Senators News & Notes

Best Hockey Smiles: Bobby Clarke - YouTube

One thing that’s been clear about the org since Trent Mann was promoted in 2017 is, above and beyond seeking certainty over potential, looking for character and truculence. We can (and I do) make fun of the latter–something I associate with Brian Burke and an approach that failed him after its solitary success with Anaheim in 2007 (a team largely built by his predecessors, Al Coates and Bryan Murray). Putting aside its efficacy, what I do think drafting and trading for players like this does is appeal to the fanbase–not casual fans (who are interested in wins and scoring)–but the hardcore. In a strong hockey market, focusing on these fans is a bit like MMO’s targeting whales–the big spenders, the people who commit. To that end, I think it’s a good economic strategy. The concern that remains is production–they can agitate, they can hit, but can they score? It remains an open question.

Jake Sanderson Hockey Stats and Profile at hockeydb.com

When you go against the grain there’s always resistance. I’ve briefly discussed the high opinion (shared by the org) of Jake Sanderson and I think my comments have been misunderstood by some. I compared him to players like Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker, not because I think they are literally the same kind of player, but in reference to the potential they were given by scouts when drafted (there’s rarely universal agreement and you can see the opposite opinion here, but I mean the consensus of what I’ve seen). All three prospects had worries about their offensive upside and were slotted as top-four blueliners–that’s all I meant by the comparison. This isn’t my opinion of the player (I’ve haven’t seen any of them play), but a reflection of worries held by scouts–that doesn’t make them right, it’s simply food for thought. Does Sanderson have more potential than the other two? I would hope so, because he was picked far higher in the draft (meaning his talent is considered better), but that wasn’t the point. I’d like nothing better than the guy to be a hall of fame defenseman for Ottawa, but the org habitually over praises their prospects (Jared Cowen comes to mind–someone we now know was riding the coattails of Jared Spurgeon), so I take a wait-and-see approach.

While it’s clear the Sens want to move Logan Brown (something that may prove impossible), more and more I wonder if the same fate awaits Erik Brannstrom. There’s no chance at that they want Brannstrom and Mete in the lineup at the same time, so either the former is intended for the BSens or will get traded (perhaps in an effort to fill one of Pierre McGuire’s 7-man formula).

Speaking of the BSens, one of the fascinating things about the upcoming season is how much the team’s success will depend on their record against just four teams. While almost 70% of their season is played within their division, most of that will be taken up by Laval and Toronto (each 12 games), and Syracuse and Rochester (8 games each). That’s 40 of 72 games (55%). When it comes time to preview the BSens, I’ll take a look at what’s expected for those teams as well.

Scoring in the NHL has started to increase the last four years [based, it seems, on coaching more than anything else], which is an obvious good thing after remaining stagnant for seven (an unprecedented length of time in the NHL to lack variation). This small change comes long after other major leagues took steps to ensure their own games became more entertaining. With that said, it remains below where it needs to be, still lagging behind all historical eras save the primordial pre-Original Six (specifically 23-24 to 40-41). The ten highest scoring games in NHL history are within a twenty-year period (1977-1996), with nine of them ten in the first half of that; the most points recorded in a season stretch from the 70-71 to 95-96, again clustering from the late 70s into the early 90s. This isn’t to say the NHL needs to consistently hit the highs of that era, but a league where major records can’t be challenged has no chance of breaking through the static of the other high profile sports they compete with (outside the homerun chases in the 90s, the MLB has been sliding towards oblivion for decades, cf). Where is the sweet spot for hockey? It’s hard to say, but let’s look at the numbers:
Original Six (42-43 to 66-67) 2.93
Expansion (68-69 to 78-79) 2.96 (+0.03)
1980s to Pre-Lockout (79-80 to 93-94) 3.71 (+0.75)
Dead Puck Era (94-95 to 03-04) 2.76 (-0.95)
Post Lockout Era (05-06 to present) 2.85 (+0.09)
The first era was long enough that it has its own internal structure, with higher scoring both at the beginning and end, with a ten-year long Dead Puck Era of its own (from 48-49 to 57-58). The actual high point is 1981-82 (not for the league however, as 43-44 holds that record for the eras we’re sampling). The most popular time for hockey was during the 70s and 80s and, despite continual expansion, the NHLs unwillingness to open the game up has lead to it sinking back down into a regional phenomena heavily impacted by winning. With only 50% of teams playoff bound (unlike the 66% in the Original Six or 76% of the 1980s), soft fanbases quickly checkout when their team is going nowhere–there are just so many other options for their entertainment dollars. I’m happy that the NHL is finally trending in the right direction, but entropy is a powerful force and I feel like a renewed slide towards low scoring affairs could be just around the corner.

HFBoards (@hfboards_) | Twitter

I’m surprised HFBoards is still around. A website from an Internet era of two decades earlier, many of the same people post on it and I suppose that fits the older demographic associated with sports. The boards are something that made an impact on me back when I started writing about hockey (for The Hockey Herald in 2007), although I rarely visited the site once I started writing here.

Atlanta Gladiators - Wikipedia

Another Atlanta signing, as goaltender Chris Nell has been signed. The 27-year old NCAA grad failed out of the Rangers organization as an FA-signing and has put up poor numbers in the ECHL.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

ROOKIE: Synonyms and Related Words. What is Another Word for ROOKIE? -  GrammarTOP.com

The rookie tournament is always fun and with the roster released we can take a peak at the ATOs included (one PTO as well). While it’s not often ATOs make their way into the org, it does happen from time-to-time (I’m excluding Xavier Bernard and Mitchell Hoelscher, because they have already signed an AHL-deal and you can find them here; I’m also excluding PTO Matthew Wedman, because he is on an ECHL-deal and you can find my blurb on him here):
Zachary Paputsakis, GL, DOB 2001, OHL Oshawa DNP (prior season .899)
The classic local kid; I think he’s simply a fresh body to help fill out the goaltending position for the tourney
Ty Hollett, DR, DOB 2003, CCHL Pembroke DNP (prior season 31-3-1-4)
Yet another local; as a big, righthand shot blueliner, he’s someone who will be given a lot of rope by scouts (presumably he’s headed to the NCAA); the Sens could have interest in him; no relation to former Sens pick Jordan btw
Ben Allison, LW, DOB 2002, QMJHL Acadie-Bathurst 33-9-18-27
From Halifax, but he spent a brief amount of time with Gatineau, so let’s call him local; the son of former Edmonton first round pick Scott (1990), there could be some interest (the Sens aren’t afraid of overage players and like skill from the Q)

This is largely just for fun–it’s unlikely any of these players will become significant pros even at the AHL-level–the Sens simply need bodies to fill out their lineup–but it’s interesting to see who the org brings in.

Ottawa Senators: Pierre Dorion's worst trades as general manager

The re-signed Pierre Dorion, echoing his owner, has declared the rebuild over (forced on the org in 2017, which is just six years after the Bryan Murray rebuild that began in 2011). The Sens now want to contend, so that means spending young assets to acquire proven commodities. Historically Dorion badly overpays, being an abysmal wheeler and dealer when it comes to pro assets (cf, he does better with prospects–the Sens amateur scouting has always been better than their pro scouting), so I’m expecting various painful deals to come (can he trade for Derick Brassard again?). Given that, don’t get too attached to talented prospects currently in the system (the muckers and grinders are, of course, safe). Surely Pierre McGuire’s 7-player profile is being considered for contending, and in July McGuire indicated the Sens were 3-players short of achieving that model. I’m not going to go over how little McGuire was regarded as an NHL coach, or his distrust of analytics (something he doesn’t actually understand–which fits the Sens org perfectly), because the reality is that he’s with the org and a major influence. Here’s what his model looks like:
-Two elite centermen (we know the Sens are seeking #2 and good luck with that)
-One power forward (presumably Tkachuk)
-One specialist forward–PP, PK, or faceoffs (this is such a vague criteria you have to question its worth)
-Elite puck-moving defenceman (presumably Chabot)
-Elite shutdown defenceman
-Elite goaltender (meant to be Murray)
Ian Mendes (link above) thinks Connor Brown is the specialist and that Jake Sanderson is the future shutdown D (anyone remember when Cody Ceci was going to be that guy?)–this is certainly Dorion’s opinion of the blueliner. If the Sens want to win now they can’t wait for Sanderson and acquiring three significant assets is very expensive–draft picks can cover some of the cost, but it means giving up well-regarded assets. The org would happily part with Logan Brown, but his value has never been lower. They also seem ready to give up on Erik Brannstrom, but it’s not clear his value is much better than Brown’s. There’s also the issue that very few teams trade elite players and that, when they do, it’s towards the end of their careers. While the Sens have plenty of cap space, they have an internal cap and I can’t see them getting any of the players that might spring to mind for these kinds of positions, so think tier-2 or tier-3 options for each of them (it’s unlikely they would acquire three such assets anyway–one for sure, but at most two).

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One thing I should have brought up for context with draft coverage–the Sens believing they know better–is that this opinion is held (broadly) by every organization. Each group, be it an independent scouting service or particular teams, believe that their list is the list. We know from draft assessments that they are all wrong and statistically the picks that work out best are those that fit consensus views. A lot of fans who write about the teams tend to duck the potential flaws in the picks by saying either ‘time will tell’ or pointing to isolated successes in the past–I feel like this is mostly done in ignorance, but clearly some just don’t want to say anything negative.

