As part of TSN's countdown to the 2012 NHL Draft, TSN.ca is providing reports for all seven Canadian teams going into the big event on June 22. Our coverage continues with the Ottawa Senators.
General Manager: Bryan Murray
Top Draft Position: No. 15 Overall
Recent First Round Picks: C Mika Zibanejad (2011), D Jared Cowen (2009), D Erik Karlsson (2008), C Jim O'Brien (2007), LW Nick Foligno (2006), D Brian Lee (2005), D Andrej Meszaros (2004).
Overview: Many Senators fans continue to pinch themselves to confirm that last season did in fact happen and was not all a dream. In a year when most pundits picked Ottawa to finish dead last in the Eastern Conference, if not the league, they managed to stay competitive all year, briefly challenge for the division title and hold on for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Since it was supposed to be a re-building year, the Senators' prospect cupboard is quite well-stocked as youngsters such as Jared Cowen, Bobby Butler, Kaspars Daugavins and Zack Smith were all able to make key contributions. In his nine-game stint, 2011 first-round pick Mika Zibanejad showed flashes of offensive talent, but also that he needed to work on his game further.
Mark Stone and Jakob Silfverberg also got a taste of life in the big leagues as they saw action in the first round of the playoffs against the New York Rangers.
Short Term Needs: Despite the fact that he played like he was 10 years his junior in the playoffs, Daniel Alfredsson is 39-years old and in the back nine of what has been a wonderful career. Full seasons from Zibanejad, Stone and Sifverberg may help provide some of the offence needed to replace the greatest player in franchise history, but no one can replace his experience or leadership. The Sens may be well-served trading their first-round pick for another big veteran voice in the locker room. The good news is that if they choose to keep the pick, Ottawa has the opportunity to select the best available player at the 15 slot and are not boxed in by any pressing immediate needs.
Long Term Needs: With lots of offensive talent on display and even more on the way, few teams found the back of the net as often as the Senators last year. Unfortunately, few teams allowed as many goals as the Senators as well. They appear to be set in near for both the present (Craig Anderson) and the future (Ben Bishop/Robin Lehner), but the defence corps could use an added injection of youth. Cowen and Norris Trophy nominee Erik Karlsson are a step in the right direction, but veterans such as Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba will need to be replaced at some point. Since the 2012 draft class appears to be quite deep on the blue line, there is no time like the present to begin the re-stocking process.
Prospect Watch From Scott Cullen: The sixth overall pick last summer, Mika Zibanejad played nine games with the Senators before returning to Sweden for another season. The 19-year-old is a strong two-way talent and while he'll need time to develop, he could be ready for a full-time job as soon as next season. After scoring 54 points in 49 Swedish Elite League games, Jakob Silfverberg joined the Senators for a couple of playoff games. The 21-year-old was a second-round pick in 2009 and has grown into more of an offensive threat.
The Senators' second first-round pick last year, Stefan Noesen has been productive enough in two OHL seasons to think that he might ultimately find his way into a top six role, but seems safe to expect in a top-nine role if his offence doesn't develop in the pros.
A sixth-round pick in 2010, Mark Stone is a big winger with a scoring touch. His skating is a question mark, but after 229 points in his last two junior seasons and an assist in his one playoff games with the Senators, it does appear that Stone's size and scoring touch will overcome any skating questions.
Goaltender Robin Lehner played well (2.01 GAA, .935 SV%) in five games with Ottawa last season, but the 20-year-old's AHL numbers suggest that it wouldn't hurt him to spend more time growing in the minors and, with Ben Bishop signed, there is no reason to rush him.
Injuries have hampered Matt Puempel's development, but he did get healthy enough for nine late-season AHL games. Staying healthy for a full year of development in 2012-2013 should be goal No. 1.
Shane Prince is a pretty skilled player, and 178 points in 116 OHL games over the last two seasons is reason for hope that, with some time in the American League, he can dispell any concerns about his lack of size and strength.
A solid physical defenceman, Ottawa native Mark Borowiecki earned a couple of games with the Senators last season and might be able to compete for a job next season, but part of the reason for that is that Ottawa isn't exactly overrun with top defence prospects at the moment.
Patrick Wiercioch was expected to be one of the Senators' top defence prospects when he came out of Denver University a couple of years ago, but the 21-year-old likely needs some more time before he's considered for an NHL job.
A fourth-round pick in 2008, Andre Petersson was productive in his first year in North America, so the 21-year-old is at least worth watching for further improvement.
Centres Mike Hoffman and Stephane Da Costa are a couple more forwards that might be on the radar after relatively productive AHL seasons.