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2008-09 Top 12 Prospects: Ottawa Senators

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Shane Malloy, Prospect Insider
5/12/2009 6:03:16 PM
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The Ottawa Senators have had a strong history of drafting and developing prospects, but many of them are no longer on their present roster. They no longer have the depth of elite talent they once had, however, the Senators do have some potential NHL players on this list. This group does have some skill, but the character and grit sometimes overshadows it since there are only a couple well-known names.

It is worth noting that the Sens do have a couple of potential NHL players whom have graduated off the prospects list because of the number of games they have played: Jeff Glass and Peter Regin. They did have a strong Russian contingent in their system with Alexander Nikulin, Ilya Zubov, Igor Mirnov, Kirill Lyamin and Vitali Anikeyenko. Unfortunately, most of these Russians either did not come over to North America or develop as expected.

Up front in North America they have Ilya Zubov, Jim O'Brien, Cody Bass, Shawn Weller, Kaspars Daugavins, Zach Smith, Derek Grant and Louie Caporusso, but none of them are considered to be top line players. The Sens still have the rights to Russian Ruslan Bashkirov, who has been in Russia the past two seasons after a year in the QMJHL. It is uncertain whether Bashkirov will come over to the AHL next season or stay in Russia permanently. From this group the Sens could develop some fine role players who might help their secondary scoring down the road. What they are missing are dynamic offensive players that have the skill to produce at an elite level.

The strength for Ottawa's system is on the blueline, where things look bright with Brian Lee, Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Eric Gryba, and Tomas Kudelka. It is possible the trio of Karlsson, Lee and Wiercioch all have the potential to be top four defenscmen in the NHL. Of the three, only Lee looks to be ready to play full time next year, with Karlsson and Wiercioch a year or two behind. To Kudelka's credit he has improved his play in the AHL and might be able to take his game to the next level. Expect Gryba to turn pro after winning a National Championship with Boston University.

In goal they have some depth and talent at the NHL level with Brian Elliot and newly acquired Pascal LeClaire. The third man between the pipes who has some potential to play at the NHL level is Glass. As noted earlier, Glass has four seasons as a pro under his belt and has played enough games to be removed from the Senators prospect list. This situation will allow the Senators time to draft and groom a goaltender for the future.

Long term the Senators must focus on obtaining offensively skilled forwards they can build the rest of their prospects around over the next few drafts. With high first and second picks in a deep draft this year, the Sens should be able to add pieces to the puzzle.

1. Erik Karlsson – Defence, 18 (1st round, 15th overall 2008)
Currently with Frolunda (SWE)

Now he is not the biggest blueliner in the bunch at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, but Karlsson is packed with skill. Sens fans had a chance to see him up close at the WJC and Karlsson was one of the best players in the tournament. His hockey sense is at an elite level as Karlsson can process information very quickly under heavy duress. He boasts excellent puck skills whether making pinpoint passes out of his zone or stickhandling to create time and space. Karlsson does not have a booming shot from the point but he has a knack for getting it on net. His ability to walk the blueline and find seams in the defensive coverage makes him dangerous on the power play. Karlsson is a fine skater who shows the two-step quickness and agility to keep a handle on the craftiest of forwards. Away from the puck he is a prototypical puck possession defenceman that prefers to use an active stick, good body position and smarts over brawn. He thinks that having the puck at all times is the best way to defend your our zone. Now, he is not the most physical of specimens, but he competes and shows some moxie getting his nose in their then needed. He can log a lot of ice time in all situations and that will make him a valuable asset to the Sens blueline very soon.

2. Brian Lee – Defence, 22 (1st round, 9th overall, 2005)
Currently with Binghamton/Ottawa (AHL/NHL)

The Senators may have it pay dirt on the blueline once again with this smart offensive defenceman who can plays an up-tempo game. At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, he has the size to handle NHL forwards, but he tends to use brains over brawn. His strong play in college, with 53 points in 82 games, along with his performance at the WJC gave the Ottawa faithful hope. He is a smart player who uses puck possession and quick up tempo plays to combat a good forecheck. His hockey sense and passing skills are at a pro level and his rookie season in the AHL, with 25 points in 55 games, proved he could take his game to the next level. Lee is a good skater who rarely gets beat by speed rushers and has the ability and quickness to make up ground and space. He can blast the puck from the point and should be able to contribute on the power play. His defensive game is improving consistently and he just needs a little more time to learn some of the tricks of the trade. Lee is on the brink of moving off the prospects list with games played at the NHL level and is expected to contribute more next season. He has the potential to be a solid number two defenceman at his peak.

