Senators 2010 draft preview

By Nathan White

Top 10 prospects

1. Erik Karlsson, D
2. Jared Cowen, D
3. Patrick Wiercioch, D
4. Jim O’Brien, C
5. Robin Lehner, G
6. Louie Caporusso, C
*7. Ilya Zubov, C
8. Jakob Silfverberg, C
9. Zack Smith, C
10. Erik Condra, RW

Team needs

The Senators have a definite need for impact scoring wingers. Daniel Alfredsson will turn 38 in December, Alex Kovalev is 37 and coming off injury, and Milan Michalek will also be returning from injury. Jonathan Cheechoo is a shadow of the sniper who won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2005-06. The Sens are solid up the middle with Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher. But Matt Cullen will be an unrestricted free agent, and rumors that Spezza is unhappy could set the stage for his exit, which would leave the team needing to fill a big hole at No. 1 center.

On the blueline, Anton Volchenkov is an unrestricted free agent and being talked about as though he’s already gone. He was third on the team in ice time and eighth in the league in blocked shots. Ottawa’s system is better prepared to weather his departure than Spezza’s, with plenty of blueliners coming down the pipe. A lack of experience and toughness on the blue line could set the Sens up for a rocky start to the season, though, and they could be forced to look to Jared Cowen or Patrick Wiercioch a little sooner than they might like. Don’t rule out a draft-day trade, for example of Volchenkov’s rights, to address one of those situations.

Ottawa still doesn’t have a proven top goaltender, but it seems the team will go ahead with the tandem of Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliot again, while hoping Robin Lehner develops into the goalie of the future.

Organizational strengths

The Senators have plenty of depth at the center position. There are lots of potential candidates for second- or third-line jobs. The potential scorers, however, are further down the road. Jim O’Brien, Jakob Silfverberg, Louie Caporusso, Mike Hoffman and Colin Greening could all have top-six potential down the road, but probably need two or more years of seasoning.

Many forwards in the system show lots of character, grit and energy. Zach Smith showed he was capable as a third- or fourth-liner, and his play in the playoffs could give him an edge on a job in training camp. Cody Bass, meanwhile, was Binghamton’s defensive player of the year.

The Sens have also done a good job developing puck-moving defensemen. Erik Karlsson made a quick jump to the show, and Brian Lee will be looking to make a permanent home there next season.

Organizational weaknesses

As mentioned, the organization lacks elite scoring forwards. The potential top-six guys still need a healthy dose of seasoning. Talented Swede Andre Petersson may be the best of the bunch down the road, but the same assessment applies to him. He needs at least two seasons to round out his game.

Depth on the wings, particularly right wing, is also a concern. There is next to nothing here. Plugger Erik Condra is the top prospect in the system, and Roman Wick is entering his 25-year-old season and not really a prospect anymore.

Also, with Lehner the only puckstopper in the system considered a prospect, goaltending depth is a concern.

Draft tendencies

Ottawa holds just two of the first 105 picks, and just five in total. The Senators hold picks in the first (No. 16), third (No. 76), fourth (No. 106), sixth (No. 178) and seventh (No. 196) rounds. If they stand pat, it will be the team’s smallest crop since 2007, when they drafted just four players.

Count on the Sens to take at least one major junior player, and probably two on the U.S. college route, which they’ve done every year of the seven-round draft. They particularly like to spend their final pick on unknown NCAA types, which they’ve done with four of their last five seventh-rounders.

It’s no secret the Sens have a soft spot for Sweden. Alfredsson made a pretty good sixth-rounder back in 1994, and the Sens have looked back to Sweden from time to time over the years, particularly recently. The past two seasons, Ottawa has drafted five Swedes, and it’s already paid off with Karlsson establishing himself in his rookie season. Lehner, Silfverberg and Petersson are among those showing promise in the system.

Since taking Volchenkov 21st overall in 2000, the Senators have not done well with Russians. The past nine they selected, have combined for an average of 2.2 NHL games, led by a memorable 11 games from Ilya Zubov, who bolted back to Russia after not making the Sens in training camp last fall. So shooting for a high-risk, high-reward pick such as Kirill Kabanov is highly unlikely. Look for them to grab a major junior scorer, along the lines of Emerson Etem or Austin Watson.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result at No. 16: Emerson Etem