Senators News: July 10th

It’s been awhile since I did a general news update on the Sens, but there’s enough accumulated news and thoughts to warrant it.

The overhaul of the Binghamton Senators is well under way and let’s take a quick overview of where things stand.  Additions: Aaron Johnson (FA), Carter Camper (FA), and Alex Guptill (trade); Deletions: Nathan Lawson, Ben Blood, Tyler Eckford, Corey Cowick, Stephane Da Costa, Wacey Hamilton, Ludwig Karlsson (trade), and Jim O’Brien; I’ve excluded players on AHL contracts who spent most of the season in the ECHL (like Scott Greenham).  Among the RFA’s, Mike Hoffman, David Dziurzynski, Cole Schneider, Chris Wideman, Patrick Mullen, and Michael Sdao have re-signed; Derek Grant filed for arbitration, but settled today.

So the roster would look like this (I have Stone and Borowiecki in the NHL):
Forwards (15) – Hoffman, Robinson, Thompson, Prince, Pumpel, Guptill, Grant, Dziurzynski, Schneider, Dzingel, McCormick, Pageau, Camper, Kramer, Culek
Defense (9) – Borowiecki, A. Grant, Wikstrand, Johnson, Mullen, Wideman, Claesson, Sdao, Rutkowski
Goalies (2) – Hammond, Driedger
[Quick edit: everyone was telling me Wikstrand was returning to Sweden and at last, via Scooter Lazar I got the link to the Ottawa Sun article that confirmed it]

As for the NHL roster, here are the Additions: David Legwand (FA), Alex Chiasson (trade); Deletions: Jason Spezza (trade), Ales Hemsky, Matt Kassian; the only unresolved contract is Robin Lehner’s, but there’s no reason to expect that not to get done.  Given that, here’s the current roster (I’m excluding Lazar):
Forwards (12) – Ryan, Turris, Michalek, MacArthur, Zibanejad, Condra, Chiasson, Smith, Neil, Legwand, Greening, Stone
Defense (7) – Karlsson, Methot, Cowen, Gryba, Wiercioch, Phillips, Ceci, Borowiecki
Goalies (2) – Anderson, Lehner

The roster above is just a guess on my part and all sorts of parts could be moved around.  I think the Binghamton forward roster remains bloated, but the odds are good that Culek, Rutkowski, and maybe Kramer will get loaned to the ECHL to alleviate the pressure.  If the Sens weren’t on a tight budget you could throw in an extra forward, but it seems unlikely unless they need the body to hit the cap floor.

As for the additions themselves, Nichols offers a tepid endorsement of Legwand:

Looking at his underlying numbers, Legwand’s past seven seasons have been a bit of a mixed bag – good seasons interspersed with some bad and his last good season from a puck possession standpoint was two seasons ago. It’s worth keeping in mind however that Legwand’s usage has been that of a defensive center – playing tough minutes against the opposition’s best forwards and with a low percentage of his shifts starting in the offensive zone. At 33 years of age, the risk of a decline in play will be there, but there’s been enough consistency in his game and numbers to suggest that he can be an effective player for the Senators.

I felt no excitement at all for the addition, but Bryan Murray has long been fond of adding fading veterans to his roster (Jason Smith, Luke Richardson, Martin Lapointe, Shean Donovan, etc, etc) and since there’s no expectation that Ottawa will challenge for the Cup it probably doesn’t matter very much (Travis Yost is much more optimistic about the signing, incidentally).  As Nichols point out, the addition might mean less of the horrific Greening-Smith-Neil combination that Paul MacLean loves so much.  As for Chiasson, his underlying numbers are unimpressive, although as a younger player there may be room to improve (Yost called the entire Spezza deal a disaster, so his thoughts on Chiasson aren’t any more positive).  I have no idea why Michalek and his bad knees were brought back; I don’t dislike Milan, but when he’s not healthy he’s not effective and those times are more common than the former.

As for the AHL additions, Guptill had just signed his ELC with Dallas after three years  in the NCAA (you can hear what scouts thought when he was drafted back in 2010); a big winger who put up decent numbers in college, he should be a useful player for Binghamton, even if his NHL-potential is doubtful.  Carter Camper is a different acquisition altogether, as the diminutive forward spent the better part of three years playing in Boston’s organisation before a deadline deal with Columbus (in exchange for another minor leaguer).  His AHL stats are good and I’d guess he’s intended to replace Da Costa‘s production–I see virtually no chance of him playing in Ottawa.  Aaron Johnson has been around a long time, but his days as a NHL player are gone (he played a few games with Boston two years ago, but spent all of the past season in the AHL while signed with the Rangers); he should be a dominant AHL defenseman and helps solidify Binghamton’s blueline which, unlike last year, has a strong veteran core (Johnson, Grant, and Mullen).

