Senators 2009 draft review

By Josh Chenoweth

Going into the 2009 NHL entry draft, many expected the Ottawa Senators to take a forward to add some offensive depth to their pool of prospects. Indeed, that was general manager Bryan Murray’s intent, but things don’t always go as planned.

Murray’s eyes were set on London Knights forward Nazem Kadri, but on the floor of the Bell Centre, Toronto Leafs GM Bryan Burke informed his Ottawa counterpart that he was going to select Kadri with the seventh overall pick. As a result, Murray ended up drafting another defenseman in the first round: 6’5 Jared Cowen from the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL.
However, Murray did manage to get some talented forwards in the later rounds, as well as goalie in Robin Lehner — the first goalie drafted by the Senators since Ryan Daniels in 2006. 

Jared Cowen, D – Spokane (WHL)
1st Round, ninth overall

Going into the season, Cowen had a solid chance of going in the top five picks of the draft. His dominant performance at the 2008 Memorial Cup resulted in high expectations for the hulking blue liner. Initially, Cowen underperformed. He struggled to find his game, at times trying to do too much.  Later on in the season, he finally seemed to find his game again. Unfortunately, his progress would be cut short.

Cowen sustained a knee injury which required major surgery. There were worries about how his knee would recover, but Senators staff checked him out and found that his knee was improving right on schedule. Knowing this, the Senators had no qualms about making Cowen their first-round selection, resulting in the future of the Ottawa blue line looking even brighter, with 2008 draftees Erik Karlsson and Patrick Wiercioch already in the system.
Cowen will always be a defensive defenseman, but he isn’t devoid of offensive ability.

This past season, he registered seven goals and 21 points in 45 games, respectable numbers for a defensive minded player. Whether or not Cowen can fill the shoes of former Senator Zdeno Chara remains to be seen, and it’s probably unfair to put those expectations on him, but he has the potential to be a top-tier shutdown defenseman.

Jakob Silfverberg, RW/LW – Brynas Jrs (Sweden)
Second Round, 39th overall

The Senators opted to use their first second-round selection to take Silfverberg, the 12th ranked European skater by Central Scouting. The late 1989 born excelled in Sweden, notching 14 goals and 38 points in 30 games with Brynas’ junior team. This earned him a 16-game stint in the Elitserien, where he scored three goals and an assist.

Silfverberg plays a sound two-way game, aided by his strong skating ability. His biggest assets are his soft hands, which allow him to score from anywhere around the net. He should play full time in the Elitserien this season, and have a good shot at making Sweden’s World Junior roster, where he could join Karlsson and Lehner.

Like most prospects, especially from Europe, Silfverberg has to get stronger. Adding some muscle to his 6’1, 187 lbs frame would go a long way to improving his standing among other prospects.

Robin Lehner, G – Frolunda Jrs (Sweden)
2nd Round, 46th overall

With the pick acquired in the trade that brought Pascal Leclaire to Ottawa, the Senators decided to improve their depth in goal even further by taking Lehner, the top-rated European goalie in what was a weak year for European goaltending prospects. But with Jeff Glass not being qualified by the Senators, Ottawa’s goaltending depth is lacking. Lehner will most likely play in the CHL this coming season.

Lehner’s best attribute is his size and ability to get across the crease despite being so large; he stands at 6’3 and weight 220 lbs. He also posted respectable numbers in the Allsvenskan (farm level), managing a .933 save percentage, and a 2.56 GAA, although he played only two games. His numbers fell off somewhat while he played in the SuperElit (junior league), managing a .903 save percentage and 3.09 GAA. Lehner’s biggest weakness is his rebound control, often allowing juicy rebounds for the opposition. Still, goaltenders take time to develop, and it will be interesting to see how Lehner handles the rigors of the CHL.

Chris Wideman, D – Miami University (NCAA)

4th Round, 100th overall

The undersized Wideman proved he could produce at the NCAA level. After going undrafted in 2008, the Senators nabbed the 19-year-old CCHA All-Rookie Team defenseman in the fourth round. He posted respectable numbers, 26 assists in 39 games to go with a +11 rating, playing a smooth skating game with a solid outlet pass. He also wasn’t afraid to get physical, despite his size. He recorded 56 penalty minutes in his freshman season.

