Senators Top 20 prospects

By Sean Keogh


Despite multiple regime changes in the front office, the
Ottawa Senators have proven time and time again that they are an elite
organization when it comes to drafting and developing young players, with a few
new prospects emerging from within each year. For this installment of the Top
20 prospects, a player that has emerged and disappeared and then re-emerged at
different times during his hockey career, Antoine Vermette, returns to the list
atop the rankings due to a criteria change. Also of note in this reranking is
the presence of six 2004 draft picks, five of which are presently participating
in the World Junior Hockey Championships in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The
Senators currently have a well-balanced group, with depth at every position,
and a good mix of all different types of prospects.


20 at a glance


  1. Antoine
  2. Ray
  3. Andrej
  4. Patrick
  5. Alexei
  6. Brandon
  7. Igor
  8. Kiril
  9. Jan
  10. Billy
  11. Chris
  12. Christoph
  13. Jeff
  14. Kelly
  15. Philippe
  16. Alexander
  17. Roman
  18. Shawn
  19. Neil
  20. Grant


Falling off the list: Sergei Gimayev (15) and Peter Regin



  1. (NR) Antoine Vermette (C) – 22 – Binghamton Senators

Draft : 2nd round,
55th overall, 2000 Grade: 8.0B Projection: 2nd line
center/1st line LW Similar
Simon Gagne


Vermette makes his triumphant return to the Top 20 rankings.
The fastest player in the organization, Vermette brings plenty more to the
table now than he did before his rookie year with Ottawa. The St-Agapit Quebec
native was not expected to play in the NHL last year, but forced the Senators
to keep him on the roster. Once known simply for his speed and scoring prowess,
it was Vermette’s versatility, energy and impressive defensive game that kept
him in the NHL nearly the entire season. This year because of the lockout,
Vermette is back in the AHL with Binghamton, and has continued with his
all-round effort.


With Binghamton this year, Vermette has nine goals and 30
points in 32 games, which ranks in the top 15 in league scoring. While
Binghamton has disappointed thus far this year, Vermette has not struggled.
Vermette has played both center and the wing this year, but seems most
comfortable at the pivot position. He has an edge on the rest of the prospects
on this list in that he has already proven he can be a third or fourth line
winger. The fact he is a valuable penalty killer already is impressive, and
leaves his offensive upside as the only question mark. Considering he possesses
not only great speed, but soft hands, good vision and impressive hockey sense
for a young player, his offensive potential seems to be significant. In Ottawa,
he may be most useful on left wing, as this is an area of need for the club.


  1. (1)
    Ray Emery (G) – 22 – Binghamton

Draft : 4th round, 99th
overall, 2001 Grade: 8.0B Projection: Number 1 goalie Similar to: Olaf Kolzig


Emery’s disappointing play thus far in the 2004-05 season
along with Vermette’s re-inclusion into the rankings makes his one position
fall a no-brainer. A big goalie with outstanding athleticism, Emery’s technical
game has come somewhat unglued this year in Binghamton, which explains his .907
save percentage. While Emery has long needed work on his consistency, this year
he has struggled to the point where Billy Thompson has been the starter for
short stretches over the organization’s supposed goaltender of the future.


Nonetheless, Emery is a stud goaltending prospect who has
impressive upside and could be the solution to Ottawa’s goaltending void. While
his anger management problems have been well documented, few goalies have
Emery’s combination of size and athleticism, and technical play can be worked
on at the NHL level. One other area of weakness is his puckhandling. Although
Emery is capable of playing the puck ahead to his teammates, his decision
making in this regard needs work. Of late, Emery has started to improve his
play, and a strong second half of the season would be vital for not only his
stock, but his confidence as well.


  1. (2)
    Andrej Meszaros (D) – 18 –
    Vancouver Giants (WHL)

Draft: 1st round, 23rd
overall, 2004 Grade: 8.0B Projection: Number 2 defenseman Similar to: Mattias Ohlund


Often times when a player drops at the draft, questions have
been raised about a critical flaw in their game. With Meszaros last year, there
was no evident answer for why the defenseman, touted to go in the top 15 if not
top 10, fell all the way to the Senators at the 23rd pick. Thus far this
season, Meszaros has done nothing but prove those teams who passed him over
wrong, as his play in Vancouver has been nothing short of stellar. He has 24
points and 60 penalty minutes in 32 games, although his offensive production,
already impressive, should increase if the Giants improve as a team. While the
Giants have struggled despite plenty of preseason hype, Meszaros’ play has been
one constant in a season of inconsistency for the squad.