With the rosters essentially complete, how do they stack up to last year’s squad?  Ottawa has lost its #1 center (I’m not considering Hemsky a loss given that he was a rental) and replaced him with a project prospect and an aging veteran.  It’s not better on paper, so the team has to rely on internal improvement which is a difficult thing to judge.  Whether management wants to admit it or not, the upcoming season is a rebuilding one.  Binghamton, conversely retains a strong core of forwards and has improved its blueline, so the questionmark is in net.  I’m not sure if the Hammond-Driedger combination can carry the mail, but semi-competent goaltending is available later in the year if the team needs to go that way so I fully expect Binghamton to make the playoffs again.

Finally, Development Camp has come and gone.  Unfortunately I couldn’t attend this year, although the Sens posted the entire five-on-five scrimmage online which was a great decision.  I’ve learned over the years not to take performances at the camp that seriously (generally those who are very good and those who are very bad might mean something, but not much), but Curtis Lazar was awarded the Hardest Worker trophy (also considered were Garrett Thompson and Max McCormick).  A number of free agents attended the camp, but this rarely means anything (the only surprising attendee for me was goaltender Tomas Kral–it’s not often someone playing Czech tier-2 travels across the Atlantic to attend a camp).  Overall, the impressions I’ve had (and read) confirm that it was a good camp.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Scouting Reports on the Players Acquired in the Spezza Deal

Alex Chiasson was drafted in 2009 (2-38), which is before I started doing my draft analysis so I don’t have scouting reports on him.  Alex Guptill was not highly touted so information is sparse, but included below.  There’s more on Paul although he’s not a high-ender either.  All three players are big wingers, so there’s a clear desire on the part of the organisation to have size on the boards (insert your favourite Colin Greening joke).  Chaisson is already in the NHL (79-13-22-35) and better analysis on him will soon be available.  Here are the two prospects:

Alex Guptill 3-77/10 LW 6’3 (NCAA Michigan 31-12-13-25) Ranking: CSNA 99 RLR 159 ISS 164
Turned pro after his third year in the NCAA; this past season he was tied for third in scoring on a team lead by J. T. Compher; lead Michigan in points when playing with Jacob Trouba on the roster the previous year.
RLR: Jr. A goal scoring machine is rather one dimensional
ISS: Good offensive upside Nice mix of speed and skill Very good skater Good shot, can score Good size/solid frame Verbal – University of Michigan Protects the puck well  Needs to improve defensive game

Nicholas Paul 4-101/13 LW 6’3 (OHL North Bay 67-26-20-46) Ranking: ISS 82 HP 106 CSNA 124 FC 137 RLR 142
Finished third in team scoring, making significant strides over his rookie season in the OHL (66-12-16-28).
ISS: Paul made a name for himself this year as a quality shutdown forward who shows tremendous smarts in the defensive zone. He possesses an incredibly active stick and with his tall, lanky frame he utilizes his big wingspan to get his stick on pucks. Nicholas has shown positive strides in his offensive development although his upside is primarily his defensive game, his offensive tools including shot and hands have come a long way. Will need to focus on his foot speed and stride.  Size/Strength Very Good Skating Average Puck Skills  Good Shot Good Hockey Sense Very Good
HP: Nicholas was selected in the 5th round of the 2011 OHL Priority Selection Draft by the Brampton Battalion out of the Mississauga Senators Minor Midget program. Nicholas continued to develop his game playing for the Mississauga Reps AAA Major Midget and got a brief and successful stint with the Mississauga Chargers of the OJHL. Nicholas went into the Battalion training camp and earned a spot on the roster. In early and especially mid-season viewings, you could always find Paul playing physical, and showing a nice pair of hands in front of the net. He was not a good skater but was always able to remain involved in the play. However, towards the end of the season, he seemed to hit a wall likely due to playing his first full season at this level of play. He became a little more perimeter oriented and he essentially got away from his strengths. He is a strong player, who has a good chance to hear his name called at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. When he sticks to his strengths he’s an extremely effective player who plays a power game. However he needs to use the next season as an opportunity to elevate his play and show his true potential.
FC: Paul is a good-sized winger who gets around the ice efficiently. He has some solid puck skills and can be strong on the cycle. He uses his size well and has shown an ability to finish, albeit inconsistently.
RLR: Strong, skates well, & has untapped offensive potential

So there you have it–a quick peek into the assets added through trading Jason Spezza (and the disappointing Ludwig Karlsson).  Paul will play in the OHL this upcoming season, while Chiasson will be on the main roster and Guptill joins the B-Sens.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Judging Player Production in Europe

In my last post I made fun of efforts at translating production from other leagues to the NHL–it’s not that I don’t laud the effort, but I have yet to see a formula that can be applied to basic stats that makes sense.  To illustrate the point, I decided to highlight top North American performers in European leagues using this season to provide some insight (I’ve given their stats from this past season and then their best NA results and career totals; their current age is also in brackets).