Atlanta Gladiators - Wikipedia

We’ve had two Atlanta Gladiator signings since my post covering them:
Tyler Kobryn, 24, RW, with this being his second year as a pro (coming out of NCAA III, he played with Tulsa last season, 33-3-3-6)
Derek Topatigh, 24-25, DR, going into his second year as a pro (coming out of the NCAA, he spent most of last year in the SPHL)
Neither player is going to be on the BSens radar, barring an unexpected breakout at the ECHL-level.

Hive Mind - TV Tropes

This is just an observation about fan-coverage of the team: it’s blindingly homogeneous (exactly the same as MCU fandom). What’s interesting to me is this goes beyond the narrow range of the hobby and is echoed by political leanings–all the individuals seem to come from the same class and express the same views. It makes the coverage repetitive and shallow, as traditional media is already stuffed with this material. For me, Nichols (even if he seems to have shifted over to positivity these days–‘hey, it could work out’ seems to be his new maxim), Ary, and Travis Yost are who I consistently read. It seems like Colin Cudmore has also transitioned into this category (judging by how seriously he tackles prospect assessment), but I’m not familiar enough with his recent material to be sure (although I approve of the rigorous approach). I don’t read everything, so there are undoubtedly nuggets of good coverage scattered around the fandom, but I remain baffled by the large percentage of people who write about the sport without an angle or focus to make it stand out.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing the Sens 2020 and 2021 Drafts

Let’s start off with the drafting philosophy with the advent of Trent Mann: take a sure thing with lower potential rather than take a risk and get nothing (you can read a poorly thought out fan iteration of this argument here). Let’s briefly put aside whether that’s a good idea or not and see how many ‘wins’ the team has had after the 2nd round since 2008 (the first draft controlled by Dorion and the first one where the Sens returned to trying to build through it)–we’ll look both at the high end players and the depth talent (excluding goaltenders because it doesn’t really apply), to see how either end of this philosophy has panned out (how the players are categorized is based on how scouts viewed them–going through 2010 you can see those assessments on this site, prior to that you’ll have to hunt a little harder; ‘winning’ is determined by NHL games played, cf, so it’s not an inherent assessment of their value as players).

Third Round
Talent (0-2)
Wins: None
Losses: Jarrod Maidens* (12), Miles Gendron (14)
Pluggers (1-2)
Wins: Zack Smith (08)
Losses: Jakub Culek (10)
*Maidens never played due to injury

Fourth Round
Talent (2-5)
Wins: Chris Wideman (10), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (12)
Losses: Andre Petersson (08), Tobias Lindberg (13), Todd Burgess (16)
Undetermined: Christian Wolanin (15)
Pluggers (2-5)
Wins: Derek Grant (08), Marcus Sorensen (10)
Losses: Timothy Boyle (12), Shane Eiserman (14), Filip Ahl (15)
Undetermined: Ben Harpur (13)

Fifth Round
Talent (1-2)
Wins: Mike Hoffman (09)
Losses: Robbie Baillargeon (12)
Undetermined: Maxime Lajoie (15)
Pluggers (1-4)
Wins: Mark Borowiecki (08)
Losses: Jeff Costello (09), Fredrik Claesson (11), Vince Dunn (13)
Undetermined: Christian Jaros (15)

Sixth Round
Talent (1-1)
Wins: Mark Stone (10)
Losses: None
Pluggers (0-6)
Wins: None
Losses: Corey Cowick (09), Darren Kramer (11), Max McCormick (11), Chris Leblanc (13), Quentin Shore (13), Markus Nurmi (16)

Seventh Round
Talent (1-7)
Wins: Ryan Dzingel (11)
Losses: Emil Sandin (08), Brad Peltz (09)*, Bryce Aneloski (10), Mikael Wikstrand (12)**, Kelly Summers (14), Francis Perron (14)
Pluggers (0-2)
Wins: None
Losses: Michael Sdao (09), Jordan Fransoo (11)
*There’s some indication that picking Peltz was a favour for Melnyk’s close friend (his father)
**Refused to play in the league

Total
Talent 5-17 (29%)
Pluggers 4-19 (21%)

What’s clear in the numbers is that the org (up through 2017) was no better at identifying quality pluggers than talent. Obviously some of the scouting staff has changed over the years (three remain from 08, one from 09), but certainly Dorion’s history doesn’t betray evidence to support the change in philosophy. I’ll also briefly touch on the goaltenders over this period:
Successes
Robin Lehner (09, 2nd round)
Failures
Francois Brassard (12, 6th round), Jordan Hollett (17, 6th round)
Uncertain
Chris Driedger (12, 3rd round), Marcus Hogberg (13, 3rd round),* Joey Daccord (15, 7th round)
*Given that he signed a four-year deal in Sweden it’s unlikely he’ll return to the league, but we don’t know the terms of the deal and goaltending careers are against the grain anyway, so for now he lands in the uncertain pile

Before we dive into the two drafts, let’s recall that the scouting consensus (so not the opinion of some, but the opinions of the vast majority of those paid to scout) is that the Sens left talent on the board when they made their picks–this isn’t a matter of debate or discussion, simply a fact, so the team is betting on the fact that they know better–do they? Time will tell, but not only does the past does not support that idea, it’s simply unlikely that Ottawa has better scouting acumen than the consensus overall.

Characters like Dean Brown and Gord Wilson are what make a city cool |  Ottawa Citizen

Let’s address a response to criticism of individual players (those drafted or playing) that I’ve heard from people like Gord Wilson and others: these players are better than you are, ergo STFU (the most recent comment was in reference to Scott Sabourin, if you’re wondering). I’ve heard this sentiment many times from people covering the team and it’s profoundly absurd. Hockey is entertainment run by a cartel–it’s not making the world a better place–and as such it relies on the investment of its fans–no one is as invested as someone frothing mad about how a player is performing. That passion doesn’t excuse poor behaviour, but Gord (& others) tends to associate any criticism as being uncalled for. Making assessments is human nature (how many voters actually understand what they are voting for or could hold a political position?). Discussion and opinion is not only a normal part of human behaviour, but absolutely necessary to keep the sport alive, so any attempt to kill it is inherently pernicious. Let’s wrap this up to point out that this kind of thing only comes up regarding good-in-the-corners, salt-of-the-earth players–criticizing those with skill is never called out or questioned. Why this is the case in hockey I have no idea (perhaps the long standing way of differentiating Canadian hockey from everywhere else has made it part of self-identification). During the dead puck era I think players like that were useful, as were enforcers when they were required, but now? It’s a terrible opinion, but I don’t expect it change.

Senators Draft Tim Stützle Third Overall - Silver Seven

2020
1-3 Tim Stuetzle, C/LW, 6’0, Jan/02, DEL, 20-21 NHL 53-12-17-29
The pick was Ottawa’s via the Erik Karlsson trade in 2018. There are plenty of scouting reports to read about him (Pronman, Wheeler, summaries, etc) and with a full season in the NHL one can dig into his stats and have a good old time. He’s a skilled player, so of course I like the pick
1-5 Jake Sanderson, DL, 6’1, July/02, USDP, 20-21 NCAA 22-2-13-15
Son of former NHLer Geoff (who was one of the best skaters in the NHL); reading Pronman’s recent article that included him, he sounds like all the recent high Sens picks on the blueline: a lot of hustle, a lot of competitiveness, solid defensively, but with limited offense–you get the feeling Dorion/Mann are putting all their eggs in the Chabot basket to drive the play. My reaction to him is the same as the rest: show me at the pro level and I’ll become a believer
1-28 Ridly Greig, LW, 5’11, Aug/02, WHL, 20-21 21-10-22-32
The pick was Ottawa’s via the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade in 2020; he’s the son of former NHLer Mark; like Jarventie below, he’s among the youngest eligible selected; there were concerns about his ability to play disciplined hockey and his skating (cf), but the former seems to have improved; because of his age it’s either the WHL or NHL for him and I think the latter is what’s on the menu; given his size and style of play there has to be a concern about his body breaking down earlier in his career (he makes me think of 2011 pick Stefan Noesen)
2-33 Roby Jarventie, LW, 6’3, Aug/02, Ilves, 20-21 48-14-11-25
Son of former Liiga veteran Martti. There’s a good breakdown of him pre-draft from Ary and Colin which provides the proper context for him (among the youngest eligible for the draft, playing against men in the Mestis, being used as a third-liner and defensively while breaking the rookie scoring record, etc); we again have the concern about his skating, but Ottawa (long before Dorion) has always believed that’s fixable
2-44 Tyler Kleven, DL, 6’4, Jan/02, USDP, 20-21 NCAA 22-5-2-7
The pick via Toronto (in exchange for 59th and 64th picks, Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemela); there’s an amusing little profile of him from A & C (who don’t care for him at all, but sniffed out the Sens would like him); in his first year as a prospect Pronman projects him as a bottom-pairing player; it’s very much a wait-and-see attitude for me
2-61 Egor Sokolov, RW/LW, 6’4, Jun/00, QMJHL, 20-21 AHL 35-15-10-25
The pick is from Dallas via the Mark Stone trade in 2019; an overager where the concerns for him were whether his talent and skating would translate at the next level; at the AHL-level Sokolov showed no impediment with playing his game–will it translate? It’s hard to say, although given his size the Sens will certainly give him the opportunity
3-71 Leevi Merilainen, GL, 6’2, Aug/02, Karpat, 20-21 .934
The pick is via the Dylan DeMelo trade in 2020; an off-the-wall pick because in his draft year he was stuck behind other Finnish netminders, so he didn’t play internationally; he had an outstanding first year as a prospect and this caused folk to upgrade their estimates to potential NHL backup levels; I think the Sens under Dorion have been solid in projecting goaltending talent (although their pro evaluations remain, in all areas, underwhelming)
5-155 Eric Engstrand, LW/RW, 6’4, May/00, Malmo, 20-21 SHL 45-1-4-5
The pick is via the Mike Condon trade in 2019; an overager, you can see a brief profile of him from A & C pre-draft, but there’s not a lot of material on him (on the surface he reminds me of Filip Ahl in 2015 and Markus Nurmi in 2016, both big European power forwards who failed to develop)
6-158 Philippe Daoust, C/LW, 6’0, Nov/01, QMJHL, 20-21 21-6-22-28
The pick is via the Mike Hoffman trade in 2018; there’s not a lot of material on him (cf) and he’s taken the Hoffman route of being waived out of the OHL only to find a home in the Q (I’m not saying he has that kind of ceiling, just that he’s had that route to getting drafted)
6-181 Cole Reinhardt, LW, 6’1, Feb/00, WHL, 20-21 AHL 33-6-6-12
The pick is via the Chris Wideman trade in 2018; an overager who benefited from playing with Sokolov in Belleville, should he find pro success he’s taking a very unlikely path to get there (not just because he’s overage, but because of his middling production in junior)