3. Patrick Wiercioch – Defence, 18 (2nd round, 42nd overall 2008)
Currently with Denver (NCAA)

The Sens took Wiercioch in the middle of the second round, and it turned out to be the same value as a mid-first. For a freshman he had an excellent season, posting 12 goals and 23 assists with only 26 penalty minutes in 36 games. The lanky 6-foot-4 and 185-pounder has the potential to be a physical specimen once he fills out his frame. He is a smart defenceman who has the hockey sense to handle a fast tempo game and move the puck quickly in all circumstances. His ability to read the play, whether from his own zone or while on the power play, will be an asset at the pro level. His puck skills are very good and Wiercioch makes tape to tape passes to his forwards with speed, even in traffic. He can handle tough passes and shows enough stickhandling ability to buy time for his defence partner or forwards. From the point, Wiercioch can unleash a powerful slap shot that causes some serious discomfort if it hits you and he can blast it past goalies. His overall skating is improving, but it needs work and it should be at an NHL level once he gains the power in his frame. He has enough agility, but that extra gear and two-step quickness he needs in not quite there yet. On the defensive side, his play is rapidly improving and he shows consistency when he keeps his feet moving and uses his wingspan. He should be seriously considered for the Team Canada at WJC in Saskatchewan next Christmas. Expect him to play two more seasons in Denver before moving on into the pro ranks.

4. Jim O'Brien – Centre, 20 (1st round 29th overall, 2007)
Currently with Binghamton/Seattle (AHL/WHL)

O'Brien may be more effective as a pro player than he was as a junior. In 133 regular season games he had 117 points. He seemed more effective in the more pro style WHL than at the University of Minnesota. His puck skills are good but not elite, and he has enough stickhandling and passing abilities to play at a high level. He has an accurate wrist shot in close and a slap shot with power. He surprises some with his soft hands and can bury chances in close under duress, but is not considered a natural goal scorer. He has very good speed, especially for a big player, and has proven to be effective and disruptive on the forecheck with his quickness. His hockey sense makes him responsible in all areas of the ice and he is developing into a solid defensive player that logs penalty killing time. He does a good job blocking shots and clogging up passing lanes with his wingspan and his stick and he can shadow opponents. He needed to fill out his frame (6-foot-2 and 200 pounds) and now plays with a more consistent edge every game. He could develop into a second or third line player, a two-way power centre that is responsible for shutting down top lines.

5. Ilya Zubov – Centre, 22 (4th round 98th overall 2005)
Currently with Binghamton (AHL)
A sneaky, shifty forward who shows the offensive instincts to contribute if he uses his speed to his advantage. He shows good hockey sense, puck skills and vision on the ice and uses his teammates well. His strength was a concern, but he is now 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds and has improved his core and overall strength to compete. If he shows the continued commitment to defence and stays in North America, the Sens could have a speedy spark plug on their hands. Now it is fine that he does not play a gritty style of game as long as is willing to battle hard one-on-one. In his first season he did not shoot the lights out offensively, with just 38 points in 74 games, but it was a promising start. This last year, however, the Sens gained hope that he may be able to contribute at the NHL as Zubov posted 52 points in 63 games. It remains to be seen if Zubov can handle the rigors of the NHL, but you have to like his chances.

6. Zach Smith – Centre, 21 (3rd round 79th overall 2008) Currently with Binghamton (AHL)
This rugged prairie boy has surprised many with his quick transition to the AHL and he gives hope to all late bloomers. His 24 goals and 24 assists along with a 132 penalty minutes were unexpected. Considering he was drafted as a 20-year old, Smith was obviously ready to make the jump to the pro ranks based on his maturity. The 6-foot-2, 200 pound pivot plays a competitive, feisty, in your face style every night and is the type of player coaches love. Smith is not one of those fancy, highly skilled offensive players, but he manages to produce offence because he is willing to pay a price. He skates well and likes to bang and crash along the boards and in traffic. His defensive game is solid and his face-off skills make him a valuable asset, especially on the penalty kill. He plays a smart defensive game and takes pride in shutting down the oppositions best players. From an NHL standpoint, Smith is not expected to be any more than a fourth liner, but those are the role players teams need to win in the postseason. He may need another year to round out his game, but it would not surprise anyone if he is gets NHL time next season.