KHL
Brandon Bochenski (32) 54-28-30-58 (NHL 41-13-11-24 06-07; NHL 156-28-10-68)
Nigel Dawes (29) 54-26-23-49 (NHL 66-14-18-32 09-10; NHL 212-39-45-84)
Kyle Wilson (29) 49-17-27-44 (NHL 32-4-7-11 10-11; AHL 427-149-170-319)
Dustin Boyd (27) 49-18-20-38 (NHL 71-11-11-22 08-09; NHL 220-32-31-63)

None of the players here truly established themselves as NHL regulars (although Dawes and Boyd did get to 200 games); that marginal existence (or in Wilson’s case, strong AHL career) has carried over to being excellent KHL players.  Does Bochenski’s domination of the KHL mean other players who dominate the league are Bochenski’s?  He out produced Ilya Kovalchuk, who was nearly a point-per-game in his last NHL season (12-13), but clearly isn’t anywhere near as talented as the Russian, so how much do their numbers matter?

NLA
Brett McLean (35) 50-18-26-44 (NHL 82-9-31-40 05-06; NHL 385-56-106-162)
Robbie Earl (28) 46-20-18-38 (NHL 32-6-0-6 09-10; AHL 313-66-103-169)
Alexandre Giroux (32) 46-20-18-38 (AHL 69-50-53-103 09-10; AHL 771-368-336-704)
Ahren Spylo (30) 47-16-22-38 (AHL 50-25-11-36 04-05; AHL 137-43-25-68)

These players have a less distinctive background in North America, being primarily AHL stars.  Joe Thornton was slightly better than a point-per-game player in the NLA (04-05), but this doesn’t mean Brett McLean is just a notch below him.  Not to beat my point to death, but clearly raw numbers from the league aren’t particularly useful in translating their production at the highest level

SHL
Chad Kolarik (28) 53-30-18-48 (AHL 76-31-37-68 12-13; AHL 277-98-111-209)
Ryan Gunderson (28) 54-8-33-41 (AHL 74-5-20-25 09-10; ECHL 156-9-98-107)
Rhett Rakshani (26) 55-13-25-38 (AHL 66-24-38-62 10-11; AHL 120-44-69-113)
Ryan Lasch (27) 54-20-16-36 (AHL 30-6-4-10 12-13; NCAA 161-79-104-183)

These players are quite similar to those above and I won’t bother making the point I’ve already made twice above.

Liiga
Ben Maxwell (26) 49-16-26-42 (AHL 73-22-36-58 08-09; AHL 296-68-140-208)
Corey Elkins (29) 54-15-25-40 (AHL 76-18-26-44 10-11; AHL 173-43-48-91)
Dan Sexton (27) 39-16-21-37 (NHL 41-9-10-19 09-10; AHL 144-36-64-100)
Aaron Gagnon (28) 48-17-19-36 (AHL 78-27-31-58; AHL 328-74-98-172)

The caliber here is quite Similar to the SHL.

DEL
Adam Courchaine (30) 51-29-45-74 (ECHL 42-21-28-49 05-06; ECHL 45-21-30-51)
Kevin Clark (26) 60-32-40-72 (AHL 72-12-19-31 11-12; AHL 160-26-60-56)
Blaine Down (31) 48-26-25-51 (AHL 54-8-13-21 02-03; AHL 134-18-28-46)
Derek Hahn (36) 52-12-34-46 (CHL 64-35-79-114 05-06; CHL 238-124-201-325)

This is a significant fall-off compared to the leagues above, as middling AHL and top ECHL players can make a big impact in the league.

