and work ethic. Petersson plays a bit lazy when he is struggling, but when on top of his game can be the best player on the ice. The potential is there for the small Swedish forward. He is still very young, and if he can put it all together, he can be a definite scoring threat on a first or second line in the NHL.

19. (13)  Tomas Kudelka, D

Grade:  6.5C  (7.0C)

Kudelka takes a big drop in the top 20 rankings after a tough 2007-08 season.  He began the year with Binghamton, but was eventually sent down to the Elmira Jackets of the ECHL. Kudelka would continue being sent up and down between both the AHL and ECHL club throughout the season. His offensive prowess has yet to flourish in the AHL, with only two points in 35 games.  While in Elmira, he was able to put together impressive numbers with five goals and 19 points in his 23 games.

The entire season was not a loss for Kudelka. He was able to improve his defensive play while in the ECHL, as well as find his offensive touch he has been lacking at the AHL level.  Kudelka still has plenty of time to develop with the huge amount of defensive depth in Ottawa’s arsenal. Down the road he has the potential to be a top-six defenseman and be utilized on the power play.

20. (NR)  Colin Greening, C

Grade:  6.5C  (6.5C)

Greening makes his first appearance in the top 20 rankings after turning in a magnificent sophomore 2007-08 season for Cornell. He was named an alternate captain for the Big Red.  Greening led Cornell with 14 goals and 33 points on the season in 36 games.

Greening is involved in every aspect of the game while on the ice. He throws his body around just as well as he skates and stickhandles. He also possesses the ability to come up big when it counts. He led Cornell is game-winning goals with four and was tied for the lead in game-winning goals in conference play. With his leadership and hardworking attitude, Greening can develop into a scoring or checking center in the NHL.