7. Derek Grant – Centre-Left Wing, 19 (4th round, 119th overall 2008)
Currently with Langley (BCHL)

Perhaps the best sleeper pick in the 2008 NHL draft was Derek Grant, who has played in relative obscurity with the Langley Chiefs in the BCHL. The 6-foot-3, 190 pound pivot has pretty decent overall hockey sense and dominated his peer group at that level. Over the past two seasons Grant posted 123 points in 92 games, scoring 49 goals and five game winners. His pucks skills are also good and he showed the ability to play in traffic while stickhandling or passing the puck. When it comes to skating, Grant gets off the mark pretty quickly and has the agility to maneuver around defenders. He could use some extra power in his stride and that will come once he adds strength to his core. His defensive game is slowly improving when it comes to protecting the puck along the wall and working well with his linemates. He still needs to make sure he keeps his feet moving while using his wingspan and stick to disrupt passing lanes. Grant is not a bang and crash style of player but he gets involved and will go to the dirty areas to score goals. Next season, Grant will attend Michigan State. Expect Ottawa to be patient with his development.

8. Cody Bass – Centre, 22 (4th round, 95th overall, 2005)
Binghamton/Ottawa (AHL/NHL)

The gritty, hard working centre has many attributes pro teams look for - speed, intelligence, and the ability to play reliable defense. He possesses good size at 6-foot-0 and 207 pounds and is a willing combatant in the rough areas of the ice. He is excellent on draws, a solid penalty killer, and creates problems while on the forecheck. Unfortunately, he lacks offensive talent and puck skills, but he could turn into a fourth line checking centre. He only put up 124 points in 247 games in junior, and did not show much offence in the AHL, either. If he can manage one point every five games in the NHL, the Sens would be happy considering all his intangibles. His feisty play is contagious and his work ethic is excellent. He will not back down and is always high in penalty minutes. Bass seems like he might be one of those players that puts up the same offensive numbers in the AHL as the NHL.

9. Louie Caporusso – Left Wing, 19 (3rd round 90th overall 2007)
Currently with Michigan University (NCAA)

Despite Caporusso's size (5-foot-10 and 185 pounds) the kid can flat out play hockey and his offensive numbers reflected that. In the past two seasons at the University of Michigan, he posted 70 points in 74 games against stiff competition. His hockey sense and puck skills when it comes to passing and stickhandling is very good. He reads the developing play very well and is dangerous when on the power play. Overall Caporusso shows quickness and agility and can create separation, but he does need to get stronger. Away from the puck he needs to work on every aspect of his game before he turns pro. His defence is not quite average compared with the AHL players he will face. He is a long term project that might provide dividends if the Sens are patient.

10. Eric Gryba – Defense, 21 (3rd round 68th overall 2006)
Currently with Boston University (NCAA)

A prototypical defensive defenceman that just goes out and bangs bodies while taking care of his own zone. He has great size at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and uses it well, but he could cut down on his penalty minutes (233 in 115 games). He does not possess high puck skills and is not expected to contribute in any way offensively at the next level. A few things he will need to work on are his two-step quickness and the maintenance of good habits without the puck. If he can use his wingspan while keeping the feet moving on top of solid gap control, he might be effective. He will need some time to adjust to a higher tempo once moves to the pro game. A long term project for the Sens.

11. Kaspars Daugavins – Left Wing, 20 (3rd round 91st overall 2006)
Currently with Mississauga/Binghamton (OHL/AHL)
,br /> The Latvian sniper has surprised many with his quick adjustment to the North American game while in the OHL. His next challenge in the AHL will prove if he is a player. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds he does not have the desired size, but he has been a productive offensive player with 162 points in 153 games in junior. He had a 23 game stint this season in the AHL and only mustered three points. His hockey sense, puck skills and skating ability are all good enough to play at the pro level. He can create chances every time he is on the ice. He must use his linemates better and play more of a team game. His shot is deadly accurate and has surprising power and velocity for a smaller guy. He does not play a physical game and can get pushed around, so he will need to address that area. His defensive game also leaves much to be desired at times, even though he shows the capability to be at least average. Has some tools, but whether they translate to the pros is another question.

12. Tomas Kudelka – Defense, 22 (5th round 136th overall 2005)
Currently with Binghamton (AHL)

He shows flashes of offensive potential from the blueline, but Kudelka has had difficulty being consistent in his overall game. This was his first full season in the AHL after splitting time last year in the ECHL. He posted 23 points in 76 games this season along with 67 penalty minutes. At 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds he has grown into his frame, which has helped with battling along the boards and maintaining body position. His skating ability is good and Kudelka uses it well. He does not seem to have the hockey sense to process information fast enough to play a top five or six role in the NHL. He has the ability to make crisp passes out of his zone but he tends to make too many risky plays. His defensive game needs work and Kudelka must be consistent when it comes to body position, puck protection, gap control and taking better angles. Overall he has some tools to work with but it is unclear whether he can do it at an NHL level.