The point of this isn’t to suggest we should give up the effort of understanding how a player’s performance in Europe translates at the next level, but as it stands all we can say with certainty is that big numbers in the top leagues (KHL, NLA, SHL, and Liiga) do translate at the AHL level (as they do in reverse).  Whatever limitations various players from either side of the Atlantic have, it seems like success in those leagues (or the AHL) easily moves back and forth, but that production does not have an obvious ratio at the next level.  I’m not sure what the solution to the conundrum is, but the problem shouldn’t come as a big surprise: massive point totals from junior players rarely translate to the NHL, but sometimes they do–the only certainty is that an absence of production at a lower level guarantees it will continue at the next.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Behind the Numbers of Binghamton’s 2013-14 Season

I wrote about Binghamton’s season back in April and then graded the prospects a week ago, but I return to the topic because Manny has gifted us with analytics via Josh Weissbock for the AHL.  Weissbock’s methodology is not included in the blog (just a link to his Twitter), but by the power of Internet I went and found an article he wrote for nhlnumbers which gives us somewhere to start:

To create a proxy for possession in the AHL, I looked at all games that have been played so far this year, added up each teams Shots For and Shots Against and calculated their Shots For %. This means there are some obvious limitations. These numbers also include special teams (not just even strength) and don’t take account score effects. So this a very rough proxy for the possession numbers we usually use for the NHL.

There’s clearly more to it now, but it sheds some light on where Weissbock’s numbers come from (he did Tweet how he calculated TOI).  I’m not going to break down each player comparing my thoughts to Manny’s because the differences aren’t extreme enough for that.  Instead I’ll highlight differences and reinforcements that I consider significant.

Goaltenders

I thought Andrew Hammond was solid in net and the numbers agree, although Manny believes more is needed from him next season; conversely I thought Nathan Lawson was average that was far too kind to the UFA.

Blueliners

No surprises here at all; I didn’t think much of Mark Borowiecki‘s season, nor is it a surprise to know he faced the toughest opposition in the league–I still expected more from him.

Forwards

I didn’t think much of Darren Kramer, Wacey Hamilton, or Corey Cowick‘s seasons and their underlying numbers are awful.  The former two comes as no surprise to anyone, but I think the data here makes it clear that Cowick cannot effectively handle a checking role (he was also a drag for Derek Grant and David Dziurzynski).  Jean-Gabriel Pageau was a monster against the toughest opposition.  It’s worth listing Binghamton’s forwards by the level of competition they faced (the number in brackets is where they finished in points-per-game in scoring by forwards; I’ve bolded the top-scorers):
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (4)
David Dziurzynski (11)
Derek Grant (9)
Jim O’Brien (8)
Corey Cowick (12)
Mark Stone (2)
Cole Schneider (5)
Matt Puempel (7)
Darren Kramer (14)
Wacey Hamilton (13)
Stephane Da Costa (3)
Buddy Robinson (10)
Mike Hoffman (1)
Shane Prince (6)
It would have been nice to see where Andre Petersson fit here before he left, but while excluded from Manny’s list his name appears amongst the bubbles of QoT/QoC and he slots ahead of Schneider above.  It’s worth pointing out that I gave Puempel and Prince equal grades and it’s clear the former had a better season given his QoT; Grant warranted a bit more generosity as well.

The last thing I want to address is the NHL Equivalency number included in the final chart.  These numbers are derived from a now gone-from-the-web Gabe Desjardins article, but Manny got his formula via Justin Azevedo:

chart

I have no doubt Desjardins put a lot of work into this, but as a cautionary tale for taking this chart as gospel, it predicts that Brandon Bochenski (KHL) is a 72-point producer at the NHL level (hell, Nigel Dawes is a 61-point player); or, for an AHL-example, Martin St. Louis should have been a 42-point NHL player.  I don’t think there’s a useful way to take statistics from one league and apply them to another, although it’s still fun to try.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on Senators Prospects (Part Two)

The second installment of my look at the Sens prospects (you can find Part One here).  After covering prospects in junior, college, and the ECHL, I’m taking a look at AHLers.  I have left out players who I don’t believe will return (like Wacey Hamilton), while players who are through their ELC’s who have established what they are (like Mark Borowiecki) are treated a bit further below (as is Cody Ceci, who spent most of his season in the NHL).  As always, for players without significant time in the NHL it’s worthwhile viewing the scouting reports when drafted (many of which can be found via the link above).

Cole Schneider (FA NCAA 2012; 69-20-34-54; previous season 60-17-18-35; splits 10-4-1-5/10-2-6-8/10-6-8-14/10-3-3-6/10-1-4-5/10-3-5-8/9-1-5-6)
An excellent sophomore campaign with only a few periods of inconsistency; so far Schneider has been an excellent free agent signing and all that remains to be tested is his capabilities at the next level–he can clearly dominate in the AHL.  Does he need to be a top-six player to pan out at the next level?  I think that remains to be seen–if he’s a possession guy then the goals aren’t the only way for him to step up.