While Meszaros is not tall, he has a thick build and has in
no way struggled to transfer his game from the Slovakian Elite League to the
bruising WHL. The poised blueliner has been virtually flawless thus far, with
his offensive and defensive play being complemented well by a surprising
penchant for delivering big hits. His outlet passing and poise in all zones of
play are perhaps his greatest assets, which is important because they can
easily translate into NHL success. Meszaros is playing for Slovakia at the 2005
World Junior Hockey Championships in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and if his
strong play continues in the second half with Vancouver, he could be in the AHL
with Binghamton for September of 2005.


  1. (3)
    Patrick Eaves (RW) – 20 –
    Boston College (NCAA)

Draft: 1st round, 29th
overall, 2003 Grade: 7A Projection: Solid 2nd liner,
elite 3rd liner Similar to: Marco


Boston College is considered one of the top hockey schools
in college hockey, with some of the top American players of all time like Brian
Leetch and Joe Mullen counted among their alumni. This year, Eaves is the top
player on a once again competitive team. The Minnesota native’s injury
problems, most notably a string of concussions which cast a black cloud over
him as a freshman, seem to be a thing of the past, although his abrasive style
does leave open the potential for other injury.


This year, Eaves has built on his strong sophomore campaign,
and has seven goals and 19 points in 14 games with the Eagles. While he got off
to a hot start, he has cooled off a bit of late, as this is his first time
being the primary focus of an opposing defense. Eaves should adjust to the
increased attention and produce more as the Eagles make a run at a title this
spring. The question with Eaves is not whether he has what it takes to play at
the NHL, because the effort and intangibles he brings to the ice make him a safe
bet to be at least a third liner. For Eaves, one key for him to translate his
offensive game into NHL production will be bulking up, which could also lead to
improved durability.


  1. (5)
    Alexei Kaigorodov (C) – 21 –
    Metallurg Magnitogorsk (RSL)

Draft: 2nd round, 47th
overall, 2002 Grade: 7.5B Projection: Strong 2nd line
center Similar to: Brenden Morrison


Many prospects in Europe have struggled this year because of
the influx of NHL players due to the lockout. Few if any have taken off the way
Kaigorodov has. Now in his fourth season with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, one of
the top teams in arguably the world’s top league at the moment, the slick
playmaking center has been among the league’s top scorers all year. At the
moment, he sits fourth in the league in points with 29 in 36 games, while his
19 assists have him ranked first in the league in that category. Considering
the Russian Super League traditionally is not generous in giving out second
assists, this speaks volumes about Kaigorodov’s playmaking ability.


Kaigorodov is not particularly big, nor particularly fast,
but has fantastic hockey sense and vision, seeing the ice very well. A mature
player, his puck skills are well-developed, and he plays the game with a
veteran savvy that will help him make the transition to the North American
game. At this point, Kaigorodov should cross the ocean when a new Collective
Bargaining Agreement is in place, but if that is not before September, he will
spend another year in Russia. His breakthrough this fall is vital for his
confidence, and his stock is certainly on the rise as a result.


  1. (7)
    Brandon Bochenski (LW) – 22 –
    Binghamton Senators

Draft: 7th round, 223rd
overall, 2001 Grade: 7.5C Projection: Second line winger,
powerplay specialist Similar to: Cory


Bochenski has scored goals at every level, and this year he
has continued to do so, despite going from college hockey to the AHL. The late
round pick left the University of North Dakota a year early, after scoring 62
goals and 122 points in his final two years with the squad. While Bochenski
started a bit slow in Binghamton, he has picked it up of late, and now has 12
goals and 20 points in 29 games.


