Senators Top 20 prospects

By Sean Keogh

Top 20 at a glance

1.Patrick Eaves, RW – 7.5A
2.Brian Lee, D – 8.0C
3.Alexei Kaigorodov, C – 8.0C
4.Josh Hennessy, C – 7.0B
5.Nick Foligno, LW – 6.5A
6.Igor Mirnov, C – 7.0C
7.Michal Barinka, D – 6.5B
8.Kirill Lyamin, D – 6.5B
9.Jeff Glass, G – 7.0C
10.Ilya Zubov, C– 7.0C
11.Brian Elliott, G – 6.5C
12.Vitaly Anikeyenko, D – 6.5C
13.Arttu Luttinen, LW – 6.0B
14.Alexander Nikulin, C – 6.5C
15.Shawn Weller, LW – 6.5C
16.Kelly Guard, G – 6.5C
17.Cody Bass, C – 6.0B
18.Tomas Kudelka, D – 6.5C
19.Eric Gryba, D -6.5C
20.Peter Regin, C – 7.0D

Seven prospects make their debut on the Ottawa Senators top 20 ranking. Two were acquired in the blockbuster Martin Havlat three-team trade, although they come from different organizations. Another two prospects join the list from the 2006 Entry Draft, while another three 2005 picks find their way onto the bottom of the list, two after strong seasons in new and challenging leagues.

Rank (Previous Rank) Name, Position, Rating

1.(1) Patrick Eaves, RW, 7.5A
Acquired: 1st round, 29th overall, 2003

Topping the Senators prospect list heading into the 2006-07 season is a player who, barring injury, will graduate within the first month of the season. Already with 58 regular season games (and 20 NHL goals) to his credit, Eaves is poised to establish himself in the league for a long time to come.

The gritty winger showed steady and significant improvement over the entire 2005-06 season, and heads into training camp in September with a spot on a scoring line in reach. Despite only being 6’0 and 185lbs, he goes hard to the net and doesn’t back down from anybody. A true warrior, he also has some good finesse skills, most notably a great shot thanks to a very quick release. A full season on a scoring line in 2006-07 would make 30 goals a very good bet.

Eaves’ future in Ottawa is certainly bright. He not only has the offensive ability to be a valuable contributor for many years, but the character to be a key person in the locker room. There is no doubt he is a core player in the Senators organization and it is no surprise that while still eligible, he is the club’s top prospect.

Why Could Be Lower: May not have the highest upside among prospects listed.
NHL Projection: Scoring line winger and future captain.

2.(2) Brian Lee, D, 8.0C
Acquired: 1st round, 9th overall, 2005

With the moves made by John Muckler over the summer, the Senators seem to have focussed their blueline strategy on mobility and transition ability, illustrated by the re-signing of Wade Redden and not Zdeno Chara, and the acquisitions of Joe Corvo and Tom Preissing. Perhaps the selection of Brian Lee, if not Andrej Meszaros the year before, should have been taken as a hint to how the organization would build its blueline in the “new” NHL.

Lee’s greatest attributes are his mobility, passing ability and poise. Since before being drafted he has been compared favourably to Redden, which is no doubt high praise for the former Mr. Hockey in the state of Minnesota. The area that has generally needed the most improvement in Lee’s game has been his physical play and strength. He has begun to develop this aspect though, playing more physical as he got more comfortable with the college game. Also encouraging was that a bulked up Lee arrived at the Senators recent development camp.

By playing less passive and adding more strength, Lee could put himself on the fast track to Ottawa. He had a strong freshman campaign at the University of North Dakota, and could really break out in his second season. The Senators have no need to rush him, but if he leaves school early next summer, he could walk right into an NHL job.

Why Could Be Higher: Arguably the highest upside on the list.
Why Could Be Lower: Not as NHL-ready as Eaves or Kaigorodov.
NHL Projection: Top pairing blueliner.

3.(3) Alexei Kaigorodov, C, 8.0C
Acquired: 2nd round, 47th overall, 2002

While all the talk related to the Russian transfer agreement is inevitably related to Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Evgeni Malkin, there is another Metallurg Magnitogorsk center anxiously waiting for a chance to come over to the NHL. Although obviously not as talented as Malkin, Alexei Kaigorodov would almost assuredly start the season with Ottawa, possibly as the second line center.