Chris Wideman (4-100/09; 73-9-42-51; previous season 60-2-16-18; splits 10-1-7-8/10-1-3-4/10-1-7-8/10-2-10-12/10-1-4-5/10-0-3-3/13-2-8-10)
A fantastic sophomore season, slowing a little in the second half (32 points in the first 40, 19 in the next 33); undersized NCAA grad will always have to do more to get his shot, but another dominant AHL-season is going to force Ottawa’s hand.  It’s very rare for a small blueliner to play a depth role, so he has to push for at least a 4-5, second unit powerplay spot to have a realistic shot.

Matt Puempel (1-24/11; 74-30-18-48; splits 10-3-2-5/10-3-2-5/10-3-1-4/10-5-2-7/10-5-2-7/10-5-3-8/14-6-5-11)
First-rounder’s rookie season improved over the course of the season (went from 0.46 points-per-game in the first 30 to 0.77 the rest of the way); sniper projects as a top-six player who can eat up powerplay minutes, but whether he’ll achieve that potential is still up in the air (his ability at the AHL-level is not in question).

Shane Prince (2-61/11; 69-21-27-48; previous season 65-18-17-35; splits 10-2-2-4/10-3-5-8/10-2-5-7/10-6-4-10/10-3-2-5/10-3-3-6/9-2-5-7)
Improved over last season; his primary issue is inconsistency, but his tracking the right direction; I don’t know if Prince has the chops for the next level, but that possibility remains (perhaps as a pesky top-nine player).

Jean-Gabriel Pageau (4-96/11; 46-20-24-44; NHL 28-2-0-2; previous season 69-7-22-29; splits 10-5-9-14/10-2-4-6/10-2-8-10/16-11-3-14)
While his time in the NHL was a disappointment, he dominated in the AHL and his future remains bright; he’s not a lock for the NHL roster next season, but that league is in his future (even if he never produces enough to escape a bottom six role).

Mark Stone (6-178/10, 37-15-26-41; NHL 19-4-4-8; previous season 54-15-23-38; splits 10-4-4-8/10-6-6-12/10-3-9-12/7-2-7-9)
Injury-prone, but there’s no questioning Stone‘s hands or instincts; it remains to be seen if his feet are fast enough to be an NHL-regular, but he’ll get an opportunity to show that sooner than later.

Buddy Robinson (FA NCAA 2013, 69-15-16-31; splits 10-2-1-3/10-4-3-7/10-1-1-2/10-1-2-3/10-2-3-5/10-1-3-4/9-4-2-6)
The big winger gradually became more consistent over the course of his rookie season, which echoed Cole Schneider‘s last year; NHL-potential hasn’t been tested yet, but at the least he’s going to be a good AHLer.

Fredrik Claesson (5-126/11, 75-3-26-29; previous season 70-3-8-11; splits 10-0-0-0/10-0-5-5/10-1-6-7/10-1-8-9/10-0-1-1/10-1-1-2/15-0-5-5)
Steady Freddy enjoyed a fantastic sophomore season; defensively dependable, there’s no question he could at least fill-in at the NHL-level, so the question now is whether he can be a regular or not.

Corey Cowick (6-160/09, 72-12-13-25; previous season 72-16-19-35; splits 10-1-1-2/10-3-1-4/10-0-2-2/10-4-4-8/10-2-1-3/10-1-1-2/12-0-3-3)
After a successful season riding shotgun with Jean-Gabriel Pageau, everything came crashing to earth for Cowick who, other than a short stretch in December, put up awful numbers (even for a checker).  He’s clearly someone who needs to be insulated to perform at his best and that doesn’t bode well for an NHL future, even if he’s now fully established as an AHLer.

Derek Grant (4-119/08, 46-12-10-22; NHL 20-0-2-2; previous season 63-19-9-28; splits 10-3-3-6/10-3-1-4/10-0-2-2/16-6-4-10)
His numbers marginally improved over last season and he spent a good chunk of the early season in the NHL; projects as a PK forward and the upcoming season is going to be make-or-break for him (I don’t think he’ll be on the Sens roster, but he should dominate in the AHL no matter where he’s played).

Michael Sdao (7-191/09, 61-5-6-11; splits: 10-1-0-1/10-1-2-3/10-0-2-2/10-2-1-3/10-1-0-1/11-1-0-1)
Drafted as the best fighter of the 2009 class, his rookie season saw him eventually push Ben Blood out of the lineup, but not do enough to dress in the playoffs; he projects as a 5-6 guy.  His numbers are actually quite decent and he can do more with the puck than someone who is just a goon–the question remains if he can translate that to the next level and at this point it’s too early to tell.