The key to Bochenski’s success is his natural goal scoring
ability. Neither particularly big nor particularly fast, Bochenski possesses
terrific hands around the net, which makes him valuable on the powerplay. Like
most snipers, he also has a terrific shot, which he can use either off the side
boards or in the slot. He is most comfortable in front of the net, as his
skating limits his ability to score off the rush. While Bochenski has some
holes in his game, with defense being another thing he has to work on, he has
plenty of natural ability, and after a couple of years in the AHL, could become
a fixture on the Ottawa powerplay for years.


  1. (4)
    Igor Mirnov (LW) – 20 – Moscow
    Dynamo (RSL)

Draft: 2nd round, 67th overall, 2003 Grade: 7.5C Projection: Second line winger Similar
Peter Bondra


Mirnov has been in the shadow of Kaigorodov somewhat this
year, but has still managed to score at roughly the same clip as last year. His
drop in the rankings has more to do with other players like the aforementioned
Kaigorodov taking their games to a new level. Through 34 games with Moscow
Dynamo, the speedy winger has seven goals and 14 points, which through a full
season will translate into nearly identical totals to the 22 points in 54 games
he piled up last year. Considering Dynamo has added such NHL scorers as Pavel
Datsyuk, Maxim Afinogenov and recently Martin Havlat, Mirnov may be excused if
his production tails off a bit in the second half.


Mirnov is yet another pure offensive talent, a goal scorer
who has tremendous speed and a strong shot. The native of Chita, Russia also
has good hands and puck skills. While Mirnov and Bochenski play completely
different styles of hockey, they are remarkably similar in many ways. Like
Bochenski, Mirnov needs to work on his defense, but his offensive upside is
quite good. The next step for Mirnov, who has a history of knee injuries and
questionable conditioning, would be to come over to North America.


  1. (6)
    Kiril Lyamin (D) – 18 – CSKA
    Moscow-2 (Russian High League)

Draft: 2nd round, 58th
overall, 2004 Grade: 7.0B Projection: Second pairing defenseman. Similar to: Fedor Tjutin


While all other skaters ahead of Lyamin on this ranking have
had good seasons, Lyamin has struggled this year. The steady blueliner lost his
spot not necessarily to NHL players, but more directly to 2005 prospect Anton
Belov, and has been playing primarily in the High League this year. Lyamin was
also a member of the Russian team that took on QMJHL, OHL and WHL all-star
teams in the recent Canada-Russia Challenge, but struggled in the six games,
which had a heavy bearing on the Russian World Junior Team selection. As a
result, when the team was announced, Lyamin, at the start of the year expected
to lead the team, was left off the final roster.


Lyamin remains a big blueliner with good skating ability,
and a solid overall set of tools. He can run the powerplay adequately, although
his puck skills are not anywhere near those of Meszaros. The sturdy blueliner
can also play it physical, but needs to be more intelligent in his use of his
good size. Lyamin has good tools and solid potential, but needs to rebound from
a poor first half that saw him bounce around Russia and struggle in an
invitation series on a team he was supposed to lead.


  1. (8)
    Jan Platil (D) – 21 –
    Binghamton Senators

Draft: 7th round, 218th
overall, 2001 Grade: 6.5B Projection: Third pairing defenseman. Similar to: Ruslan Salei


Platil has always been a very raw defenseman. In junior with
the Barrie Colts he developed into one of the OHL’s top defensemen, combining a
cannon of a shot with a reckless physical game that struck fear into opposing
forwards. Last year, in his freshman season in the AHL with Binghamton, Platil
struggled more often than not, playing out of control, which was when he was
not a healthy scratch. This year, Platil has really settled down, and although
he has only registered one assist in 33 games, he has been a steady contributor
in other ways.


The Kladno, Czech Republic native clearly will not be able
to score in the AHL the way he did in junior. Platil’s biggest contribution is
his punishing style which this year has been far more controlled. He has long
been known for his big open ice hits that have drawn comparisons to Ottawa
defenseman and current teammate Anton Volchenkov. This year though, he has
learned how to pick his spots, and his hockey sense has caught up to his physical
ability. Platil’s defensive positioning has vastly improved, and his future
once again looks bright. He will most likely need another year in the AHL, but
this raw blueliner is developing very well now with Binghamton.