They seem to have landed a complete stud in Stuetzle, so that’s fantastic (a lot of fans may not appreciate just how hard it is for a teenager to make an impact at the NHL-level). I’m not on the Sanderson train yet (how many Lassi Thomson’s do we need?), but I’d love to be surprised (his father was a fun player to watch). A number of the prospects intrigue me–both Finns, Sokolov, as well as Daoust (the Sens occasionally hit homeruns with late picks from the Q and who doesn’t miss J-G Pageau?). I feel like Kleven, Reinhardt, and Engstrand are much more likely to fail out in the AHL, but it’s far too early to say. All-in-all, this isn’t a bad draft from my perspective and I don’t feel like the Sens completely wasted their first round (at a guess, I’m thinking it will closely approximate the 2011 draft).

GARRIOCH: Tyler Boucher is tough as nails, a good omen for Senators |  Ottawa Sun

2021
1-10 Tyler Boucher, LW, 6’1, Jan/03, USDP 12-6-5-11
Son of former NHLer Brian; the scouting consensus is pretty simple: he’s hard to play against, but does he have the talent to make an impact as a pro? You get a sense of his issues via Ary; this has the whiff of another top-ten pick from years ago–Dylan McIlrath–a guy who was very hard to play against, but simply didn’t have enough talent to be an NHL pro (a Sens example is Jared Cowen); for the Sens sake, let’s hope they truly do know better
2-39 Zack Ostapchuk, LW, 6’3, May/03, WHL 22-7-9-16
The pick via the Erik Karlsson trade in 2018; looking at scouting reports it’s clear he’s a work-in-progress–a player with a lot of potential, but a big hill to climb; Pronman doesn’t believe in his hockey sense and the kind of changes he needs aren’t typically the ones that can be easily coached; that said, I’m happy to gamble on skill
2-49 Benjamin Roger, DR, 6’4, Nov/02, OHL DNP
The pick acquired in exchange for the 42nd (Francesco Pinelli); there’s not much information about the player, but he trained with Belleville staffer Jeremy Benoit in the offseason, which is likely how the Sens became attracted to him (historically a number of Dorion’s picks are via connections); the concern is how much talent he actually has behind his big, mobile frame (does he have the limitations of a Ben Harpur, or is there more to him?)
3-74 Oliver Johansson, CL, 6’0, July/03, Timra Allsvenskan 5-3-0-3
One of the younger players picked in the draft; scouting reports are few and far between, but he performed well across three leagues in his draft year and is a good skater who plays both ends of the rink (a hard worker, which is very much a theme in who the Sens pick); I expect the Sens to be patient about his development
4-123 Carson Latimer, RW, 6’1, Jan/03, WHL 22-5-11-16
The pick acquired in exchange for the 136th and170th (Robert Orr and Bryce Montgomery); everyone agrees he’s a great skater, but what’s not clear is what else he is (in part, perhaps, because of his usage)
7-202 Chandler Romeo, DL, 6’5, July/03, OHL DNP
The big blueliner reminds me a lot of Ben Harpur–big, can skate, but what else can he do? The Sens think he has the hands to get the puck moving and not be a one-dimensional defender, but that’s typically what they say of every blueliner like this that they draft, so we’ll have to wait and see

What do I think of the 2021 draft? All of these players are wait-and-see types, with none inherently exciting. Because I wasn’t paying attention to the draft class, I’m not fulminating over what could have been, but the various flags about the prospects are worth keeping in mind–during Dorion’s time the Sens have completely failed during a draft before (2014). With that said, with two players who didn’t play the previous season and an obscure Swede, I am intrigued to see how those players develop.

One thing that’s changed under Dorion–and this is pre-Trent Mann–is the Sens no longer draft enforcers. The last fighter they picked was Darren Kramer in 2011, but since then (with fighting spiraling into oblivion) they’ve given up picking them. The team still signs players like that (Sabourin is an example), but at least have realized it’s not worth wasting a draft pick.

I should end this on what seems obvious to me, but perhaps isn’t to readers: I’d actually like all these players to turn out and for Ottawa to be an elite team. That’s always been the dream. I’m simply doubtful that will be the case given Dorion’s checkered track record, the team’s questionable approach at the draft, and an unlikable fool who owns the team.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

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Here are some bits & pieces:
Filip Gustavsson‘s new contract is typical of the Sens (a two-year deal with the second being one-way); I’m less certain about his abilities given that in the past he has struggled with being ‘the guy’ while doing very well in spot duty (cf)–has he turned the corner? It won’t matter if Mads Sogaard is ready for prime time, but it will be interesting to watch.
–In retrospect I should have included Erik Brannstrom in my BSens lineup speculation; to inject him he slides into the top spot on the right side, shifting Thomson down to the second pairing, Bernard-Docker to the third, and Williams to the pressbox. I just don’t think that situation can remain tenable throughout the season and trading a blueliner must be on the menu for the Sens.
–I stopped reading The Athletic around the same time I stopped writing this blog, so returning to it almost two years later I was surprised to find that only Ian Mendes covers the Sens (RIP articles from Nichols, who moved to Substack–you can read a bit of a word salad from him on the draft, which can be boiled down to “Will it pan out? Time will tell,” which feels like Nichols resting his behind firmly on the fence–read him at his best here and here–I like the latter particularly).
–I skipped covering the last two Sens draft, but I’m not surprised that the conservative, grit-loving Trent Mann has continued his philosophy (cf; the hiring of Pierre McGuire, an anti-analytics guy, is yet another conservative move by the org). As I mentioned when reviewing prior drafts, it’s simply too soon to assess Mann’s work–maybe he’s a genius, but Occam’s Razor says he’ll do no better than his predecessors (what’s genuinely in question is how many stars he lands). I wanted to cover The Silver Seven‘s annual prospect ranking, but the caliber of writers from the site is so uneven I don’t think it’s feasible.
–There’s a great article from Scott Wheeler about how scouts assess players (there’s no real surprises, but he goes over the importance of context–ie things like how playing with Daniel Sprong inflated Filip Chlapik’s value). I’m gratified to see that my old idea of using third party rankings to create a scouting consensus for draft picks has become normalized and is widely available–it’s a simple idea and I have no idea why it took so long to proliferate–however much some may poopoo the idea, it’s the only tool fans have to access professional assessment.
–You can watch/listen to an interesting interview with Sens prospect Egor Sokolov.
–I think in my next post I’ll do a review of the Sens 2020 and 2021 drafts, as it will help me familiarize myself with the prospects. I’ve noticed the fan insanity over Jake Sanderson is almost at the same fever pitch as Brady Tkachuk and we’ll see if that falls as flat with me as it does with the later.
–For those interested in assessing the Sens at the draft, check out my review of the Sens 2008-14 draft record–there’s some fascinating things to be observed in the data (as well as the relative value derived from them). I think I should have included my old review of the Sens AHL tendencies which overlaps that period of time and shows the shifting philosophy from Tim Murray to Randy Lee.

Atlanta Gladiators

The Sens ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, have been busy signing players in the off-season. A few of these players could see time in Belleville, so I thought I’d briefly take a look at them.