Darren Kramer (6-156/11, 45-2-2-4; previous season AHL 21-1-0-1/ECHL 19-3-7-10; splits 10-1-1-2/10-1-0-1/10-0-1-1/15-0-0-0)
The best fighter in his draft class, he was a full-time roster player in his sophomore season, but dressed for only just over half the games–despite appearing in the playoffs, it’s clear his skill level isn’t high enough for him to fill anything other than the role of a fighter, something I don’t see him translating to the NHL.

Older/NHL Players

Cody Ceci (1-15/12; NHL 49-3-6-9; AHL 27-2-17-19)
First-rounder was locked into Ottawa’s lineup for the same kind of WTF reasoning that keeps Chris Phillips in the lineup; like most young defenseman there’s a lot growth yet to come and a full season in the AHL would likely help; an offense-first blueliner, the future should be bright for Ceci–the only question is when he’ll be ready for full-time NHL duty.

Mike Hoffman (5-130/09; AHL 51-30-37-67; NHL 25-3-3-6; previous season AHL 41-13-15-28)
He has nothing left to prove at the AHL level, so the question remains whether or not he can be a regular NHL player; I think he can–he has the speed and hands to be useful even if he can’t translate his scoring–the only question is whether he does this in Ottawa or not, and whether he’s someone who plays for parts of a few seasons and then disappears.

Stephane Da Costa (FA NCAA 2011; AHL 56-18-40-48; NHL 12-3-1-4; previous season AHL 57-13-25-38)
This was the first season where Da Costa looked like a (potentially) useful NHL player; I’m still not sure how well his skills translate, since I don’t think he’s particularly useful in a depth role and his production might not warrant anything else, but given that after last year I thought his peak was the AHL, he’s become a more interesting asset.

Mark Borowiecki (5-139/08; AHL 50-2-6-8; NHL 13-1-0-1; previous season 53-4-10-14)
Heart and soul player had a poor season–too many penalties, too many fights, sub par production, etc.  There’s no questioning his worth ethic, but the more I see of Borowiecki the more I’m convinced his peak is a 6-7 blueliner who is as good as he’s going to get right now.

David Dziurzynski (FA BCHL 2010; AHL 68-13-12-25; previous season AHL 54-4-16-20; NHL 12-2-0-2)
There’s nothing left for Dizzy to prove in the AHL–he’s a well-established checking forward whose numbers have been almost ruthlessly consistent (points-per-game per season: 0.26, 0.38, 0.37, and 0.36); is he good enough to perform the same role in the NHL?  I thought he looked out of place with Ottawa two season’s ago, but that’s not to say he couldn’t fit on a line in the right situation–although I’m dubious he’ll get that chance with the Sens.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on Senators Prospects (Part One)

The signing of prospect Mikael Wikstrand on Thursday got me thinking about what we can expect from Ottawa’s many prospects.  Given the great multitude this will be done in two parts.  I’m leaving out players like RFA Ben Blood (he won’t be retained), Francois Brassard (the organisation has made it known they have no intention of signing him), or the injured Jarrod Maidens.  Acronym of note for players in pro: ppg = points-per-game.  Players who will be playing pro next season have been coloured green.

CHL Prospects

It’s worth noting here that production (unless it’s bad) doesn’t mean much at this level; Tyler Donati was an OHL star and couldn’t manage to become an AHL-regular, so keep that in mind.  Scouting reports are much better guides to these players and you can find most of them by draft year: 20102011, 2012, and 2013.

Curtis Lazar (1-17/13; WHL 58-41-35-76; previous season 72-38-23-61)
The scouting consensus was that the first-rounder was a solid, well-rounded second-line player and nothing from this season would suggest otherwise.  His numbers were up from his draft year and he performed very well at the WJC.  The organisation has talked about him making the jump to the NHL next season, but there’s no reason (beyond budget) to rush him into the lineup.

Vincent Dunn (5-138/13; QMJHL 50-31-20-51; AHL 1-0-0-0; previous season 53-25-27-52)
Super pest dropped a long way in the draft; his numbers were essentially unchanged from the previous season and all the scouting reports project him as a pesky bottom six forward–nothing from this year has changed that estimation.

Ben Harpur (4-108/13; OHL 67-3-13-16; previous season 67-3-12-15)
Drafted primarily because he was big; a stay-at-home blueliner,  his limitations with the puck are going to make the transition to pro very difficult (his numbers did not improve over his draft year); I don’t believe the organisation will sign him when they have to make that choice next year.

Chris Driedger (3-76/12; WHL 28-14-7 2.64 .918; ECHL 1-2 3.92 .893; AHL no result; previous season 36-14-4, 2.51 .915)
Won the goaltending sweepstakes within the organisation by beating out sixth-rounder Brassard; scouting reports are all over the place and contradictory, largely because Driedger was not the full-time ‘tender in his draft year; his numbers have improved in each of the two season since he was drafted and he’s slotted in to play backup in the AHL (a backup at the NHL-level is where he projects out).