The best playmaker to come through the organization since Jason Spezza, the veteran of five seasons in the Super League has little left to accomplish in Russia. He will celebrate his 23rd birthday on Saturday. A very intelligent player with decent size and good skating ability, Kaigorodov’s primary limitation will be his comfort level with the physical aspect of the NHL game. He could also stand to shoot more, which is certainly common of many young playmaking centers.

There is no doubt that Kaigorodov does not need another season to develop in the Super League. He was second in the league in scoring during the lockout playing with NHL stars Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora. He can play with high-end players, and the Senators are more than ready to try him as the second line center. The only thing stopping Kaigorodov from graduating in 2006-07 is a transfer agreement.

Why Could Be Higher: NHL-ready and probably the most talented forward on the list.
Why Could Be Lower: Continued development depends on making it to North America.
NHL Projection: Playmaking center.

4.(NR) Josh Hennessy, C, 7.0B
Acquired: Trade with San Jose, 2006

The highest-rated newcomer to the list is Josh Hennessy, drafted and developed by the San Jose Sharks, and acquired in the Martin Havlat deal earlier in the month. Although not the centerpiece to the deal, Hennessy was the best future asset acquired in the deal. Drafted 43rd overall in 2003 by the Sharks, he played four years with the Quebec Remparts. In his final three seasons, he notched 108 goals and 251 points, leading the club in scoring his last two seasons.

Part of the reason the organization acquired Hennessy is that he is nearly ready for NHL action. He had a strong first season in the AHL, leading the Cleveland Barons in all three offensive categories with 24 goals, 39 assists and 62 points, appearing in all 80 games. Unfortunately, with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Marcel Goc ahead of him at center, he was expendable.

Hennessy brings a skill set that will fit perfectly with the Senators style. The Massachusetts native is a wonderful skater, with great acceleration, balance and speed. He knows how to use his speed to create offense, and has the playmaking ability to turn them into real scoring opportunity. He is neither a true playmaker like Kaigorodov, nor a sniper like Eaves, but he has second line offensive ability.

After one year in the minors, Hennessy could challenge for a roster spot with Ottawa this season. Although his all-around game is still unrefined, he is a competitive player who should be able smooth out that part of his game. A spot on the third or fourth line is possible.

Why Could Be Higher: Has the skating ability to thrive in the new NHL.
Why Could Be Lower: Not a top talent; needs to round out his game.
NHL Projection: Second line center.

5.(NR) Nick Foligno, LW, 7.0B
Acquired: 1st round, 28th overall, 2006

For the second straight year, the Senators’ top draft pick debuts at No. 5 in the rankings. Selected 29th at last month’s draft in Vancouver, Nick Foligno, like Eaves ahead of him, comes with great hockey bloodlines. Both players have fathers who once played in the NHL, and both fathers have well-established coaching careers. Foligno’s relation with his father goes even further, as it is Mike Foligno who coaches him with his junior team in Sudbury.

Despite leading the Sudbury Wolves in scoring last year with 70 points in 65 games, Foligno was not selected in the first round for his offensive potential. Although he is a good playmaker with some finishing skills as well, it is the edge he brings to the ice that makes him a top prospect. A sparkplug that can get under an opponent’s skin, Foligno will need to improve his strength and his skating in order to become a truly valuable checking line player.

Although his offensive skills may develop to the point where he could play on a scoring line, Foligno is more likely to be a perfect third line winger who can chip in 15-20 goals and 35-50 points. As usual, the Senators have no need to rush Foligno and will let him develop over the next two years under his father’s tutelage.

Why Could Be Higher: A very safe prospect for a junior player.
Why Could Be Lower: Lacks upside of most first round picks.
NHL Projection: Second/third line forward.

6.(5) Igor Mirnov, C, 7.0B
Acquired: 2nd round, 67th overall, 2003

Often forgotten when talking about the impact of the Russian transfer agreement on Kaigorodov, is the fact that Igor Mirnov of Dynamo Moscow could also benefit from such a pact. With four full seasons under his belt in the Super League, including a productive but injury-shortened 2005-06 season when he scored 18 points in only 32 games.

A good skating forward with an NHL-caliber shot and good overall offensive ability, Mirnov’s game is simpler than Kaigorodov’s. He is an aggressive player that will drive towards the net as opposed to staying on the perimeter. Although his upside may not be as high, he could be an effective player for the club, and if given the chance, could push for a roster spot this year. Of course, that depends on the transfer agreement.

