Ottawa Senators 2011 draft review

By John Henkelman
Photo: Matt Puempel was one of three first-round picks selected by the rebuilding Ottawa Senators. In only 55 games last season Puempel posted 34 goals. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

This draft is another statement about the rebuild underway in the Senators organization. Murray and his team entered the draft with 12 picks in hand and came away with 11 new prospects including Nikita Filatov, the 6th pick overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft who they acquired from Columbus for their 3rd round pick (66th overall). Ottawa chose players from the Swedish Elite League, including their top choice Mika Zibanejad, the CHL, and the USHL. Of their picks, eight are forwards and two defensemen. Their needs going into the draft were mostly scoring and size up front and to a lesser extent a goaltender to eventually backup or push Robin Lehner in the long-run.

Mika Zibanejad, C – Djurgården IF Stockholm (SEL)
1st round, 6th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 195 lbs

The Senators were pleased to add Zibanejad, already dubbed Z-Bad, who brings a package of much-needed size, skill and physical presence to their organization. The 18-year old is already playing against men in the SEL and receiving ice time that is usually not allocated to junior-aged players. Over the course of the season he managed five goals and four assists in 26 games, adding another goal and assist in seven playoff contests. Although ultra-competitive, he plays with discipline and should only get better as he develops his finer skills and adds a bit of polish to his offensive game.

Given his personality, he will come prepared to fight for a position in training camp. When asked at the draft if he could make the team this fall, his response was “I’ll do everything I can, everything possible to work hard and to make it. Staying one more year (in Sweden) is not a bad option too.” Zibanejad was signed to an entry-level deal recently so it seems likely the Senators will give him at least an opportunity to make the NHL roster out of training camp.

Stefan Noesen, RW – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
1st round, 21st overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 187 lbs

The Plano, TX native was tied for the lead in points – 33-44-77 – during the regular season and capped off his improved second campaign with a stellar playoff showing for the Whalers adding six goals and five assists. Noesen brings another extremely competitive presence to the organization and combines his strong two-way play with outstanding offensive elements which derive from a combination of soft hands and excellent hockey sense. There were some surprised he was taken in the 1st round although his final Central Scouting ranking was 35th among North American skaters up from his mid-season 47th slot but he really brings the attributes the Sens are looking for.

Since the 2001 draft, the right winger was only the second OHL player chosen by Ottawa in the 1st round and will be looking to tear up the scoring sheets next season in Plymouth with fellow draftees and linemates Rikard Rakell (ANH) and Garrett Meurs (COL).

Matt Puempel, LW – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
1st round, 24th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 198 lbs

The high-scoring Puempel was still on the board so the Sens traded into the 1st round to add another skilled forward to their prospect pipeline. The native of Essex, ON completed his second campaign with the Petes leading them in scoring with 34 goals and 35 assists in just 55 games. His season was cut short by a chipped hip bone injury which required surgery and contributed to some organizations’ concerns about drafting him high. Puempel is expected to make a full recovery and could be ready for the Sens training camp this fall. The 2009-10 OHL and CHL rookie of the year has superior vision, a great release and a natural knack for scoring with no obvious weaknesses in his game. The Petes were not that competitive a club this past season which likely hindered his production but did allow him to receive an opportunity to play on the penalty kill and defensive situations.

The Sens will look for him to build on his success next season with Peterborough and work to improve his strength, intensity and further develop the defensive part of his game. The 18-year-old winger should be targeting the 2013-14 season to make a push for a roster spot with Ottawa and received an invite to earn a spot on the Canadian National Junior Team this winter for the WJHC in Alberta.

Shane Prince
, C – Ottawa 67s (OHL)
2nd round, 61st overall
Height: 5’10 Weight: 181 lbs

With the draft pick they received from the Boston Bruins for Chris Kelly, the Sens chose yet another potential scoring forward from the OHL in Prince. The native of Rochester, New York had just come off a sparkling third season in the OHL where he scored 25 times, added 63 assists and was voted the second most improved player and playmaker by the Eastern Conference coaches. The left-shooting forward’s best attributes are his speed, passing ability and desire to disprove doubters who felt his size would hold him back. Coach Brian Kilrea had Prince on the top line with 2010 draftees Ryan Martindale (EDM) and Tyler Toffoli (LAK) and credited him with being the catalyst to their overall increased success this year.