  1. (9) Billy
    (G) – 22 – Binghamton Senators

Draft: 5th round, 136th overall,
2001 (by Florida) Grade: 6.5B Projection: Back-up goaltender/platoon
starter. Similar to: John Grahame


With Emery’s struggles, Thompson has a great chance this
year to close the gap on the organizational depth chart, but has only had
moderate success in doing so. Although his record has always been good, and
presently stands at 8-5-0, his play has only picked up at the same time as
Emery has begun to emerge from his slump. Through 16 games this year, he has a
2.71 GAA and a .909 save percentage, an improvement over last year.


Thompson remains the organization’s second option in goal
for the future, because of his steady development over the last few years. He
is a big goalie with good reflexes, although he is not nearly as athletic as
Emery. Unfortunately, Thompson lacks any dominant quality. In junior he thrived
only when on a poor team, and long-term with Ottawa, his best chance is if
Emery falters and he thrives in his audition. Nonetheless, because of Emery’s
struggles, Thompson’s stock is on a slight rise because his value to the
organization increases as Emery falters.


  1. (10)
    Chris Kelly (C) – 24 –
    Binghamton Senators

Draft: 3rd round, 94th
overall, 1999 Grade: 6.0A Projection: Third line forward/ PK
Specialist. Similar to: Stephane


Kelly has never been the type of player to bring fans out of
their seats with his pure offensive abilities, but the Binghamton captain does
bring plenty of intangibles to the ice. A former captain of the London Knights,
Kelly works hard every shift and is invaluable on the penalty kill. Last year,
in his first and only call-up to Ottawa, he displayed that penalty-killing
ability, before suffering a knee injury. This year in Binghamton, Kelly has
proven that he is ready for a checking line role in the NHL, whenever it
returns to play.


The Toronto native has 27 points in 31 games this year, but
his offensive abilities will not be what keeps him in the NHL. Kelly is a
perfect grinder, with both good skating skills, and a knack for giving a team a
boost when it needs it most. Capable of playing just about any position up
front, the fourth-year professional does not have huge upside, but is on the
cusp of regular NHL duty, although Ottawa’s depth may force him to establish
himself elsewhere in the league.


  1. (16)
    Christoph Schubert (D) – 22-
    Binghamton Senators

Draft: 4th round, 127th
overall, 2001 Grade: 6.5B Projection: Third pairing defenseman. Similar to: Ossi Vaananen


Schubert, like Platil, has had something of a breakthrough
this year in Binghamton, his third with the squad. The Germany defenseman has
an ideal build at 6’3 and 219 lbs, and has good all-round tools. He has already
set a personal best for points, with 13 through 34 games, all the while being a
solid physical presence. At times when Anton Volchenkov was out of the line-up,
Schubert was asked to step up, and more responsibility has been a good thing
for the blueliner.


The problem with Schubert is that he needs to find a niche.
He handles the puck reasonably well, has ideal size, and can play a physical
brand of hockey, but has yet to excel in any one area. Nonetheless, he has NHL
talent, and with a strong season, could be ready to make a serious push for a
roster spot in Ottawa, when the NHL resumes play.


  1. (19)
    Jeff Glass (G) – 19- Kootenay
    Ice (WHL)

Draft: 3rd round, 89th
overall, 2004 Grade: 7.0C Projection: Journeyman starter. Similar to: Jeff Hackett


Only Alexei Kaigorodov has seen his stock take off the way
Glass’ has. In many ways, the Cochrane, Alberta native has been arguably the
WHL’s top goaltender this year, which has culminated in him being named as
Canada’s starting goalie in the ongoing World Junior Hockey Championships. In
22 games with Kootenay, he has a sparkling 1.69 GAA, second in the WHL and a
.936 save percentage, tops in the league. Kootenay does play a stingy defensive
game, but Glass’ emergence has been central to their success.


