The Ottawa Senators have a storied knack for finding top talent at unexpected draft positions. Whether they’re grabbing two-time Norris winner Erik Karlsson at 15th overall, or digging Calder nominee Mark Stone up at 178th, the team’s scouts have always kept the depth chart stocked with dynamic young prospects—no matter where the team picks from. Still, that didn’t stop GM Bryan Murray from cashing in some assets to strengthen the team’s position at the 2015 NHL Draft.
The Senators went into the weekend with eight defenceman and three goaltenders on one-way contracts. Armed with those assets, Murray made a couple of decisions that will have a lasting impact on the team’s roster for years to come.
First, he moved promising young goaltender Robin Lehner and veteran David Legwand to the Buffalo Sabres for the 21st overall pick. The move sends Lehner to a team where he will finally get the chance to be a starter, and reunites him with Murray’s nephew Tim. Now GM of the Sabres, Tim Murray was largely responsible for drafting Lehner while he was a member of the Ottawa organization as assistant general manager.
“It gives Robin a chance to get a job, play regularly, and get a net to play in. And obviously, Buffalo is happy with him, because Tim knows him in great depth,” Murray said. “We had a crowded crease, and I think it would have been some ill judgement if we didn’t re-sign [Andrew] Hammond after the run he had for us to make the playoffs. He was a big part of that.”
“He’ll get the chance to go and play a prominent role. It allows us to play Jared Cowen on a regular basis now. It gets us down to seven defenceman.”
The move promises that AHL Defenceman of the Year Chris Wideman will have an easier path to the big club.
“[Wideman is] an offensive, skilled guy. He played outstanding in the American Hockey League last year, and he’s ready to play in the NHL,” Murray said.
Murray swapped second round picks with New Jersey in order to move up to 36th overall. The Devils received Ottawa’s 42nd overall pick and a third rounder in 2016.
Throughout the draft, the Senators steered clear of selecting left wingers due to the organization already having several prospects at that position, including Nick Paul, Shane Prince, and Matt Puempel. Instead, the team loaded up at every other position—focusing on players with high skill, and size when possible.
Thomas Chabot, D, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
1st round, 18th overall
Height: 6-2 Weight: 180 lbs
Free-wheeling and quick-thinking, Thomas Chabot is an outstanding two-way defenceman, and the Senators were pleased to find him still available at 18th overall. Although the team has a large amount of capable defenceman in the system, it lacked elite prospects with the potential to play on the top pairing.
For Chabot’s part, he was honoured to join a promising young team that includes two-time Norris winner Erik Karlsson.
“It’s pretty nice that I’m going with great players like that, and even better, in a great organization. It’s going to be nice, for sure,” he said.
In July, Chabot turned heads at Development Camp with his quick feet and offensive prowess. This year though, he will most certainly return to the Saint John Sea Dogs. There, he will continue to work with Paul Boutilier, a former star QMJHL defenseman who went on to win a Stanley Cup as a member of the 1982-83 New York Islanders.
“It helped me a lot. We had Paul Boutilier this year, who worked with the defense. And I think this guy really knows the game. He played in it, and he was one of the best d-men back in his time.”
Chabot could join Team Canada at the 2016 World Junior Championships. He was one of 13 defensemen who were invited to the National Junior Team Development Camp, which will take place from Aug. 1st-7th.
Chabot spoke with the media following his selection by the Senators, with some of his comments being captured in this Hockey’s Future video.
Colin White, C, U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
1st round, 21st overall
Height: 5-11 Weight: 170 lbs
Ottawa used the selection they received in the Buffalo trade to select Colin White, a skilled, relentless two-way centre who spent the 2014-15 season with the U.S. National Team Development Program. Although he struggled with injury and illness last season, he mended in time to lead the U.S. to a gold medal at the U18 World Junior Championships, scoring the golden goal against Finland in overtime of the finals.
White scored 54 points in 54 games in the U.S. Development Program last season. This year, he will join Boston College as a freshman.
“We think [he] is going to be a really important player in the future of the organization. But again, he’s a young prospect. It’ll take time to find out what he really becomes, but all the prediction and all the evaluation we have is that he’s a real good player,” said Murray.
White could become the team’s center of the future if can stay healthy, but with the centre position locked up for the next few seasons in Ottawa, there is no rush—and he will have plenty of time to develop.
White met with reporters after being chosen by the Senators, with his comments being featured in this HF video.