Defense
Tim Davison, 27-28, DL, ECHL 0.38 (ECHL 0.44)
The undrafted NCAA grad spent most of last season with Greenville; this will be his fourth pro season
Dalton Thrower, 27-28, DR, tier-3 Sweden 0.16 (ECHL 0.20)
A second-round pick by Montreal back in 2012, he hasn’t seen AHL ice since 2015-16, but as a gritty player he may have some appeal as a call-up
Greg Campbell, 26-27, DL, DNP (ECHL 0.14)
The undrafted NCAA grad took last season off and returns for his sophomore attempt as a pro.
Josh Thrower, 25-26, DR, SPHL 0.18 (ECHL 0.11)
The brother of Dalton, the former WHLer has established himself as a depth ECHL blueliner and wouldn’t be on the BSens radar
Malcolm Hayes, 26-27, DR, SPHL 0.08 (ECHL 0.11)
Another undrafted NCAA grad, he’s spent most of his short pro career in the SPHL (a feeder league into the ECHL)
Zach Yoder, 27, DR, SPHL 0.13 (ECHL 0.50)
The undrafted NCAAer spent his first (brief) pro season in the SPHL; he’s a local kid (to Georgia) and he’s big, for whatever that’s worth

Forwards
Derek Nesbitt, 39-40, LW/RW, DNP (ECHL 0.89)
An effective AHL producer (0.60) who has played in Atlanta five straight seasons prior to his year off; at 39 I’m not sure how much to expect from him, but I don’t think the BSens will call him up (he hasn’t had a call-up since his last full-time season in the AHL in 2013-14)
Cody Sylvester, 29-30, C/LW, ECHL 0.81 (ECHL 0.80)
Undrafted WHLer has spent most of his pro career in Germany (failing out of the DEL, so it’s mostly in tier-2); as a productive ECHL scorer there’s a small chance he could be called-up
Kamerin Nault, 26, LW, ECHL 0.15 (ECHL 0.77)
Canadian university grad is entering his fourth pro season; each year he’s received call-ups to the AHL, so that makes the odds of the same happening this season higher than most of the other players
Michael Pelech, 32, CL, ECHL 0.55 (ECHL 0.75)
Former 6th-round pick by LA, he’s had a very long and productive ECHL career; his last AHL call-up was in 2015-16
Luke Nogard, 27-28, CL, ECHL 0.39 (ECHL 0.56)
Undrafted NCAA grad his entering his fourth pro season; he’s never received an AHL call-up
Hugo Roy, 24, CR, ECHL 0.46 (ECHL 0.45)
Undrafted QMJHLer is entering his third full pro season; as a middling producer he’s not likely on the BSens list of call-ups
Matthew Wedman, 22, ECHL 0.24 (ECHL 0.24)
A 7th-round pick by Florida in 2019, last season was his first as a pro and he was unable to translate his WHL production to that level
Tommy Besinger, 27, CR, SPHL 0.68 (SPHL 0.69)
The undrafted NCAA grad his entering his third year as a pro and will be looking to avoid the SPHL

I’ll reiterate, it’s unlikely we see many if any of these players, but stranger things have happened (due to injuries or other circumstances), particularly with older, failed prospects (cf).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Pierre Dorion and the Draft

THE SENS AT 30 PART III: Ottawa Senators' general manager Pierre Dorion  says "it's time to perform" | Ottawa Sun

Pierre Dorion became the Sens GM in the 2016-17 season, but prior to that event he ran the drafts beginning in 2008 and I wanted to take a look at the older drafts which can be properly assessed to see what we can glean (those players in bold below played at least 200 NHL games). All of these drafts had Bryan Murray serving as the GM.

Top 5 Best and Worst Ottawa Senators First Round Draft Picks Of All Time

2008 (12 scouts; Sweden 3, WHL/BCHL 2, USHL 1, CJHL 1)
1-15 Erik Karlsson (D) Sweden-Frolunda 788-143-482-625 (San Jose)
Trade (2018): Chris Tierney, Rudolfs Balcers, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, and the picks used for Tim Stuetzle and Zach Ostapchuk
2-42 Patrick Wiercioch (D) USHL-Omaha 268-16-58-74 (tier-2 Europe)
3-79 Zack Smith (C) WHL-Swift Current 662-98-106-204 (UFA)
Trade (2019): Artem Anisimov
4-109 Andre Petersson (F) Sweden-HV71 1-0-0-0 (successful KHL career)
4-119 Derek Grant (C) BCHL-Langley 310-37-48-85 (Anaheim)
5-139 Mark Borowiecki (D) CJHL-Smith Falls 397-15-37-52 (Nashville)
7-199 Emil Sandin (F) Sweden-Brynas DNP (tier-2 career in Sweden)

A very successful draft with five of seven players hitting the 200-game threshold. We can argue over the caliber of these players, as all save Karlsson merely provide depth, but Karlsson is a genuine star. Both of the misses in the draft were undersized skilled players from Sweden.

Cowen gets his Canadian wish | The Spokesman-Review

2009 (12 scouts; USHL/USHS 3, Sweden 2, WHL 1, QMJHL 1, OHL 1, NCAA 1)
1-9 Jared Cowen (D) WHL-Spokane 249-15-31-45 (retired due to injury)
Trade (2016): Dion Phaneuf, Cody Donaghey, Casey Bailey, Matt Frattin, and Ryan Rupert; Phaneuf was subsequently traded (2019) for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore; Gaborik was then traded (2020) for Braydon Coburn, Cedric Paquette, and a 2nd-round pick in 2022; the 7th-round pick acquired for Shore was included in the Duclair trade
2-39 Jakob Silfverberg (F) Sweden-Brynas 605-146-161-307 (Anaheim)
Trade (2013): Bobby Ryan
2-46 Robin Lehner (G) Sweden-Frolunda .918 (Vegas)
Trade (2015): The pick that turned into Colin White
4-100 Chris Wideman (D) NCAA-Miami 181-16-29-45 (Montreal)
Trade (2018): Pick that turned into Cole Reinhardt
5-130 Mike Hoffman (C/W) QMJHL-Drummondville 545-189-206-395 (Montreal)
Trade (2018): Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman, and the pick that turned into Philippe Daoust; Bergman was included in the Abramov trade
5-146 Jeff Costello (F) USHL-Cedar Rapids DNP (retired after one ECHL season)
6-160 Corey Cowick (F) OHL-Ottawa DNP (short minor league career)
7-190 Brad Peltz (F) USHS-Avon DNP (retired after one ECHL season)
7-191 Michael Sdao (D) USHL-Lincoln DNP (ECHL career)

Another five players hit the threshold (I’m assuming Wideman will do that this season), so it’s another good draft. We see the beginnings of a Dorion tendency to roll the dice on gritty players which doesn’t work out in this sample–of the four players who never made it, three are in that category (Peltz is the exception). There’s no question that Cowen was a poor top-ten pick and that the Sens received little value for the other quality draftees before they were moved. We continue a tendency for the org to give-up on goaltenders early (Brian Elliott was drafted in ’03, but turned pro right when Dorion joined the org–I’m not saying that decision was his, simply that the impatience began during his tenure).

2015-16 UD UPPER DECK MARK STONE TOP DRAFT PICK DRAFT-10 Promo Senators |  eBay

2010 (11 scouts; Sweden 1, QMJHL 1, WHL 1, USHL 1)
3-76 Jakub Culek (F) QMJHL-Rimouski DNP (brief minor league career)
4-106 Marcus Sorensen (F) Sweden-Djurgardens 226-31-33-64 (UFA)
6-178 Mark Stone (F) WHL-Brandon 504-170-276-446 (Vegas)
Trade (2019): Oscar Lindberg, Erik Brannstrom, and the pick that turned into Egor Sokolov
7-196 Bryce Aneloski (D) USHL-Cedar DNP (brief minor league career)

The success ratio remains good, although the org gave up on Sorensen early and it was San Jose who made use of him. Stone is the obvious ‘win’, although the org benefited from just four full seasons with him before discarding him as part of the rebuild.

Sens draft pick Mika Zibanejad ready to roll up his sleeves - The Globe and  Mail

2011 (11 scouts; OHL 3, Sweden 2, WHL 2, USHL 2, QMJHL 1)
1-6 Mika Zibanejad (C/W) Sweden-Djurgardens 604-200-234-434 (NYR)
Trade (2016): Derick Brassard and the pick that turned into Luke Loheit; Brassard was traded (2018) for Filip Gustavsson, Ian Cole, a pick flipped to draft Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonathan Tychonick, and a pick flipped to draft Mads Sogaard
1-21 Stefan Noesen (C/W) OHL-Plymouth 205-31-23-54 (long minor league career)
Trade (2013): part of the Silfverberg/Ryan trade above
1-24 Matt Puempel (F) OHL-Peterborough 87-11-5-16 (long minor league career)
Waiver Claim (2016)
2-61 Shane Prince (C) OHL-Ottawa 128-12-26-38 (successful KHL career)
Trade (2016): for a pick that was flipped as part of a deal to draft Logan Brown
4-96 Jean-Gabriel Pageau (C) QMJHL-Gatineau 489-103-109-212 (NYI)
Trade (2020): pick used to draft Ridly Greig and another used in a trade that saw them draft Tyler Kleven
5-126 Fredrik Claesson (D) Sweden-Djurgardens 161-7-21-28 (lengthy minor league career)
6-156 Darren Kramer (F) WHL-Spokane DNP (long minor league career)
6-171 Max McCormick (F) USHL-Sioux City 83-8-5-13 (long minor league career)
Trade (2019): J. C. Beaudin
7-186 Jordan Fransoo (D) WHL-Brandon DNP (played Canadian university hockey)
7-204 Ryan Dzingel (F) USHL-Lincoln 372-82-98-180 (Arizona)
Trade (2019): Anthony Duclair, a second that was part of the Matt Murray deal, and another second used to acquire Derek Stepan; the org re-acquired him in 2021 for Alex Galchenyuk and Cedric Paquette

This draft was meant to be the start of a re-build and the org batted well above average in having four players hit the 200-game threshold, but it’s undeniable that they wasted Zibanejad as an asset and received a poor direct return; they also bombed out on their other two first-round picks.