Why Could Be Higher: Could adjust to the NHL game better than Kaigorodov.
Why Could Be Lower: Even with a transfer agreement, not necessarily interested in the NHL.
NHL Projection: Second line forward.

7.(NR) Michal Barinka, D, 6.5B
Acquired: Trade with Chicago, 2006

The second prospect acquired in the three-way trade between Ottawa, Chicago and San Jose that brought fourth-ranked prospect Josh Hennessy to the club, also yielded Michal Barinka. The young Czech, who only turned 22 years old last month, is already a veteran of three seasons in the AHL. He is therefore not only a good asset for the future, but a good depth player for the present as far as the NHL club is concerned.

A second round pick by Chicago in 2003 after opting out of the 2002 draft, Barinka jumped right into professional hockey in North America in 2003-04. A big, strong rearguard at 6’4 209lbs, he is a capable defensive defenseman who can bring a physical dimension to the ice. What makes Barinka a bit different is his passing ability, something that is becoming increasingly essential in the NHL game. He could stand to improve his foot speed and decision-making, but should see a handful of games as the first call-up in 2006-07.

Why Could Be Higher: Could challenge Christoph Schubert on the blueline depth chart this season.
Why Could Be Lower: Like Schubert, needs to refine his physical tools.
NHL Projection: Defensive defenseman.

8.(6) Kirill Lyamin, D, 7.0C
Acquired: 2nd round, 58th overall, 2004

After a disappointing 2004-05 season that saw Kirill Lyamin lose his place on his Super League team CSKA Moscow because of the lockout and other players surpassing him, and be surprisingly left off the Russian World Junior squad, he needed a good rebound year. That is exactly what Lyamin had, playing 25 games with CSKA Moscow and having a good showing at the 2006 World Junior tournament in Vancouver.

Lyamin, like Barinka above him, has good physical tools but needs to refine his game in order to develop further. A big and strong blueliner with solid skating ability and a bit of offensive potential, he can play solid positional hockey, but can also be over-zealous physically at times. Unlike Kaigorodov and Mirnov from Russia, Lyamin could benefit from more developmental time before competing for a spot in Ottawa.

Why Could Be Higher: May have a better upside than Barinka.
Why Could Be Lower: Despite good rebound year, stock has dropped overall since draft day.
NHL Projection: Number four or five defenseman.

9.(7) Jeff Glass, G, 7.0C
Acquired: 3rd round, 89th overall, 2004

With Ray Emery having graduated to the NHL, Jeff Glass takes over as the top-ranked goalie among Senators prospects. The 2005 CHL Goalie of the Year spent the 2005-06 season adjusting to the professional game, primarily in the ECHL. With that experience under his belt, heading into the 2006-07, he will try to steal the starting job in Binghamton away from incumbent Kelly Guard.

A hybrid goaltender that thrives by combining solid athleticism and strong technical ability, Glass may not have Emery’s upside, but he still could develop into a good NHL goaltender. He is an intelligent and hard-working player as well, which is part of why he has become such a good puck-handler. Only 20 years old, Glass is still several years away.

Why Could Be Higher: The highest-ranked player at the most important position.
Why Could Be Lower: Some might prefer Brian Elliott or even Guard.
NHL Projection: 1A goaltender.

10.(9) Ilya Zubov, C, 7.0C
Acquired: 4th round, 98th overall, 2005

At the 2005 Draft, it was not until the third round that a player from Russia was selected, one year after Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin went first and second overall. After taking that first Russian player, Vitaly Anikeyenko, the Senators also selected the second Russian in the draft. Ilya Zubov was projected to go late in the first round, but without a transfer agreement, dropped to the fourth round.

A pure offensive talent at center, Zubov is coming off a fantastic rookie season in the Russian Super League where he opted to play for less money with Spartak Moscow in order to get more ice time. He has all the skills offensively, but will need to get a fair bit stronger. Nonetheless, because he isn’t signed to a major club like Kaigorodov or Mirnov, he is positioned to make the move to North America in a couple of years.

Why Could Be Higher: A talented offensive player suited for the new NHL game.
Why Could Be Lower: Will probably either play on a scoring line or not at all in the NHL.
NHL Projection: Second line center.

