Here is a look at Ottawa’s organizational needs and possible draft targets:
As things stand now several teams will make more draft picks this year than the Senators have in the past two combined. For the third time in the past decade Ottawa is scheduled to take just four players in the draft. Additionally, the club traded away last year’s second-round pick Jonathan Dahlen at the trade deadline, so the club will have just three top 100 picks from the past two drafts in the system.
Bottom line – the Senators will have to make the most of their selections this season, especially their two picks in the top 50, as the odds are low that the other two selections will ever be NHLers.
The lack of draft picks makes it less probable that the club will choose a goalie in the first round as they are the mostly likely positional player to bust…yet it makes sense for them to take Jake Oettinger if he’s available at 28th overall. Marcus Hogberg is a decent goalie prospect, but teams need two in the system, and there are no guarantees the Swedish netminder will be a full-time starter.
Oettinger has better upside, and if selected, he would be the first goalie taken by Ottawa in the first round of the draft since 1998 when the infamous Mathieu Chouinard was chosen by the club for the first time. What makes Oettinger especially attractive is that he already has a year of college hockey under his belt, so he’s a lot closer to making the jump to pro than a goalie playing junior hockey as he’s already proven himself against superior/older competition. Craig Anderson likely has two or three more seasons left in his 36-year-old body…the Senators need to start preparing for the day he is gone.
If Oettinger isn’t available or the Senators decide to pass on him, the club will focus on the BPA on their list since they have so few draft selections – they can’t be getting cute and looking to fill a specific need at 28 other than goalie as the pick will likely be a few years from the NHL anyway and the roster could look entirely different by then.
That said – late in the first round it is expected that all of the top centers will be off the board and there could well be a run on wingers, which should suit the Senators just fine as the club looks pretty well set at center for the foreseeable future with Logan Brown, Colin White and Filip Chlapik all flowing through the pipeline.
Like every other team Ottawa could use some goal-scoring help, so if Kailer Yamamoto is still on the board at 28 he might be someone the club takes a serious look at to provide some offence. The 5-7 forward is more likely to go to a team with several high picks, however, as his lack of size will make him a risky pick in the first round depite his talent. Still…a club like Ottawa, with several oversized forward prospects in the system, may think that the skilled winger would be well insulated and a nice complementary piece for the future.
Jesper Boqvist is another undersized winger that may appeal to the Senators if available at 28, and a nice Swedish replacement for Dahlen in the system. Coincidentally, the pair played together on a line in the Allsvenskan for Timra, but Boqvist brings a lot more speed to a team that could use it as several of their top prospects (Brown, Gabriel Gagne, Filip Ahl, Andreas Englund) aren’t exactly regarded as speedsters.
Filip Chytil, Isaac Ratcliffe, Klim Kostin and Jason Robertson are other wingers that may be in the Senators’ sights, and defencemen the club may bandy about at 28 would include Nic Hague, Erik Brannstrom, Cal Foote, Conor Timmins and Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
Hague may be the best fit among that group – giving the Senators a big defenceman with top-four potential, but certainly if Foote is still on the draft board the club will be intrigued…Foote or Hague might make nice defence partners for Thomas Chabot some day as Chabot could help cover the lack of speed.
With the 47th pick, Ottawa will be in an interesting position as there is a good chance that a player the team considered a late first- or early second-round prospect will be available to them at that point. The key is trying to guess who that player might be. The Senators aren’t averse to tapping the QMJHL for talent and have a French Canadian GM and coach in a bilingual market…perhaps at 47 they take Maxime Comtois if he has fallen that far. Once considered a top 10-15 prospect, skating issues and a disappointing season saw his stock plummet to the middle of the second round on Recrutes draft list.
Other intriguing, but risky, picks at that point would include Aleksi Heponiemi and Nikita Popugaev, but a team holding just two picks in the top 120 is not likely to go with a “boom or bust” type prospect with either of their top-two selections. More likely targets would include Alex Formenton, Grant Mismash, or Kole Lind if he drops.
The other possibility at 47 if the club passes on Oettinger in the first may be a goalie like Stuart Skinner, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen or Olle Eriksson Ek. Certainly, if Michael DiPietro somehow fell to 47 he would also have to be seriously considered.
Thankfully for the Sens the club had plenty of selections in 2015 and had a solid draft, so there are some decent prospects joining the organization next season. It would be wise to not trade away multiple picks in next year’s draft however, as it doesn’t take long for the prospect cupboard to thin out. It will be important for the Senators to get their top two picks right as teams like to get at least two future NHLers out of each draft if possible.