Senators draft homegrown defenceman Ceci - Sportsnet.ca

2012 (12 scouts; OHL 2, USHL/USHS 2, WHL 1, QMJHL 1, Sweden 1)
1-15 Cody Ceci (D) OHL-Ottawa 549-37-106-143 (Edmonton)
Trade (2019): Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, and Michael Carcone
3-76 Chris Driedger (G) WHL-Calgary .929 (Sea)
3-82 Jarrod Maidens (F) OHL-Owen Sound (retired due to injury)
4-106 Timothy Boyle (D) USHS-Prep DNP (short minor league career)
5-136 Robbie Baillargeon (F) USHL-Indiana DNP (brief minor league career)
6-166 Francois Brassard (G) QMJHL-Quebec DNP (Canadian university to minor leagues)
7-196 Mikael Wikstrand (D) Sweden-Mora (refused to play)

While Driedger may eventually hit the threshold, this was an abysmal draft as Ceci was highly overvalued (as witnessed by the poor return when traded). Unlike in prior years, there was an attempt to target skill in the later rounds, but nothing worked out (although one could argue that Wikstand might have been an NHL player–we’ll simply never know).

Ottawa Senators 2013 draft review - Hockey's Future

2013 (12 scouts; Sweden 2, WHL 1, OHL 1, QMJHL 1, EJHL 1, NCAA 1)
1-17 Curtis Lazar (C) WHL-Edmonton 334-27-47-74 (Boston)
Trade (2017): Jyrki Jokipaaka and the pick used for Alex Formenton
3-78 Marcus Hogberg (G) Sweden-Linkoping .894 (back in Sweden)
4-102 Tobias Lindberg (F) Sweden-Djurgardens 6-0-2-2 (tier-2 Sweden)
Trade: part of the Cowen/Phaneuf trade above, then reacquired him in a minor league deal in 2018, then included in the Stone trade above
4-108 Ben Harpur (D) OHL-Guelph 137-1-13-14 (UFA)
Trade (2019): part of the Ceci trade above
5-138 Vincent Dunn (F) QMJHL-Rimouski DNP (short minor league career)
6-161 Chris LeBlanc (F) EJHL-South Shore DNP (minor league career)
7-168 Quentin Shore (F) NCAA-Denver DNP (short minor league career)

An equally horrendous draft, as Lazar is an even bigger miss than Ceci (someone who struggled at the AHL-level, but whose pedigree has allowed him to fumble around the NHL for years). The rest of the assets were a mix of grinders and skilled players, none of whom panned out.

Andreas Englund Stats and News | NHL.com

2014 (13 scouts; USHL/USHS 2, Sweden 1, QMJHL 1, CCHL 1)
2-40 Andreas England (D) Sweden-Djurgardens 33-0-3-3 (minor leaguer)
3-70 Miles Gendron (D) USHS-Prep DNP (minor leaguer)
4-100 Shane Eiserman (F) USHL-Dubuque DNP (brief minor league career)
7-189 Kelly Summers (D) CCHL-Carleton DNP (tier-2 Germany)
7-190 Francis Perron (C) QMJHL-Rouyn-Noranda DNP (tier-2 Sweden)

The worst draft in the sample size. It’s very rare for an NHL team to have no successes, but Ottawa managed it here. The picks were a mix of grinders and skill, but none are even quality AHL players. You’d expect consequences in the scouting ranks after such a result (not just for this, but the prior two drafts), but that’s not the case.

Senators Draft Thomas Chabot 18th Overall - Silver Seven

2015 (13 scouts; QMJHL 3, USHL/USHS/USNTDP 3, Sweden 2)
1-18 Thomas Chabot (D) QMJHL-Saint John 254-35-115-150
1-21 Colin White (C/W) USNTDP 200-33-55-88
2-36 Gabriel Gagne (F) QMJHL-Victoriaville DNP (minor leaguer)
2-48 Filip Chlapik (C/W) QMJHL-Charlottetown 57-5-6-11 (released)
4-107 Christian Wolanin (D) USHL-Muskegon 61-5-13-18 (LA)
Trade (2021): Michael Amadio
4-109 Filip Ahl (F) Sweden-HV71 DNP (tier-2 Europe)
5-139 Christian Jaros (D) Sweden-Lulea 83-1-13-14 (NJ)
Trade (2021): Jack Kopacka and a 7th-round pick in 2022
7-199 Joey Daccord (G) USHS-Prep .894 (Seattle)
Taken in the Expansion Draft

The analysis of this draft is still still up in the air, although there are two obvious successes. Wolanin, Jaros, and Daccord could potentially hit the threshold, although it’s unlikely all of them will. The mix of players echoes the previous two years, but the quality of the picks are better (despite a big miss on Gagne). We again see the common trend of the org not getting value back for prospects–none of the assets remain for trading the two blueliners, which means they were simply given away.

Let’s summarize excluding 2015’s results (since they are still in flux). Here are the hits to misses from 2008-14:
2008: 5-7 (74%)
2009: 5-9 (55%)
2010: 2-4 (50%)
2011: 4-10 (40%)
2012: 1-7 (14%)
2013: 1-7 (14%)
2014: 0-4 (0%

That’s a linear decline under Dorion to that point. We know 2015 was a better draft and there is an organization change between 2014-15: Tim Murray’s departure to Buffalo. Can we put this all at Tim’s feet? I think that’s too simplistic, but it is worth noting. Let’s take a look at success by region (highlighting the significant players):
US systems (3-14/21%): Wiercioch, Wideman, Dzingel
Sweden (5-12/41%): Karlsson, Silfverberg, Lehner, Sorensen, Zibanejad
WHL/BCHL 8 (5-8/62%): Smith, Grant, Cowen, Stone, Lazar
OHL/CCHL/CJHL (4-9/44%): Borowiecki, Noesen, Prince, Ceci
QMJHL (2-6/33%): Hoffman, Pageau

What’s fascinating is how heavily Ottawa invested in the American junior system despite no serious payoff. The org scored very highly in Sweden while completely ignoring the rest of Europe (no one drafted from any other European league). If you’re wondering, in terms of raw selection, here’s what’s happened from 2015-21 (the numbers represent the number of players from that system per draft):
US systems: 13 (2.0 > 2.1)
WHL/AJHL: 11 (1.1 > 1.8)
QMJHL: 9 (0.8 > 1.5)
Sweden: 6 (1.7 > 1.0)
OHL: 4 (1.3 > 0.6)
Finland: 3 (0 > 0.5)
Germany: 1 (0 > 0.1)

The American fetish continues unabated, while the primary change is a decrease in Swedish/OHL prospects matched by an increase in QMJHL and WHL contributions. I think the scattering of Finnish prospects is related to Mikko Ruutu becoming the director of European scouting (Stuetzle, as a top-five pick, is irrelevant in terms of the org’s normal scouting preferences). It remains an oddity that despite being in Ontario the team has only dipped its toe into the local pond over the last 13 drafts. It’s also strange how consistently the Sens devalue European scouting–on average they have only two scouts based in Europe, which is a deplorable amount to cover the various leagues (meaning they have to lean heavily on tournament performances, which is a questionable guide). I get the feeling that the main reason for ignoring Europe is cost.

Another way to look at success is by round and we get some interesting results:
First round (6-7): 2 of their best 6 picks are from this group (Karlsson and Zibanejad)
Second round (4-5): 2 of their best are from here (Silfverberg and Lehner)
Third round (1-6): extremely poor success rate with none of the best appearing
Fourth round (4-9): better averages (although that success is early) with Pageau being the standout
Fifth round (2-6): Hoffman is the standout (so again, early)
Sixth round (1-6): you expect things to be more difficult later; Stone is the standout
Seventh round (1-9): swinging for the fences is understandable

We have to take the results for first-rounders with grains of salt, since there’s pressure to play those players before giving up on them–I think this is illustrated by the number of best picks being even with the second-rounders. In theory the success ratios should be an inverted pyramid (reflecting the quality and consistency of the scouting group), but that’s not the case. It’s also worth keeping in mind that this period see’s the beginning of a rebuild (2011) that was rushed by a cash-strapped owner (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Pressure by ownership forces trades for success now and clearly that’s part of the problem with asset retention (along with being a smaller market). That should not, however, impact the quality of picks.

Finally, let’s ride one of my favourite hobby horses: relative success between skilled and truculent players (we have to exclude goaltenders from this discussion, along with Maidens, as injury prevented him from performing):
Skilled (11-24, 45%) – This number includes all the best players
Truculent/defensive (6-19, 31%) – Features the team’s biggest busts/disappointments (Cowen, Ceci, Lazar)

My argument for skill has always been the same: it’s rare and thus much harder to acquire–prohibitively expensive for Ottawa most of the time. The NHL is full of grinders and defensive players, so drafting for that is a waste of time. Clearly the team does not share my opinion.