Glass’ calling card is his ability to stay focused in games
where he receives little action for long stretches of time. It is that very
ability that won him the starting goaltender role on Team Canada, and which
could be invaluable if he were to become the Ottawa starting goaltender
sometime down the road. Glass is a self-described hybrid goalie, who can both
use his size and the butterfly to stop pucks. One aspect of Glass’ game that
has been particularly impressive is his ability to play the puck. He already
handles the puck better than any other goalie in the organization, although
surpassing Emery and both Ottawa goalies Dominik Hasek and Martin Prusek in
that category is not the hardest thing Glass will have to do in his goaltending


  1. (11)
    Kelly Guard (G) – 21 –
    Charlotte Checkers (ECHL)

Draft: Undrafted. Grade: 6.5C Projection: Back-up
goaltender Similar to: Garth Snow


When Glass returns to the WHL, he will restart his pursuit
of some of Kelly Guard’s statistical records that he set in his junior career
with the Kelowna Rockets. A true late bloomer, Guard is in the ECHL this year
because of Binghamton’s returning tandem of Emery and Thompson. Although Guard
did hit the ground running with Charlotte, he has struggled of late, including
one game against Pensacola where he allowed six goals on 19 shots before being


A big goalie whose biggest question mark is his lack of
athleticism, Guard remains a project of sorts. He has the ability to take up an
enormous amount of the net, but when he is moved side to side, he is in
trouble. Because of his lack of athleticism, Guard’s upside is as a back-up
goaltender. The book on him is simple, but he has had tremendous success
before, and could again, although a strong second half in the ECHL is important
for his stock to avoid falling considerably.


  1. (12)
    Philippe Seydoux (D) – 19 –
    Kloten Flyers (Swiss Elite League)

Draft: 3rd round, 100th
overall, 2003 Grade: 7.0C Projection: Third pairing defenseman. Similar to: Vitali Vishnevski


Switzerland has yet to produce a regular NHL player, but
Seydoux along with Roman Wick who appears a few slots down, are two of the
country’s top prospects at the moment. A big blueliner who likes to throw his
weight around, and has under-rated offensive abilities, Seydoux’s fall in these
rankings are not because of his own faults, but rather Schubert and Glass
having strong seasons and leapfrogging him. In his third season with Kloten, he
has eight points in 24 games, although the presence of NHL blueliners David
Tanabe and Patrice Brisebois has cut into his ice time at times.


An injury forced Seydoux to miss the WJC this year, where he
would have been Switzerland’s top blueliner. While he does like the rough game
more than most Swiss prospects, he needs to bulk up significantly to
effectively translate his style to the North American game. His ability to
handle the puck has improved, and he could be ready to come over as soon as
next year. A couple of years in the AHL and Seydoux could push for a roster
spot with Ottawa, but presently, he needs to be tested in a more physical
league than the one he is in now.


  1. (20)
    Alexander Nikulin (C) – 19 –
    CSKA Moscow (RSL)

Draft: 4th round, 122nd
overall, 2004 Grade: 7.0C Projection: Second line well-rounded
player. Similar to: Ladislav Nagy


While Lyamin may have missed the cut on the Russian WJC
team, Nikulin’s fine play this year meant he played himself onto the team.
Nikulin was drafted by Ottawa in his second year of eligibility, after having
gone through nine rounds untouched in 2003. This year with CSKA Moscow, the
same team that Kiril Lyamin was unable to stick with, Nikulin has put up three
goals and six points in 14 games, and has ably stepped onto a top line when
star players have gone down due to injury. At the WJC, he has been a bit of a
spare forward for the Russian squad, but scored a goal against Belarus in
Russia’s third game of the tournament.


Nikulin is a shifty player that is reasonably advanced in
his all-round game. Solid as both a finisher and a playmaker, Nikulin does not
have outstanding size nor blazing speed, but his tremendous hockey sense allows
the puck to find him in the offensive zone. The Senators scouting staff did not
want to take skilled players in the middle rounds last year, but the fact that
Nikulin as well as Roman Wick and Peter Regin, were taken despite the
organization’s pre-draft preference shows how highly the scouts thought of
these skilled players.