NCAA/USPHL

College scoring is more predictive at the minor pro level than that of the CHL, but it’s still not the best guide.  The various US junior systems are as potentially misleading as those in CHL.

Tim Boyle (4-106/12; USPHL 37-5-16-21; previous season NCAA 15-0-2-2)
The Sens surprise pick of the 2012 draft, Boyle left the NCAA after a year at Union College to go back into the US junior system; his numbers were good, but not dominant (ala former Sens prospect Bryce Aneloski who did the same thing); there’s a lot of time left for him to develop so it’s too early to judge him, but there’s a lot for him to prove.

Ryan Dzingel (7-204/11; NCAA 37-22-24-46; AHL 9-2-5-7; previous season 40-16-22-38)
Left college early (after three seasons) to turn pro; another skilled player who fell in the draft (his second) because of his size and lack of physicality; after dominating at Ohio State he did not look out of place in his short debut with Binghamton; is he another Ryan Shannon, or is he something more than that?  It’s difficult to judge at this point.  The challenge for all top scorers when they turn pro is can they do anything else if their scoring doesn’t translate.

Max McCormick (6-171/11; NCAA 37-11-24-35; previous season 40-15-16-31)
Teammate of Dzingel and drafted in the same year; he has been very good at Ohio, albeit not quite as electric as the above; he”ll finish up his college career before turning pro; he’s a hard-working player who projects as a depth, energy player.

Garrett Thompson (FA 2013; NCAA 43-16-16-32; AHL 7-1-2-3; previous season NCAA 37-11-15-26)
Free agent signee from Ferris State I don’t know enough about to project–he was not on the radar when he was draft eligible and has been described as a meat and potatoes type of player, so projects as a depth forward.

Robert Baillargeon (5-136/12; NCAA 35-10-17-27; previous season USHL 55-18-23-41)
Lead Boston U in scoring in his rookie season, benefitting from a more settled season than his last in the USHL; his stock fell at the draft due to a lack of “toughness”, but all the things that actually matter (speed, skill with the puck) are present and were demonstrated this season.  I think to his the highest level he’ll have to become an Erik Condra; a depth player with good possession numbers.

Quentin Shore (6-168/13; NCAA 33-7-18-25; previous season 39-10-9-19)
A solid season at U Denver; drafted as a two-way player and something of a gamble, we’re still a few years away from judging him.

Chris Leblanc (6-161/13; NCAA 23-6-6-12; previous season EJHL 44-13-20-33)
A surprise draft pick enjoyed a solid rookie season with Merrimack; there were no scouting reports on him beyond the organisation describing him as a “big two-way player”; he’s a long way away, but projects as a depth player.

Europe

Much like the CHL above, production does not mean much except in absence here.

Mikael Wikstrand (7-196/12; SHL 19-4-7-11; Alls 27-4-16-20; previous season Alls 45-11-14-25)
Benefitted the previous season from playing with lockout players like Anze Kopitar, but this year he not only maintained but improved his production in the absence of NHL superstars.  Scouting reports when drafted all indicated he was a good, two-way player (his 3 points in his draft year seem the primary reason he nearly fell out of the draft), but his performance as a powerplay quarterback eluded everyone (including the Sens organisation).  He should do well in Binghamton this upcoming season, although the usual switch to smaller ice might lead to a slow start.  He was projected as a bottom-pairing NHL player, but if his offense translates he might also be a second unit PP guy.  Time will tell.

Tobias Lindberg (4-102/13; SuperElit 38-7-15-22; Alls 3-0-0-0; previous season SuperElit 43-9-13-22)
An off-the-wall pick last year, Lindberg‘s numbers improved only slightly from his draft year (ppg went from 0.51 to 0.57) and I think his future is heavily tied into how he does next season.  I have a suspicion he’ll wind up being Marcus Sorensen (4-106/10)–an energy player whose skills don’t quite translate outside of Europe.

Marcus Hogberg (3-78/13; Alls 5-8-0 2.93 .892; SHL 4-0-0 1.08 .960; previous season SuperElit 2.77 .906)
Scouts struggle to figure goaltenders out (have some fun and scan goaltending picks from any draft), so what little was said about Hogberg at the draft was all over the place; his numbers weren’t great this season for Mora in the Allsvenskan, but he was fantastic in the SHL and one wonders how much of his stats are dependent on the defense in front of him.  He’ll spend another year in Sweden, but I’d expect him to come to Binghamton in 15-16.

