Senators 2007 draft preview

By Derek Cheng

Senators Top 10 Prospects

1. Josh Hennessy, C
2. Brian Lee, D
3. Nick Foligno, C
4. Igor Mirnov, C
5. Kirill Lyamin, D
6. Brian Elliott, G
7. Ilya Zubov, C
8. Shawn Weller, LW
9. Kaspars Daugavins, LW
10. Michal Barinka, D

The Ottawa Senators went far in the playoffs, but were three big wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup. The loss to the Anaheim Ducks was a disappointing end to their playoff run, but time marches on in the NHL, and now the attention turns to the 2007 Entry Draft. On June 22, chief members of the Ottawa Senators front office will be in Columbus to select the young hockey players who they feel will represent the future of the team. Bryan Murray will be attending his first draft as General Manager of the Ottawa Senators, but because of the short time frame between his promotion and the draft, it’s not likely he will make profound changes to the team’s strategy. Ottawa was once one of the more successful teams at the draft and if it’s any consolation for missing out on a parade, the Senators will likely leave Columbus with some key building blocks for the future. 

The Picks (6):
Round 1 – 29th overall
Round 2 – 60th overall
Round 3 – 90th overall
Round 4 – 120th overall
Round 5 – 150th overall
Round 6 – none (180th overall traded to Washington Capitals)
Round 7 – 183rd overall (acquired from Phoenix Coyotes), 210th overall

Team Needs

The 2006-07 Senators were built on a solid core of talented players. There are very few holes to fill and with the majority of the roster set to return for the 2007-08 season, it is unlikely the Senators will go through any major player personnel changes. 

Up front, Ottawa is very deep. Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley have become one of the most dominant offensive lines while Mike Fisher, Peter Schaefer, Chris Kelly, Antoine Vermette and Patrick Eaves provide adequate secondary scoring support. With 11 players registering more than 10 goals in 2006-07, offense is not a concern. Rounding out the forwards are Oleg Saprykin, a restricted free agent who can also add offense, Chris Neil, who has developed a scoring touch of his own, and Brian McGrattan. The Senators still lack a power forward type player and it should be noted that a number of the wingers are natural centermen. Ottawa may lose the services of unrestricted free agents Mike Comrie and Dean McAmmond. If neither returns, there would be a need for additional forward depth and veteran leadership. Looking ahead to 2008-09, Ottawa could require substantial retooling with Heatley and Fisher becoming unrestricted free agents, while Spezza, Vermette, and Eaves will need new contracts.

With an excellent balance of puck-moving, offensive and defensive defensemen in the organization, Ottawa is stable on the backend and should have most of their top six back for 2007-08. The wildcard is UFA-to-be Tom Preissing, who could be a hot commodity. Joe Corvo and Wade Redden bring offense from the backend; while Chris Philips and Anton Volchenkov represent the shutdown pair. Andrej Meszaros is already a reliable top four rearguard in just his second season; and the versatile Christoph Schubert, who has spent more time as a forward, provides more depth on the blueline. Given the unlikelihood that any prospects will become regular NHL defensemen next season, Ottawa may need to add a depth defenseman in case of injury. Looking ahead to 2008-09, the Senators could have a massive hole with Wade Redden slotted to become a UFA.

There is no immediate need for a goaltender, but it is well known Ottawa is seeking to move backup goalie Martin Gerber to free up cap space. Gerber’s departure would open the No.2 position behind Ray Emery. Binghamton netminders Jeff Glass, Kelly Guard and Brian Elliott are front-runners, but all had disappointing seasons in the AHL. If Gerber is traded, the Senators may want to bring in a cheap veteran backup goaltender.

With the second to last pick in Rounds 1-5, it is unlikely that the Senators will land a player who can fill an immediate need.

Organizational Strengths

The Senators have had a great deal of success building through the draft and developing players. One thing in particular has played a significant role in helping prospects develop, and that is depth. Ottawa has had the luxury of allowing their prospects to hone their skills and progress at their own pace because of the depth they have in all positions. In 2006-07, Ottawa did not have a single rookie on the roster. The ability to develop prospects slowly and not rush them to the NHL is a key strength for the organization.