11.(10) Brian Elliott, G, 6.5C
Acquired: 9th round, 291st overall, 2003

The 2005-06 season was a pretty special year for Brian Elliott. A ninth round pick in 2003, when the NHL still had a ninth round in the draft, the Newmarket Ontario native was a finalist for the Hobey Baker after a sensational junior season at the University of Wisconsin. If not for a month-long absence due to injury, he might have won the award.

Elliott decided to play out his senior season as opposed to signing a contract this summer, and with a repeat performance, could push Glass for top goaltending prospect honors. Elliott can attribute his success to a tremendous head for the game, reading and reacting to the play very well and knowing how to play his angles. He is also committed to self-improvement, which is always a good sign in a goaltending prospect.

Why Could Be Higher: Barring injury, could have become first goalie since Ryan Miller, and third ever, to win Hobey Baker.
Why Could Be Lower: Has a lot to prove; only played 17 games his first two years of college.
NHL Projection: Very good back-up or 1B goalie.

12. (11) Vitaly Anikeyenko, D, 6.5C
Acquired: 3rd round, 70th overall, 2005

Anikeyenko was the first Russian taken in the 2006 Draft. He is yet another Russian whose future with the club is dependent on a transfer agreement, although he is nowhere near ready to compete for an NHL job.

Built in the same mold as other blueliners ahead of him like Barinka and Lyamin, he has great size and some good overall potential, but he is far less refined at this point in his development. He only played sparingly this past season though, and there are questions that a lack of drive and aggressiveness are stunting his development.

Why Could Be Higher: Was once considered a potential all-star blueliner.
Why Could Be Lower: Lacks motivation to match his potential.
NHL Projection: Third pairing blueliner.

13.(15) Arttu Luttinen, LW, 6.0B
Acquired: 3rd round, 75th overall, 2002

Lost in all the talk surrounding Kaigorodov and the fact he has so far been unable to sign a contract with the Senators, is the fact that the Senators third round pick from the same draft year, Arttu Luttinen, has agreed to come over and push for an NHL job. Luttinen makes the move to North America after breaking out in his fourth season with HIFK Helsinki, scoring 18 goals and 44 points.

While Luttinen has also proven himself in a top European league, he isn’t a pure offensive talent. He plays a rambunctious game that is well suited to the NHL style of play, but even in Finland, did most of his scoring through hard work. Luttinen can handle the physical game and could easily stick on the third or fourth line in training camp.

Why Could Be Higher: May break camp with the Senators.
Why Could Be Lower: Does not appear to have scoring line upside.
NHL Projection: Third line winger.

14.(12) Alexander Nikulin, C, 6.5C
Acquired: 4th round, 122nd overall, 2004

After playing in 16 games with CSKA Moscow in 2004-05, Nikulin was able to stick with the club full time this past year, and thrived. He notched 10 goals and 21 points in 51 games. The national team took notice, as Nikulin saw some time with the club, including being on the roster for the World Championships. Though he didn’t play a game at the Worlds, being named to the roster speaks volumes about Nikulin’s breakout campaign.

Although the average sized center may not possess outstanding upside, but is a solid offensive player who was able to earn significant ice time by playing on every line and in all game situations for CSKA. A hard worker with good hockey sense, Nikulin is already an effective Super League player, and another strong season will shoot him up the rankings, and perhaps land him a contract with Ottawa.

Why Could Be Higher: Coming off a very productive, effective season in Super League.
Why Could Be Lower: Despite star potential in the Super League, may not have great NHL
scoring line potential.
NHL Projection: Second/third line center.

15.(13) Shawn Weller, LW, 6.5C
Acquired: 3rd round, 77th overall, 2004

The Senators have long searched for a power forward to play on one of its top two lines, but have never used a top pick to address the need. One prospect who has some of the tools to be a power forward is Shawn Weller, drafted with the pick received for Radek Bonk in 2004. He is coming off a good sophomore season with Clarkson University, but also was left off the 2006 US World Junior team, after playing for them the year before.

With good size and skating ability at left wing, Weller looks like a power forward. He also is a very aggressive player, almost to a fault, which if refined could make him a great checking line player as well. The question is his offensive upside, and although his goals jumped from 3 to 14 last year, he still looks more like a third liner than a real scoring line player.

Why Could Be Higher: A project with desirable physical tools.
Why Could Be Lower: Appears to have limited offensive upside.
NHL Projection: Third line energy winger.

