2006 Draft brought skill and grit to Ottawa Senators

By John Henkelman
Photo: Eric Gryba is one of several members of the Senators 2006 draft class who is currently honing his skills at the AHL level. (Photo courtesy of www.ushl.com)

The 2006 NHL Entry Draft was the last draft overseen by John Muckler during his tenure as GM of the Sens. Muckler collaborated with director of amateur scouting Frank Jay and their staff and came away with three wingers, three defensemen and one goalie. While their second round pick was moved to Chicago along with prospect Brandon Bochenski for an ill-fated 2006 deadline day trade for Tyler Arnason, they did receive a third round pick from Boston as compensation for the Bruins signing their assistant general manager Peter Chiarelli. This crop of draft choices has produced one current NHL regular so far and has the potential to increase with three prospects currently plying their trade with Binghamton.

Nick Foligno, LW, Sudbury (OHL) – 1st round, 28th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 236

With their first pick the Sens chose a tough, skilled winger from the who was coming off a 70 point season in which he also posted 146 penalty minutes. His 2006-07 campaign began with a solid showing at the Senators camp and continued when he was returned to Sudbury and selected as an alternate captain for the Wolves. More scoring and leadership was expected from this rugged winger and he didn’t disappoint; leading the team in goals (31), and points (88) while carrying them to the OHL final.

Foligno began his professional career with the Sens in 2007-08, scoring six goals and three assists in his first NHL season while splitting time between Ottawa and Binghamton. He also potted his first NHL playoff goal in the Senators’ opening-round match against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The hard working winger spent his second season in the pros entirely with Ottawa and improved his scoring totals to finish tied for fifth in team scoring with a 17-goal, 15-assist line.

His 2009-10 season was challenging as he dealt with being a healthy scratch in a dozen games and missed action while recovering from a broken leg sustained while blocking a shot against Montreal. While his personal scoring totals dipped to nine goals and 17 assists as a result, the team did make the playoffs and he dressed for their playoff games contributing one assist.

After becoming a restricted free agent and re-signing with Ottawa on a two-year deal last summer, Foligno began this season by going scoreless in his first 24 games before notching his first goal. The entire Sens lineup has been underachieving and his eight goals and 10 assists after 49 games has been a microcosm of the team’s overall struggles this season. He’s also been finding himself playing more on the fourth line with his work ethic coming into question after being on the second and third line for much of his career with the Sens. With the natural talent he possesses, he needs to develop into a more consistent threat in the offensive zone.

Eric Gryba, D, Green Bay (USHL) – 3rd round, 68th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Ottawa was pleasantly surprised when it came their turn to draft in the 3rd round and big, strong Gryba was still available. The aggressive defenseman led the USHL in penalty minutes the previous season, played in the 2006 USHL All-Star game and had committed to Boston University playing for the legendary Jackie Parker. After graduating from BU following four solid seasons where he was able to develop the skill aspects of his game and continue his rugged style of play in Hockey East, this heart and soul player made his professional debut playing six games and tallying his first pro goal with Binghamton.

This season has seen the strong skater regularly patrolling the blue line chipping in with big hits, two assists, positioning himself well and amassing 65 penalty minutes after 36 games as he adjusts to the AHL pace. Along with his size and truculence, he has a good point shot, nice first pass, decent agility and offers a highly-competitive spirit. While he’ll never be confused with a magician with the puck, his size, skills and determination could lead to a career in the NHL as a second or third pairing defensive-minded defenseman.

Kaspars Daugavins, LW, Riga (Latvia) – 3rd round, 91st overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 1

A star junior player in his native Latvia, Ottawa selected Daugavins based on his above average skating ability and offensive potential. Once drafted, he moved to North America and joined the St. Michael Majors of the OHL. Daugavins signed a three-year entry level contact in June 2007 and began the following season with Binghamton before the organization decided to have him finish the year in the OHL with Mississauga. In 2008-09 he would again split the season between the OHL and AHL. The following year he’d join the B-Sens fulltime and even made his NHL debut January 14th 2010 against the New York Rangers, registering two shots on goal while recording 8:26 in ice time.

Now in his contract year, he’s beginning to find his game after a slow start which included playing on a number of line combinations and a few games in the press box. While he’s an excellent skater who is talented at distributing the puck, he needs to get to the dirty areas and shoot more often when opportunities present themselves. At this point he’s still a potential second or third line NHL winger but needs take his game to the next level and use the second half of this season to make a more-favorable impression with the organization.

Pierre-Luc Lessard, D, Gatineau (QMJHL) – 4th round, 121st overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Senators drafted Lessard after the mobile defenseman’s second season with Gatineau in the QMJHL. Shortly after he was drafted this smooth-skater was traded to PEI where he showcased his smart, efficient play for three more seasons. Lessard was not offered a contract by Ottawa and returned to Baie-Comeau for his overage season. This past season saw him play 10 games with the Bakersfield Condors in the ECHL before joining the University of Quebec Trois-Rivieres Patriotes in the CIS. Now in his second season with UQTR, he is the leading scorer among defensemen and fourth among all rearguards in Canadian college hockey. Only 23 he still has an opportunity for a pro career, however it’s a long way to the NHL from the CIS.

Ryan Daniels, G, Saginaw (OHL) – 5th round, 151st overall
Status: NHL Bust

NHL Games Played: 0

After being arguably the best goalie in the CHL Prospects game in Ottawa in 2006, Daniels was chosen by the Senators after his first full season with the Saginaw. The season following the 2006 draft proved to be a stellar one for this butterfly goalie as he seized the starting goalie position with the Spirit playing in 60 games, winning 38 of them. This aggressive yet poised goalie had a more challenging third year with Saginaw and was not signed by the Senators based on the lack on his lack of progression. He had a mediocre overage season in the OHL with Peterborough before turning to the CIS and Wilfred Laurier University where he’s now the starting goalie for the Hawks. Similar to Lessard, the odds are heavily stacked against him.

Kevin Koopman, D, Beaver Valley Jr B (KIJHL) – 6th round, 181st overall
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Koopman was probably the most surprising pick by Ottawa as the big, rangy offensive defensemen played at a low level league KIJHL in British Columbia and was chosen for his potential upside. He moved up to the BCHL for the next two seasons, first with Vernon and then Trail, before deciding on the US college route and enrolling at Brown University. He surprised the Senators among others when he chose to forego playing hockey to pursue a career as a doctor shortly after beginning his first semester at Brown in 2008

Erik Condra, RW, Notre Dame (CCHA) – 7th round, 211th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

With their last pick, the Senators looked to the University of Notre Dame and claimed the Fighting Irish’s rookie of the year. Bypassed in the previous year’s draft, this Michigan native showed much promise in his freshman season with his speed, scoring and work ethic. His sophomore year was a productive one as he jumped to over a point a game with 14 goals and 34 assists through 42 games, setting the high-mark of his collegiate career in terms of scoring. Although his scoring was somewhat down in his junior and senior seasons, he served as an alternate captain and still lead the team in scoring all four seasons in the CCHA.

Turning professional, this right winger continued his development in the AHL ranks as the top scoring rookie with Binghamton last season. He progressed steadily as a two-way player, posting 11 goals, 27 assist, and was a plus player. This season he’s continued his consistent play and sits second on the team in scoring with 15 goals and 25 assists in 46 games. Condra grades out among the most improved players in the organization and could get an opportunity to showcase his talent in Ottawa this season yet for a handful of games to allow the organization to gauge where he stands. Looking forward he must get stronger to improve his play on the boards and on the puck in order to make it to the next level and fight for a spot in the Ottawa lineup in the not to distant future.