The Senators also maintain a good prospect mix. Each position has a solid group of players who could challenge for NHL positions.  In 2005-06, the prospect pool seemingly took a major hit as Eaves, Schubert, Kelly, McGrattan, and Emery all graduated to the NHL. But the next in line quickly demonstrated they were more than capable of filling the void. Ottawa has an excellent mix of skilled and gritty forwards including Nick Foligno, who had an impressive training camp before returning to Sudbury, Josh Hennessy, who played 10 games with Ottawa and was among Binghamton’s top scorers, and Kaspars Daugavins, who had an impressive inaugural season in North America. Rounding out the forward prospects are Cody Bass, Shawn Weller, Peter Regin, and a couple of talented Russians, Ilya Zubov and Igor Mirnov.

The Senators have a deep prospect group on defense led by 2005 ninth overall pick Brian Lee, who will likely play another season with University of North Dakota before turning pro. Next in line are several intriguing projects; Tomas Kudelka, Mattias Karlsson, Michal Barinka, Kirill Lyamin, and Derek Smith, a Lake Superior State University product who recently signed as a free agent after going undrafted. In goal, Glass, Guard and Elliott all had disappointing seasons in Binghamton, but at least one of them should emerge as an NHL goaltender in the future.

Organizational Weaknesses

Heading into the 2007 draft, Ottawa’s main weakness is the lack of natural right wingers. The majority of their forward prospects are centermen (11 of 19 to be exact), most notably Foligno, Hennessy, Bass, Mirnov and Zubov. At left wing, they have three solid prospects in Daugavins, Arttu Luttinen, and Weller. On the right side, they have no one as notable. Erik Condra and Jim Mckenzie are the top two natural right wingers and neither are expected to be regular NHLers. There is still a need for a power forward type player and the Senators do not have an elite offensive prospect in the pipeline. Ottawa has a multitude of defensemen in the system, including top pick Lee and projects such as Lyamin, Karlsson, Barinka and Kudelka, but they could still use another defenseman considered to have top pair potential. 

It is also important to note the lack of a Russian transfer agreement, which has made it difficult to sign Russian prospects. Ottawa currently has five Russian prospects in their top 20, three being in the top 10. Not only will it be difficult to lure them over, but there is also a risk they would follow in the footsteps of Alexei Kaigorodov and refuse to develop the way the organization sees best.

Draft Tendencies

The Senators have drafted 65 players in the past seven years and have gone to every corner of the hockey world to find talent, selecting players from over 20 different leagues. Seventeen selections have come from the CHL, while the USHL and the NCAA are also prime grooming grounds for future Senators. Ottawa has selected 36 North Americans (22 Canadians and 14 Americans) since 2000.

While some organizations have shied away from selecting Russian players in recent years, the same could not be said about Ottawa. They have drafted 10 Russians since 2000, though they did not take any in 2006. Because Mirnov, Zubov and Lyamin have all become top prospects, and Volchenkov has become a significant component of Ottawa’s blueline, the Senators will likely continue to select Russian players regardless of the complications. Along with the 10 from Russia, Ottawa has selected five from Czech Republic, four from Finland, three from Sweden, two from Switzerland, two from Germany, and one each from Denmark, Latvia and Slovakia. With nine European countries represented, Ottawa is one of the more diverse geographic drafters.

In the past seven years, Ottawa has shown a tendency to draft defensemen, selecting 28 blueliners out of 65 picks. The Senators have been successful in drafting good young defensemen and developing them into pro players. Ottawa has also selected five goaltenders in the past seven years, but none were taken earlier than 45th overall. With four goalie prospects in the system, it is unlikely Ottawa will use an early pick to select another.

The Senators have never traded a first-round pick in their entire history. That being said, Murray likely won’t be afraid to pull the trigger if the right deal comes along, especially if it helps to shed cap space. If the Senators do hold on to the 29th pick in the first round, some notable prospects who could be available when Ottawa steps to the podium include Brandon Sutter, Joakim Andersson, Patrick White, Logan MacMillan, Michal Repik, Luca Cunti, Dana Tyrell and Tommy Cross. It will be Murray’s first entry draft as General Manager of the Senators, but he is no stranger to draft day having been GM for the Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks from 1990 to 2004.  Murray has an excellent eye for potential NHL talent having selected players like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Joffrey Lupul and in his earlier days, Rob Niedermayer, Ed Jovanovski, Martin Lapointe and Mike Knuble.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Result: Joakim Andersson, C/L, Frolunda

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