There are doubts about his size, standing a mere 5’10 and 170 lbs. He’ll have to continue his offensive success in the NCAA, and hope it can translate to the next level if he wants to have a shot at being an NHLer one day.

Mike Hoffman, C – Drummondville (QMJHL)
5th Round, 130th overall

Murray seems to have a penchant for taking players that were passed over in previous drafts, but have had recent success. He took Zack Smith in 2008 and Wideman this year, and added to that by taking Hoffman, whom will turn 20 in November. The 5’11 center saw himself break out with Drummondville this past year, scoring 52 goals and 94 points in 62 games, far exceeding his previous career high of 24 goals and 48 points when he split the previous season with Gatineau and Drummondville.

While he definitely seems to be on the rise, how much of Hoffman’s success can be attributed to playing on a stacked team with 100-point-scoring 20-year-olds like Danny Masse and Yannick Riendeau, as well as highly-touted defenseman Dmitri Kulikov, remains to be seen. Regardless, Hoffman appears to be on the rise, and has a decent goal-scoring touch. He’ll probably return to junior for one final year, before making the jump to the AHL.

Jeff Costello, LW – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL)
5th Round, 146th overall

Adding some more goal-scoring punch to the Senators prospect pool, Costello is quite an inspiring story. Diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, it didn’t stop the late 1990 born Milwaukee native from playing hockey, and he scored 24 goals and 33 points in 54 games, while accumulating 76 penalty minutes.

Costello plays a feisty game, and is a sound two-way player. He’s not afraid to go in to the corners to get the dirty work done, a strong sign of his commitment to the game. He’s verbally agreed to play for Notre Dame in 2010, where fellow Senators prospect Erik Condra played four seasons with the Fighting Irish. Of course, there will always be lingering questions regarding Costello’s health, but his impressive dedication should remind everyone not to count him out.

Corey Cowick, LW – Ottawa 67s (OHL)
6th round, 160th overall

The Senators didn’t need to look far for Cowick, taking him from their own backyard. He’s only the second Ottawa 67 to be drafted by the Senators.  He’s also another player whom has been passed over at the draft, the last two; Cowick had a breakout season similar to Hoffman. After registering 11 goals and 25 points with Oshawa the previous season, Cowick’s numbers jumped considerably while playing in Ottawa, where he scored to 34 goals and 60 points in 68 games, while maintaining a +21. He topped that off by scoring seven goals and nine points in seven playoff games.

Another feisty player, Cowick, who will turn 20 in August could be returned to the OHL as an overager. He could also step right in to the AHL, similar to how Zack Smith did this past season in Binghamton. Whether or not he could have the immediate impact that Smith did is difficult to tell, as he didn’t look overly impressive at the Senators development camp.  It could be that much of his scoring could be attributed to playing with San Jose’s 2007 first rounder, Logan Couture. However, Cowick’s improvement this past season should not be ignored.

Brad Peltz, LW – Avon Old Farms (Conn. High School)
7th Round, 190th overall

Peltz was drafted out of high school, and didn’t even play this season due to a bacterial infection. Thus, it’s hard to get a read on what type of player he is. He’s another 19-year-old, will turn 20 in October, and is going to attend Princeton in the fall.

Peltz is a skilled forward with great puck-handling skills, more of a playmaker than a scorer. It will be interesting to see how he performs after missing an entire season with illness. Also of note: Peltz’s father, Nelson Peltz, is the current CEO of Wendy’s and Arby’s, and former owner of Snapple.

Michael Sdao, D – Lincoln Stars (USHL)
7th Round, 191st overall

The next pick after taking Peltz, the Senators opted for some toughness, taking Sdao from the USHL. He’s big, 6’4 221 lbs, and mean, to say the least. Last season, he accumulated 162 penalty minutes in 51 games, along with 33 more in seven playoff games. He also managed to score three goals and 10 points during the regular season, but no points in the playoffs. For a big man, his foot speed isn’t bad, though it’s nothing to write home about. Sdao’s potential future in the NHL lies as an enforcer, and he’s got some talent there. But can he become more than just a pugilist? Only time will tell. Sdao will attend Princeton this fall.