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Ottawa Senators - NHL Entry Draft Record (1997 - 2003)

When looking at the drafting and developing record of a NHL organization it becomes an interesting blend of statistics and circumstances with perhaps some luck thrown in for good measure. Most of the time the General Manager receives kudos for a teams fortunes at the draft table when in reality it is usually never the case in today's NHL. For the most part there are three aspects that make the whole process work; first is the amateur scouting department's ability to evaluate and project talent which may be the most challenging of all. Next the organizations player development department must attempt to mold the prospects by giving the players tools to enhance his talents. Perhaps most importantly is the prospects responsibility to pay the price and sacrifice which generally requires a tremendous work ethic. If one of these aspects fails then the likelihood of a prospect turning into an asset to his organization and having a NHL career becomes remote.

The reason for the analyzing the years from 1997 to 2003 is to first give each NHL organization five years to develop their prospects as players from different leagues evolve differently. Secondly the years from 1997-2003 are the players that should be the building blocks of the core of your team as they will be in the 23-29 year old age range. What makes each organization unique is what they do with the picks they have as management will often trade draft choices for immediate help on their NHL and AHL teams. Now some players may be real late bloomers and eventually make the criteria set in this analysis down the road but at this stage it is fascinating to see the results.

Criteria of NHL games played that deem a player has been drafted and developed successfully.

 

  Forwards - Defenceman Goaltenders
1997-2001 125-200 NHL Games required 51-100 NHL Games Played
2002-2003 100 NHL Games required 25-50 NHL Games Played
Pending Player - Represents a player who has a legitimate chance to make criteria

Ottawa Senators 1997-2003

Year Draft Picks NHL Players Produced (Round/Pick)
1997 8 (5) (RW) Marian Hossa (1/12), (G) Jani Hurme (3/58), (RW) Josh Langfeld (3/66), (LW) Magnus Arvedson (5/119), (D) Karl Rachunek (9/229)
1998 10 (3) (C) Mike Fisher (2/44), (LW) Petr Schastlivy (4/101), (RW) Chris Neil (6/161)
1999 10 (3) (RW) Martin Havlat (1/26), (C) Chris Kelly (3/94), (G) Martin Prusek (6/164)
2000 9 (3) (D) Anton Volchenkov (1/21), (LW) Antoine Vermette (2/55), (D) Greg Zanon (5/156)
2001 12 (6) (C) Jason Spezza (1/2), (D) Tim Gleason (1/23), (G) Ray Emery (4/99), (D/LW) Christoph Schubert (4/127), (C) Brooks Laich (6/193), (RW) Brandon Bochenski (7/233)
2002 8 (0)
2003 9 (2) (RW) Patrick Eaves (1/29), (G) Brian Elliott (9/291)

Total: 7 yrs – 66 draft picks – 22 NHL Players = 33.3% success rate

Success in the first three rounds (1997-2003)

1st rnd Draft Choices: 8 total picks
Undeveloped Players: Mathieu Chouinard, Jakub Klepis
7 yrs – 8 draft picks – 6 NHL Players = 75% success rate

2nd rnd Draft Choices: 7 total picks
Undeveloped Players: Chris Bala, Simon Lajeunesse, Teemu Sainomaa, Alexei Kaigorodov, Igor Mirnov
7 yrs - 7 draft picks – 2 NHL Players = 28.5% success rate

3rd rnd Choices: 8 total picks
Undeveloped Players: Philippe Seydoux, Arttu Luttinen, Neil Komadoski, Jan Bohac, Julien Vauclair
7 yrs – 8 draft picks – 3 NHL Players = 35.7% success rate

Total: 7yrs – 23 draft picks – 11 NHL Players = 47.8% success rate in first 3 rounds

First Three Rounds - Developed vs. Prospects/NA vs. Euro
Developed players: (7) North American, (4) European
Undeveloped Prospects: (6) North American, (6) European

Success in the last six rounds (1997-2003)

4th rnd to 9th rnd Choices: 42 total picks
7 yrs – 42 draft picks – 11 NHL Players = 26.1% success rate

Shane Malloy provides hockey prospect insight and analysis on his Prospect Insider feature on TSN.ca, Canada's leading sports website. Many sports networks, hockey magazines and major newspapers have drawn upon his expertise and knowledge. His passion for the game and involvement in grass roots hockey from the junior hockey to the National Hockey League is evident. He is currently a host and hockey event reporter on XM Sirius Satellite Radio (Home Ice 204) where he co-hosts a hockey radio show on Hockey Prospects and the Business of Hockey.

Prior to joining TSN, Malloy was the columnist-covering prospects for NHL.com for two years and a NHL and prospect columnist Fox Sports.com for six years.

This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.

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Erik Karlsson (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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