16.(14) Kelly Guard, G, 6.5C
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, 2004

The third goalie on the list is coming off a season in which he elevated his stock to the point of being a solid prospect, if only providing depth in goal for the Senators. Kelly Guard was handed the starting position in Binghamton after Billy Thompson imploded, and was generally solid and sometimes spectacular in goal.

A late bloomer who plays a technical game, cutting down the angles and simply getting in front of shots, he has improved his athleticism since being signed. Already 23 though, he will need to hold off Jeff Glass this season to get another contract next summer. His upside may still be limited, but he is now a legitimate prospect.

Why Could Be Higher: Easily the oldest and most developed goalie on the list.
Why Could Be Lower: Needs to hold on to starting job in Binghamton to cement status.
NHL projection: Back-up goaltender.

17.(NR) Cody Bass, C, 6.0B
Acquired: 4th round, 95th overall, 2005

In three seasons in the OHL, Cody bass has scored a total of 30 goals. Despite his lack of offensive ability, he is a solid prospect who played nine games at the end of last year with Binghamton, and has a chance to make the Canadian World Junior team next year. The reason is that Bass is a perfect role player.

A solid 6’0 center that has good speed and great energy on the ice, Bass complements his rambunctious style with great defensive awareness. He profiles as a perfect third or fourth line center and wonderful penalty killer. Although he may never produce many points in the NHL, or even the OHL, he is a serviceable prospect that has fan favorite potential.

Why Could Be Higher: A relatively safe bet to play at least sparingly in the NHL.
Why Could Be Lower: As far as forward prospects are concerned, has almost no offensive ability.
NHL Projection: Role player.

18.(NR) Tomas Kudelka, D, 6.5C
Acquired: 5th round, 136th overall, 2005

Bass wasn’t the only junior-aged prospect to finish the season with Binghamton in 2005-06. The club’s fifth round pick in 2005, Tomas Kudelka, was given a chance after a strong first campaign in North America with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He put up 31 points in 64 games, and played in all situations while adjusting to the physical brand of WHL hockey.

A lanky blueliner with good mobility and all-round offensive skills, Kudelka has the skating ability to join the rush and the instincts to do it. He will need to bulk up in order to adjust to the professional game. Coming to North America was a good first step, and he will have to build on his first season this year.

Why Could Be Higher: Probably the most offensive upside of all blueliners aside from Lee.
Why Could Be Lower: Needs to get stronger physically and defensively.
NHL Projection: Third pairing defenseman and/or power-play specialist.

19.(NR) Eric Gryba, D, 6.5C
Acquired: 3rd round, 68th overall, 2006

The highest-drafted Canadian-born defenseman drafted by the Senators since Chris Phillips was taken first overall in 1996, Eric Gryba is the second 2006 pick on the list, grabbing the last spot on the list. The Saskatchewan native played the 2005-06 season in the USHL, but will be heading to Boston University in the fall to begin his college career.

A big, strong and physical blueliner who is determined to be more than simply a bruiser, Gryba does have a hard point shot and some solid passing ability. He will carry the puck as well, but his greatest weakness remains his skating ability. Intelligently, Gryba opted for the college route as opposed to the WHL because of his desire to improve that very weakness.

Why Could Be Higher: Has a good overall package and is determined to improve.
Why Could Be Lower: His upside is dependent on improving his mobility.
NHL Projection: Third pairing blueliner.

20.(NR) Peter Regin, C, 7.0D
Acquired: 3rd round, 87th overall, 2004

The Senators draft frequently from non-traditional hockey markets, and the selection of Peter Regin out of Denmark is just one example. After playing the 2004-05 season in the Denmark as opposed to Sweden or North America, Regin made the move to the Swedish Elite League last year, with good success. He also represented his country at the World Junior level for the fourth time and at the World Championships for a second time.

The offensively-gifted Regin put up four goals and 11 points for Timra IK, and perhaps more importantly played in 44 games. He gained valuable experience playing in one of the best leagues in Europe, and has the talent to break out in 2006-07. While he still needs to get stronger to have a chance to play in the physical North American game, Regin’s move to Sweden earns him the last spot on the top 20 list.

Missing the Cut

Kaspars Daugavins, LW
Dimitri Megalinsky, D
Jim McKenzie, RW
Phillippe Seydoux, D

No longer a prospect: Ray Emery due to games played and Christoph Schubert due to age.

No longer part of the organization: defensemen Filip Novak, Jan Platil and goaltender Billy Thompson.

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