Prince will look to make a favorable impression in training camp this fall playing with other forward prospects he will be competing against for roles in the pro ranks the following season. This coming season should be a good opportunity for him to build his resume and round out his overall game especially with Martindale and two of the ‘67s other top five scorers graduating. Joining Noesen, he’s also been selected to participate in the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp this August in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C – Gatineau Olympiques
4th round, 96th overall
Height: 5’9 Weight: 163 lbs

Not highly-regarded due to his diminutive size, the Ottawa native had an outstanding second season in the QMJHL with the Gatineau Olympiques leading his squad in scoring with a 32 goal and 47 assist regular season. The silky-smooth center was the catalyst of the Olympiques unexpected playoff run tallying 13 times and add 16 assists in 24 contests before being eliminated 4 – 2 in the final by the eventual Memorial Cup Champions. Along the way he outplayed Sean Couturier (PHI) when matched against his Drummonville team in the Quarterfinals. Pageau’s wheels, competitiveness and ability to make plays at high speed are what separate him from many other prospects. He also has good attention to the defensive aspects of the game and offers a threat on the penalty kill in addition to his puck-handling, passing and shooting skills on the power play.

Ottawa will gauge how he acquits himself versus stronger and higher-skilled talent this fall at their training camp and look for him to work on his strength and take his offense to the next level in the QMJHL this coming season. A strong start to the season could garner him an invite to the Canadian National Junior Team final selection camp in December.

Fredrik Claesson, D – Djurgården IF Stockholm (SEL)
5th round, 126th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 198 lbs

A teammate of Zibanejad’s at Djurgården, the left-shooting Claesson plays a solid, simple game and projects as a stay-at-home defenseman. The 18 year-old native of Stockholm produced two goals and had a plus-four rating in 35 games in his first SEL season and notched an assist in seven playoff contests. Claesson competes for the puck well and has a good first pass but would gain from improved puck skills. The Senators will look for him to play more minutes and develop his game with and without the puck over the next couple of seasons in Sweden.

Darren Kramer, C – Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
6th round, 156th overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 202 lbs

While adding scoring and size to the organization is vital for improvement, some toughness will be needed to complement their future offensive weapons. The Peace River, Alberta native endeared himself to his Spokane coach and teammates with his competitive nature and dropped his gloves often which enabled him to lead the WHL in penalty minutes with 303 in his first season. Although fighting is what he does best it’s not his only attribute; he’s a leader both on and off the ice. Kramer punched eight goals along with a few heads and added six assists during the regular season. During the Chiefs’ playoff run to the WHL finals he chipped in with five goals and three assists toning his propensity for the penalty box down to 21 penalty minutes. Expect him to return for another junior season with Spokane where he will look to further develop his play with the puck and round out his game.

Max McCormick, LW – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
6th round, 171st overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 174 lbs

With this draft pick acquired from the Ducks for Jarkku Ruutu, Ottawa selected the former first round pick, 5th overall, in the 2010 USHL draft who was named an all-star and finished with 21 goals and 21 assists while leading Sioux City in penalty minutes with 102. McCormick is heading to Ohio State and will bring his offense, grit and high energy and look to further develop his skills in the college ranks. “He’s a character kid, up and down (the ice) with a good shot,” Senators scout Bob Janecyk said. The 2010 Wisconsin Mr. Hockey award winner will be a long term project and should play all four years of his eligibility in the CCHA.

Jordan Fransoo, D – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
7th round, 186th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 178 lbs

Ottawa went back to the WHL with their first of two seventh round picks choosing Fransoo, a Wheat King teammate of fellow Senators prospect Mark Stone. The right-hand shooting defenseman scored six times among his 18 points, incurred 72 penalty minutes and had a plus-four rating in the regular season. This raw prospect is a hard worker and will fill out as he further develops his game over the next couple of seasons in the WHL. Fransoo is a good skater who will need to work on his shot and projects as a physical two-way defenseman long-term.

Ryan Dzingel, C – Lincoln Stars (USHL)
7th round, 204th overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 185 lbs

Overlooked in last summer’s draft, Dzingel will begin his college career this fall at Ohio State as a teammate of McCormick. The Senators used this pick, which they received from Pittsburgh in exchange for Alexei Kovalev at the trade deadline, to add another skilled scorer to their base of prospects. The leading point-getter on the Lincoln Stars, he completed his second season in the USHL with 23 goals along with 44 assists and participated in the all-star game along the way. The left-handed shot sees the ice well and is an excellent passer. Moving to the college level he’ll need to improve his work ethic, get stronger and shoot more to enjoy the level of success he’s used to. The Senators expect him to play four years with the Buckeyes and hope he’ll turn into another gem found in the 7th round by their organization.