ECHL Prospects

Elmira just finished a disastrous season (24-40-8, third worst in the league), which is their last season in affiliation with Ottawa (no official replacement has been named for the Sens).  The Jackals produced the second fewest goals in the league and allowed the second most–it was an unmitigated disaster and that’s worth keeping in mind for the players below.

Troy Rutkowski (FA WHL 2013, ECHL 41-0-9-9 PPG 0.21; AHL 12-1-0-1; ECHL splits 10-0-3-3/10-0-2-2/10-0-1-1/11-0-3-3)
The disaster that is Troy Rutkowski makes it clear why Colorado walked away from him (5-137/10) last year.  Now, it’s possible that he could turn into a decent AHL player (and certainly he might have a future bouncing around Europe), but NHL-calibre players don’t struggle in the ECHL.  With plenty of opportunity in Elmira, the offense-minded blueliner was unable to translate his CHL success.  Yes, the Jackals had a terrible season and a bad team, but that didn’t prevent other prospects from performing adequately.  There was no sign of evolution of his play over the season (his production did not increase).  Ottawa is stuck with Rutkowski‘s contract for two more seasons and given the thinness of their blueline in Binghamton he’ll probably get one more try before they attempt to move him.

Jakub Culek (3-76/10; ECHL 49-8-22-30 PPG 0.61; AHL 7-0-0-0; ECHL splits 10-3-6-9/10-1-5-6/10-4-5-9/10-0-4-4/9-0-2-2)
Enjoyed a moderately successful rookie season in Elmira, although he faded badly down the stretch (18-0-4-4).  I don’t think there’s any NHL potential in him (when drafted he projected as a depth, checking forward), but he could become a solid bottom-six forward in the AHL.

Ludwig Karlsson (FA NCAA 2013; ECHL 39-11-13-24 PPG 0.61; AHL 8-0-0-0; ECHL splits 10-2-2-4/10-2-5-7/10-2-4-6/9-5-2-7)
Did not perform as expected (you don’t sign a college free agent to play in the ECHL), but at least in Elmira he was decent (other than the games immediately after his injury).  His season was derailed early and he got stuck behind a huge logjam at forward–next season will be make-or-break for the Swede.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Binghamton falls to Wilkes-Barre

Just like last year, the B-Sens playoffs ended with a whimper against the Penguins (losing the series 3-1, as the AHL has five-game series to open the playoffs for whatever reason).    Three of the games were one-goal decisions and there are a few things that stand out to me about the series (Jeff Ulmer has offered his thoughts as well).

1. Four of the five Penguins who dominated in the series were older players (30s), most with a ton of NHL experience: Tom Kostopoulos (630), Chuck Kobasew (601), and former B-Sen Andrew Ebbett (200); goaltender Peter Mannino is a six-year AHL vet.

2. Lack of secondary scoring: once Wilkes-Barre shut down Mark Stone and Stephane Da Costa, Binghamton was not able to generate enough offence.  With Mike Hoffman and Matt Puempel unable to participate, secondary scoring dried up from Cole Scheider, Shane Prince, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (one wonders if the team might have benefitted from keeping Andre Petersson in that respect).

3. Defensive struggles: new additions Alex Grant and Patrick Mullen did not make the difference needed (the former in particular); I believe Chris Wideman played with an injury so his struggles didn’t bother me as much; Cody Ceci, just like in the NHL, needs to put more work in.

4. Penalties: while officiating is extremely erratic, the B-Sens followed their parent club in taking a ridiculous number of penalties–wearing down their PK players and their goaltender.  I believe the organisation does not do enough to punish players who continual take stupid penalties (case in point: Chris Neil).

5. Goaltending: Andrew Hammond could not win a game for his team this series, which was something they clearly needed.

In the end there was no single fatal flaw–a lot went wrong for Binghamton.  The result does not take away from what was a very successful season.  Ottawa has always treated its AHL-affiliates as a development project where winning is nice, but not something to do at all costs.  The older Wilkes-Barre lineup was much more suited to winning in the playoffs, as team’s that win championships in the AHL always have an abundance of older players leading the way.  Whether or not the experience of losing aids anyone’s development is unknown (I’ve never seen a study on it, so anything anyone says about it is purely speculative).  The same, oddly, goes for winning.  Players with Calder Cup rings do not receive any sort of definitive development boost either.

The team has lot’s of rosters decisions to make for next year, but will at least begin jettisoning some dead weight (Tyler Eckford, Ben Blood, Wacey Hamiltion, and Jim O’Brien at least).  There’s still a lack of depth on the blueline, although if they can bring Mikael Wikstrand over (which seems unlikely given his contract with Frolunda) that would help exponentially.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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