  1. (NR)
    Roman Wick (RW) – 18 – Red Deer
    Rebels (WHL)

Draft: 5th round, 156th
overall, 2004 Grade: 7.0C Projection: Second line scorer. Similar to: Martin Erat


Similar to Nikulin, Wick fell to the Senators in 2004, after
being originally projected to go in the second round of the draft. Like
Seydoux, Wick is a native of Switzerland, and has a chance to be the country’s
first full-time NHL player. One thing that Wick has done that will help him immensely
down the road is his decision to come to the WHL this year. While some imports
like Juraj Gracik have struggled tremendously in the WHL this year, Wick has
thrived. He comfortably leads all WHL rookies in both goals (18) and points
(33) through 33 games before leaving for the WJC. Wick also has seven more
goals than anybody else with Red Deer this year.


Wick has always been blessed with tremendous offensive
ability, but with Brent Sutter this year, he has developed in other ways. For
one thing, he has become very good at working the puck along the boards. A good
sized winger, Wick is becoming more than simply a perimeter player. His hands
and shot are both very good, and he sees the ice well, but without a better
all-round game, he was most likely not destined for regular NHL duty. Wick,
whose 19th birthday is on Thursday, could play the 2005-06 season in any number
of places, as an overager with Red Deer, back in Switzerland, or even in the
AHL with Binghamton.


  1. (13)
    Shawn Weller (LW) – 18 – Clarkson

Draft: 3rd round, 77th
overall, 2004 Grade: 6.5C Projection: Third line energy player. Similar to: Ethan Moreau


Shawn Weller does not have to so much as to ever pull on a
Senators jersey to be the answer to a great Ottawa Senators trivia question.
The Senators liked Weller so much, that they traded Radek Bonk in order to
acquire a third round pick to take the Glens Falls, New York native. Weller’s
debut at Clarkson University was delayed because of academic eligibility
problems, which have since been sorted out. Through 13 games this year, Weller
has put up eight points with Clarkson, but is currently with the United States
at the WJC.


It was Weller’s combination of size, speed and physicality
that endeared him to Senators scouts before the draft. He can skate with just
about any forward, and brings an edge that the Senators could use at the moment
on their third or fourth line. The intangibles Weller brings such as tenacity
and work ethic are what got him a spot on the US squad. Weller’s offensive
upside may not be that impressive, but his hands and shot are both more than
adequate. His upside is as a great third liner, who provides energy and some
clutch scoring, but he has three more years of college he could play before
turning professional.


  1. (14)
    Neil Komadoski (D) – 22-
    Binghamton Senators

Draft: 3rd round, 81st
overall, 2001 Grade: 6.5C Projection: Third pairing defenseman. Similar to: Kurt Sauer


The jump from college hockey to the AHL is a big one, and
some players do better with that transition than others. After four strong
years with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the son of former Los Angeles King,
Neil Sr., has struggled to stay in the line-up with Binghamton. In 17 games
this year, Komadoski has one goal and only six shots. His ice time is limited
when he is in the line-up, so it has been tough for him to make an impact.


His father was a third
pairing defenseman, who skated in just over 500 career games in the NHL, but
was never an offensive threat. Neil Jr. has the potential to have a similar
career, but at this point, there are a good number of defense prospects ahead
of him on the depth chart. He is at his best when keeping the game simple
because of strong defensive awareness, but he has struggled with the speed of
the AHL game. A strong year next year could help his stock, but Ottawa may not
be the organization for him.


  1. (18)
    Grant Potulny (C) – 24 –
    Binghamton Senators

Draft: 5th round, 157th
overall, 2000 Grade: 6.0B Projection: Role player/leader. Similar to: Jay Pandolfo


A one-time captain for the University of Minnesota, a
college hockey powerhouse that is currently led by Grant’s younger brother
Ryan, the 24-year-old’s rookie season in the AHL has been lukewarm. Although
Potulny does have nine points and 71 penalty minutes in 33 games, he has been
quite inconsistent. While this is not unusual for a young player adjusting to
the professional game, Potulny is supposed to be a mature prospect, known as a
heart and soul type of player.


Potulny has scored some very clutch goals over his career,
but that has more to do with his character than his skill. Big and thick,
Potulny is a good skater, with upside as a defensive specialist. While his
defensive game is far from perfected, he has the intangibles to become a
shutdown player in the NHL. So long as he can gain some consistency, Potulny
will get a chance in the NHL, although it remains to be seen whether he sticks
at that level.


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