I’m not sure there’s a clear conclusion to draw here. It’s interesting that Tim Murray arrived with Pierre Dorion and success at the draft declined until Murray’s departure. I hesitate to say that’s the only reason for the change, although going through the many scouts who have appeared throughout this time period provides no meaningful insight. I wish there was better evidence for the drafts from 2015 onward, but it’s quite simply too early to judge (for instance, 2016 might turn out to be a complete bust, or Logan Brown could turn a corner and it’s suddenly not as terrible). Regardless, food for thought and opinions are welcome.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Additional BSens Signings and Miscellaneous Thoughts

Just two days after my Belleville speculation post the team signed three more players. These are two-way AHL/ECHL deals, so they are (in theory) simply there to fill holes due to call-ups or injuries. Here are the additions (an aside: inexplicably the BSens press release calls Hoelscher a defenseman):

Mitchell Hoelscher CL, 21-22, OHL 62-34-42-76 1.22 (OHL career 0.72)
Drafted by New Jersey in the 6th-round in 2018, the Devils chose not to sign him and Ottawa picked him up on an ATO at the end of last year (7-0-1-1). Given the number of injury-prone veterans in the BSens lineup, it makes sense to have a depth player who doesn’t just run people through the boards (particularly one who plays center), but the odds are strong that he’ll spend most of the season in ECHL Atlanta.

Xavier Bernard DL, 21-22, QMJHL 26-0-8-8 0.31 (QMJHL career 0.37)
Yet another discarded New Jersey pick from 2018 (4-110), the blueliner’s offensive peak was his draft year and he’s an unremarkable depth addition I expect him to spend most of his time in Atlanta.

Tyler Parks GR, 29, Slovakia .940 (ECHL career .911)
The undrafted college player has spent most of his pro career in the ECHL, with his first ever AHL call-up coming two seasons prior. He provides depth without challenging the young players intended to carry the load in Belleville.

One interesting change I’ve noticed in the org’s strategy is that they have abandoned their habit of signing players out of Maritime universities (Jordan Murray being the prime example). Both Hoelscher and Bernard are via the more traditional route of the CHL.

Kirill Kaprizov Stats, News, Videos, Highlights, Pictures, Bio - Minnesota  Wild - ESPN

A bit off-topic, but as someone long fascinated with the translation of offensive numbers in Europe to the NHL, Kirill Kaprizov is a great example of how hard that is to do. Unlike so many other KHL stars (eg Kaigorodov), he put up excellent NHL numbers with Minnesota (Artyom Zub‘s numbers were also not that dissimilar from those he had in the KHL). This is why you can’t lean too hard on the averages used by analysts, even if 99% of the time a player’s production falls through the floor (Roman Cervenka comes to mind). A related note: Ary wrote about how rare it is for a player like Zub to come out of Russia in the first place, much less succeed.

Quebec Nordiques - Wikipedia

Speaking of off-topic, but how is it 2021 and there’s still no franchise in Quebec City? I’m aware of the NHL’s Western strategy with both Vegas and Seattle (I feel like the former will struggle to maintain a fanbase when the team declines, while the latter should be on solid ground). Broadly speaking, I think the NHL has over expanded and would better off with around 24-teams. Despite that, whatever the league’s situation, a team in Quebec makes so much sense. Not only is there a fanbase for it, but there’s plenty of corporate money to keep it afloat. Regardless, it seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

Eric Macramalla

Since I’ve dipped my toe back into hockey, various random things have come to my attention and one that struck me is related to TSN 1200 personality Eric Macramella. His idea seems to be that if someone is known to have done something illegal in their past it should forever destroy their future in the league. Cancelling people has become a common occurrence these days, albeit seems more about social media behaviour than actual criminal acts, but the premise that people are forever condemned by past mistakes is dystopian and it’s surprising how often those who preach it are later found guilty themselves–Andrew Cuomo and Roberta Kaplan are the most recent examples. I’ve always found Macramalla an interesting and entertaining guy to listen to, but this puts a dent in that estimation. For those who missed the specifics, he argues that anyone looking to hire Sean Burke is making a mistake–Burke was guilty of domestic assault in 1997, a charge not repeated since. One can argue about how Carolina handled the case at the time (which is to say, horribly), but I think 24-years without recurrence says something. Macramalla makes a similar argument for Craig MacTavish, who as a drunk driver killed a woman in 1984, but again, while the passage of time doesn’t diminish the act, I think 37-years of sobriety is enough that it ought not be controversial to hire the guy (Rob Ramage, who in similar circumstances killed Keith Magnuson in 2003, wasn’t brought up). Let’s leave some room for either Macramella not being clear or me misunderstanding his argument, but if the interpretation is correct, I think it’s beyond the pale.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Senators Roster Speculation/Analysis

Secondary Jersey Logo - Belleville Senators

It’s still early, but I wanted to take a look at the Belleville roster and speculate on the lineup–feel free to suggest alternatives or point out where I may have gone wrong in my analysis/assumptions.

We’ll start with veteran players on the team, as a block of three were recently signed/re-signed (following earlier signings: Agozzino, Aberg, and Sherwood and Heatherington). This group joins Shaw, who enters the final year of a two-year deal, and Bishop, who signed an early extension. Let’s take a look at what they bring to the team, keeping in mind I’m calling them ‘veterans’ loosely, not the specific sense of AHL rules (so those players who are no longer prospects); those who qualify as AHL veterans are in blue, with the Sens having filled all their available slots; I have their age/s throughout the season noted.

Veterans

Forwards

Andrew Agozzino LW/C, 30-31, San Diego 31-13-14-27 0.77 (AHL career 0.77)
The undrafted OHLer has played over 500 AHL games and his career average is exactly what he posted this past season. He’s only had cups of coffee in the NHL and, barring a rash of injuries, should be with the BSens all season. I think he’s an excellent addition–you need proven scorers on your team to take the pressure off prospects.

Pontus Aberg RW/LW, 28, KHL Traktor 49-10-13-23 0.68 (AHL career 0.68)
The former 2nd-round pick played a full NHL season in 18-19, but wasn’t able to hold a roster spot with Toronto and departed to the KHL. His prior AHL season was more productive than his average (0.80) and, like Agozzino above, he’s someone the BSens can rely on for scoring.

Logan Shaw RW/C, 29, 24-6-9-15 0.62 (AHL career 0.49)
Returning to the BSens for the final year of his contract, the former 3rd-rounder had roughly three full NHL seasons (15-16 to 17-18) before getting transitioned out of the league by Winnipeg. The last two years he’s struggled to stay healthy; at this level he provides second line levels of offense and is unlikely to be recalled to Ottawa.

Kole Sherwood RW, 24-25, Cleveland 9-3-1-4 0.38 (AHL career 0.38)
The undrafted former OHLer failed out of the Columbus system and I’m not sure what he adds to the BSens other than ‘truculence’. His best offensive season in the AHL was his first (18-19) and he’s struggled to stay healthy. This is a bottom-six forward that, besides sandpaper, doesn’t add much (he’s one of three head-scratching yet typical signings by the org).

Clark Bishop CL, 25-26, 8-2-3-5 0.62 (AHL career 0.31)
The former 5th-rounder has had an unremarkable minor league career, but the Sens clearly like him. I assume the appeal is his defensive play, since nothing else stands out. I expect him to center the bottom six.

Scott Sabourin RW, 29, Toronto 6-2-0-2 0.33 (AHL career 0.25)
A player who needs no introduction, the Sens signed him to a two-way deal and we know exactly what his role is.

Tyrell Goulbourne LW/RW, 27-28, Henderson 18-1-1-2 0.11 (AHL career 0.20)
The former 3rd-rounder’s career has been declining the last two seasons and he’s survived by being ‘truculent’ (yes, I will beat that word to death). Assuming he can stay healthy, he’ll plug away on the fourth line as an agitator. [I was doing some research after I posted this and found a video of Goulbourne getting destroyed fighting former Sens prospect Michael Sdao–clearly he’s game to fight, but that’s not his forte]

Defense

Colby Williams DR, 26-27, 27-3-7-10 0.37 (AHL career 0.26)
The former 6th-rounder enjoyed a career year with the BSens (in terms of points-per-game)–I think his career average serves as a better idea of what he’s capable of. His prior minor league seasons were all very similar, except that he’s been injury-prone the last three.

Zac Leslie DL, 27-28, Stockton 30-3-7-10 0.33 (AHL career 0.35)
The former 6th-rounder has settled in as a career AHLer (no cups of coffee in the NHL), putting up solid if unspectacular numbers. He’s someone who can play the powerplay, but you wouldn’t want him to run it.

Dillon Heatherington DL, 26, KHL Barys 41-2-5-7 0.17 (AHL career 0.28)
Like Aberg above, the former 2nd-rounder dipped his toes in the KHL before returning to the minors. Always billed as a safe, stay-at-home blueliner, his limitations have meant that he’s only played 5 NHL games (despite his pedigree and size). He’s a good fit for a partner on the right side who wants to gamble.

Veteran Summary

The forwards add offensive depth and sandpaper, but the blueline is seemingly focused on defensive reliability and veteran savvy. While I think several of these signings are in line with typical Pierre Dorion flailings (cf), a few also make sense, which is a marked improvement. With that out of the way, let’s look at younger players.

Prospects

Forwards

Angus Crookshank LW, 22, 19-5-11-16 0.84 (NCAA career 0.70)
The 5th-round pick left the NCAA early and had an excellent, albeit short, rookie season. He will be leaned on to continue that production, but with Agozzino there to take some of the pressure off.

Yegor Sokolov RW/LW, 21, 35-15-10-25 0.71 (QMJHL career 1.04)
A good rookie season for the 2nd-round pick, who will looked at to improve on his offensive pruduction (with Aberg being his support in that respect); I think he’s more likely to be called-up than Crookshank (due to size/experience).

Logan Brown CL, 23-24, 13-2-7-9 0.69 (AHL career 0.84)
The former 1st-round pick is an unsigned RFA and it’s unclear whether the Sens wish to keep him or not. As a 6’6 playmaking center, I think it’s crazy for Ottawa to give up on him, but as someone picked by Bob Lowes instead of Trent Mann, I’m not sure they feel attached to him. It’s also not clear that they’d put him back in Belleville if they kept him–I think it unlikely (what does he really have to prove at this level?), but I’m including him since it remains a possibility.

Shane Pinto CR, 20-21, NHL Ottawa 12-1-6-7 0.58 (NCAA career 0.98)
The 2nd-rounder turned pro after his sophomore season and despite good production in his short debut, I think it’s possible he’ll play significant time in the AHL–the Sens could opt to take the pressure off and let him develop in Belleville (ala Josh Norris). If so he’ll get top minutes as the first or second-line center.

Parker Kelly CL/RW, 22, 33-10-8-18 0.54 (WHL career 0.69)
The WHL FA signee had a much better sophomore season after an underwhelming rookie year. Given the lineup, he looks like a third line winger who will do some penalty killing and perhaps second unit powerplay time.

Cole Reinhardt LW, 21-22, 33-6-6-12 0.36 (WHL career 0.56)
I’m not sure what to make of the 6th-rounder, but scoring does not seem like it’s on the menu, so I’d expect him to circulate on the bottom lines.

Mark Kastelic CR/RW, 22, 31-4-6-10 0.32 (WHL career 0.73)
The 5th-rounder, an imagined Zack Smith clone, had a middling rookie year (Smith’s rookie year was 0.61). Like the previous two prospects, I expect him to eat up minutes on the bottom lines.

Roby Jarventie LW, 19, Liiga Ilves 48-14-11-25 0.52 (U20 career 0.73)
The 2nd-round Finnish forward played briefly with Belleville at the end of the season and, while his contract can slide, it seems like he’ll return to the BSens (he’s not on Ilves’ roster for the upcoming season). It’s difficult to project his production, but he showed skill in his limited window.

Defense

Jonathan Aspirot DL, 22, 27-7-6-13 0.41 (QMJHL career 0.39)
An undrafted blueliner whose signing I was not a fan of, but he’s somehow maintained his junior production at the AHL level (in an admittedly small sample size). The pressure to produce will be abated by the addition of Leslie and Bernard-Docker.

Lassi Thomson DR, 21, 35-1-12-13 0.37 (Liiga career 0.26)
The first-rounder had a solid season for someone considered unspectacular offensively; while the pressure will be on to take his game to another level, the addition of Bernard-Docker adds depth on his side.

Jacob Bernard-Docker DR, 21, NCAA North Dakota 27-3-15-18 0.66 (NCAA career 0.63)
The first-rounder left college early at the end of last year, but given the logjam on the blueline in the NHL, I think he’s going to spend part or all of his rookie season in Belleville. He projects out like Thomson, although it’s unclear who has the better skill set.

Maxence Guenette DR, 20, QMJHL Val d’Or 36-5-17-22 0.61 (QMJHL career 0.47)
I’m not sure if the 7th-rounder can go back to the Q (cf), but given how crowded the BSens are on the right side, sending him back seems like the better choice. His numbers remind me of Max Lajoie’s, who I liked, although Guenette’s ceiling is probably not as high. Barring injuries or a roster move, it’s difficult to envision him as anything other than a depth defenseman.

Goaltenders

Filip Gustavsson GL, 23, .933/.910 (AHL career .894)
The former 2nd-round pick had his best pro season to date, but with two goalies ahead of him in Ottawa, it seems likely that he’ll return to Belleville (presumably as the starter).

Mads Sogaard GL, 20-21, .917 (WHL career .915)
The huge 2nd-round Dane did well in limited action and will either back-up Gustavsson or take the role of starter.

Kevin Mandolese GL, 20, .888 (QMJHL career .900)
The rookie struggled at the pro level and could see time in ECHL Atlanta to avoid sitting in the pressbox behind the other two. Because the Sens have three signed goaltending prospects, it’s unlikely they’ll add an AHL goaltender.

Prospect Summary

At the NHL level, Pinto, Formenton, and Brannstrom can hypothetically come down (as can Norris and Stutzle, but I consider that impossible). Barring a roster change, only Pinto seems possible (thus his inclusion above). The blueline is so clogged at the NHL-level everyone in the minors is locked in. Otherwise there’s a fairly even mix of skill and grind in the forward group, with the blueliners slightly more generally skilled (albeit with lower offensive ceilings).

Hypothetical Lineup

Centers: Pinto, Shaw, Kastelic, Bishop
Leftwing: Agozzino, Crookshank, Jarventie, Reinhardt, Goulbourne
Rightwing: Aberg, Sokolov, Kelly, Sherwood, Sabourin
Left-D: Aspirot, Leslie, Heatherington
Right-D: Thomsom, Bernard-Docker, Williams, Guenette

Agozzino-Pinto-Aberg
Crookshank-Shaw-Sokolov
Jarventie-Bishop-Kelly
Reinhardt-Kastelic-Sherwood
Extras: Sabourin, Goulbourne

Aspirot-Thomson
Leslie-Bernard-Docker
Heatherington-Williams
Extra: Guenette

There are only three natural centers in the group (Pinto, Kastelic, and Bishop), so looking at the various wingers who play center I’m guessing Shaw is moved to make room for the rightwing prospects who need the ice time. I’m guessing Aberg will play the right side given that he’s righthanded and wasn’t brought in to sit on the third line. If Pinto isn’t here than either Agozzino shifts to center or Bishop slides up (despite his lack of talent) and Kelly moves over. Otherwise I think there will be at least one veteran player on each of the top-three lines. The blueline combos are much less certain, but are placed roughly in terms of assumed talent–it’s likely there will be juggling to see who works best with whom (cf).

In Context

It’s worth remembering that last season was a bizarre one in the AHL. Belleville played 35-games against just 4 teams because of the pandemic. A reduced travel schedule and repeated opponents impacts numbers, but we don’t know to what extent. Within their division they were the lowest scoring team (102 goals or 2.9 per game, which is a long way down from their 3.71 pace the previous season). The top-scorer in the AHL (Andrew Poturalski) played more games than the other top scorers (the top point-per-game player was veteran T. J. Tynan at 1.30–yes, the same Tynan Columbus drafted via the Nikita Filatov trade), but the leader within Belleville’s division was Manitoba’s Nathan Todd with 32 points; the top ppg was Toronto’s Kale Kossila at 1.04 (passim). For an easier visual snapshot, here’s how the BSens compare to their divisional top scorers (minimum 17 games played–half a season–those on the BSens or signed for this season are in bold):

Forwards
1. Kossila (Tor) 28-7-22-29 1.04
2. Agostino (Tor) 22-9-13-22 1.00
3. Todd (Man) 36-12-20-32 0.89
4. Poehling (Lav) 28-11-14-25 0.89
5. Gustafsson (Man) 22-7-12-19 0.86
6. Crookshank 19-5-11-16 0.84
7. Belzile (Lav) 17-4-10-14 0.82
8. Perfetti (Man) 32-9-17-26 0.81
9. Agozzino (San Diego) 31-13-14-27 0.77
10. Robertson (Tor) 21-5-11-16 0.76
11. Dauphin (Lav) 21-5-11-16 0.76
12. Ruzicka (Sto) 28-11-10-21 0.75
13. Blandisi (Lav) 28-10-11-21 0.75
14. Veilleux (Lav) 26-14-5-19 0.73
15. Sokolov 35-15-10-25 0.71
16. Weal (Lav) 34-7-17-24 0.71
17. Phillips (Sto) 30-8-13-21 0.70
18. Teasdale (Lav) 26-8-10-18 0.69
19. Aberg (KHL) 49-10-13-23 0.68
20. Gaudet (Tor) 34-11-12-23 0.68
21. Shaw 24-6-9-15 0.62
22. Gawdin (Sto) 22-4-9-13 0.59
23. Malott (Man) 34-14-6-20 0.59
24. Ylonen (Lav) 29-9-8-17 0.59

The drop off in offense from Belleville’s forward group is obvious and the acquisitions should help solve that to some degree (although Ottawa did not push for the best of the best in terms of AHL-scorers).

Defense
1. Petrovic-D (Sto) 17-2-10-12 0.70
2. Mackey-D (Sto) 27-3-13-16 0.59
3. Heinola-D (Man) 19-4-7-11 0.58
4. Kivihalme-D (Tor) 20-6-5-11 0.55
5. Lilegren-D (Tor) 21-2-9-11 0.52
6. Leskinen-D (Lav) 33-1-16-17 0.51
7. Olofsson-D (Lav) 24-1-11-12 0.50
8. Duszak-D (Tor) 25-4-8-12 0.48
9. Kovacevic-D (Man) 29-2-12-14 0.48
10. Chisholm-D (Man) 28-2-11-13 0.46
11. Brook-D (Lav) 33-2-13-15 0.45
12. Rosen-D (Tor) 30-5-8-13 0.43
13. Aspirot-D 27-7-6-13 0.41

The offensive weakness of the BSens blueline (a systemic issue that goes back six years–the last elite producer was Chris Wideman in 2014-15) is obvious. The org has made a limited effort to shore up this deficit, but are leaning almost entirely on prospects for additional production.

Final Thoughts

Looking through this, and at the Sens lineup, it seems like a move on the blueline has to be coming soon (I can’t see Ottawa keeping 8 defensemen). If everything lines up in Belleville as I’ve guessed above, success is heavily dependent on the prospects. Scoring should at least slightly improve, although I have concerns over how well the blueline can move the puck (which impacts what forwards can do with it). On paper the goaltending looks solid, but we have very small sample sizes for two of the prospects and Gustavsson has been all over the place in the AHL–it’s probably fine. I think for fans I think there’s reasons to watch and be excited, albeit I don’t know how much that will translate into wins and losses. Anyway, as I said above, please chime in with your own thoughts–I did not watch this past season, so there may be some nuances I’ve missed and I like hearing other opinions regardless.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Retrospective: Looking Back at the 2019 Assessment of the Sens Farm System

I’ve been away from the Sens and hockey for a couple of years (funnily enough, the last thing I wrote was a profile of Scott Sabourin). I never wrote about why I did, but there were two reasons: 1) unhappiness with management/the organization (something that hasn’t changed), 2) The NHL’s unwillingness to open the game up–I grew up in the 1980s and while the game is ‘better’ now, the excitement of that high scoring era is not matched (the peak, for me, is the ’87 Canada Cup finals). The NBA and the NFL have (at different speeds) realized that what fans want most is scoring, but the NHL remains far behind making that adjustment. The clutch and grab era may be dead, but despite all the speed of the modern NHL, scoring struggles continue.

So what’s prompted me to write now? No specific reason, although I’ve been thinking about it for awhile. The last couple of years of my Sens coverage was focused on prospects and I think to learn and judge analysis requires reflection. I wanted to see just how well I did in assessing Ottawa’s farm system back in 2019. I tackled it in reference to rankings from The Athletic‘s Pronman and I’ll reflect on both his and my comments. To make this visually easier, those whose development was predicted correctly are in green and those not in red, and where it’s unclear, as it frequently is, I’ve left it as-is. My bias: I value offense over defense, since the former is rare and the latter can be learned.

3. Alex Formenton (2-47/17)
Had an excellent first season in Belleville (0.86ppg), with a solid debut in Ottawa (0.30).
Pronman (& scouts) were uncertain about his skill level at the highest level, with the thinking being he’d be a third line center who could kill penalties. My issue with him was simply how early he was picked given that limited upside, but it’s still too early to judge his ceiling.

5. Josh Norris (Acquired from San Jose in the Erik Karlsson trade)
An excellent rookie season in Belleville (1.09), and an impressive NHL rookie season (0.62).
My fear was that Norris had been buoyed by talented teammates and fall to third-line production without, but it seems like that’s a concern we can wave away at this stage. This was both Pronman and the scouts contention as well, but clearly the Sens saw more in him than most and thus far they have been right. I still think there’s some suggestion that his numbers are boosted by his linemates (both in Belleville and Ottawa), but not in the sense that he’s drag on them (so he’s more like Dan Quinn than Warren Young, to make a reference maybe 5% of you will get).

8. Jakob Bernard-Docker (1-26/18)
Continued to do well in the NCAA (0.78 and 0.66) and made his brief debut.
Scouts and Pronman saw him as a safe, two-way, top-four defensemen. My quibble with him was (again) when he was picked given his upside (the Sens have drafted an abundance of players within that category). We really don’t know what he is yet, but his NCAA numbers imply modest pro production.

11. Filip Chlapik (2-48/15)
Equaled his production (0.60) at the AHL level while not offering much in limited time in half an NHL season. Unhappiness this past season saw the Sens let him go and he played the end of the year in the Finnish league.
There were a lot of questions when he was drafted and Pronman was not impressed, but broadly speaking his offensive side never did quite meet expectations (my concern that his QMJHL production had been boosted by Daniel Sprong seems correct), while he was better defensively than advertised. I always hoped he would develop more.

12. Parker Kelly (WHL FA 2017)
An unremarkable rookie season (0.28) saw necessary improvement this past one (0.55).
Pronman hoped for offensive skills that weren’t evident at the time and while we’ve seen improvement it’s still up in the air what kind of ceiling he has. I’m not sure that you need to sign a defensive forward with speed to an ELC, but he’s not a bust yet so there’s time to see a return on investment (he seems like a poor man’s Formenton).

13. Max Veronneau (NCAA FA 2019)
An awful AHL rookie season (0.30) saw him traded and he’s now playing in the SHL.
Pronman didn’t see NHL potential in him and while I agreed, I had different reasons for doing so. We were both right in the end, as he couldn’t even dominate at the AHL level, so this was a wasted FA-signing. In general the Sens have an extremely poor track record of FA signings out of the NCAA (cf).

14. Jonathan Davidsson (Acquired in the Matt Duchene trade to Columbus)
Unimpressive partial rookie season (0.27) followed by a worse start this past season leading to being loaned back to tier-2 Sweden.
Pronman, while not effusive, wasn’t as down on him as I was, and in this case I was absolutely correct. Davidsson just doesn’t have NHL (or, seemingly, AHL) talent.

16. Shane Pinto (2-32/19)
Good sophomore season in the NCAA (1.14) with an impressive NHL debut.
Pronman was extremely negative about him while scouts were divided; I worried the Sens were won over by his size (think of Gabriel Gagne and others), but thus far it seems as though Ottawa was on the right track.

17. Filip Gustavsson (Acquired in the Derick Brassard trade involving Pittsburgh and Vegas)
Echoed his atrocious rookie season (.889), but was much better this past season in limited action in both leagues.
Pronman was concerned he was in bust territory, while I thought his struggles were fine at the time. It seems like he’s rounding into form, although the small sample size from this past season is something we have to take with a grain of salt.

18. Kevin Mandolese (6-157/18)
Marked improvement (.895 to .925), while looking rough around the edges in his rookie season in the AHL (.888).
Pronman was very negative about him and scouts opinions were mixed. Goalies are extremely difficult to gauge and for a late pick if he doesn’t pan out it’s not that big a deal (I don’t mind the risk).

19. Jon Gruden (4-95/18)
After struggling in the NCAA he had a solid season in the OHL, but was traded to Pittsburgh where he had an okay AHL debut (0.43).
Pronman and I shared the opinion that he wasn’t an NHL player, so why bother picking him? I have no idea why the Sens signed him, but at least they were able to dump him on Pittsburgh soon after.

21. Luke Loheit (7-194/18)
Put up back-to-back horrendous seasons in the NCAA (0.18 and 0.17)–not picked as a scorer, but these are abysmal numbers regardless.
Virtually no one ranked him and it’s difficult to find positive opinions about him (Pronman included)–the Sens could easily have let him sail through the draft and signed him as an FA if warranted.

Depth: Markus Nurmi (6-163/16)
Showing steady improvement in Finland (0.49 and 0.78).
The Sens have sat on Nurmi for a long time, whom they clearly saw as raw material that might develop one day. Pronman was not impressed, but Nurmi is getting to the point where the Sens might sign him. His numbers in Finland aren’t overwhelming and at best he’s a depth player, but that potential remains (he’s only 23).

Not discussed:
1. Drake Batherson (4-121/17) – One of my favourite players; superb AHL numbers turned into strong NHL numbers (0.60)
2. Erik Brannstrom (Acquired in the Mark Stone trade) – Has been great in the AHL; starting to round into NHL form (0.43)
4. Logan Brown (1-11/16) – Excellent AHL numbers haven’t yet earned him a full NHL spot
6. Lassi Thomson (1-19/19) – Decent season in Finland before a solid AHL debut (0.37); this is yet another top-four with limited upside prospect
7. Mads Sogaard (2-37/19) – Tread water in 2019-20, but was solid in limited rookie action in the AHL
9. Vitaly Abramov (Acquired in the Matt Duchene trade) – Has been a good AHL player (0.80 and 0.82), but ought to be a dominant one [After I posted this I saw that he’d signed in the KHL–so ends his tenure with Ottawa]
10. Joey Daccord (7-199/15) – Had a strong rookie season, but struggled as a sophomore; claimed by Seattle
15. Marcus Hogberg (3-78/13) – Had a strong 2019-20, but faltered as an NHL goaltender (.876) and the Sens have moved on (he’s signed in the SHL)

As Pronman said nothing about them, I can’t comment on his opinion. As for me, if you draft for skill it will pay off as it has with Batherson. I don’t have strong opinions on Brannstrom, but I like Brown. Thomson, it’s agreed, lacks high end skill, but let’s hope there’s more upside than predicted. I liked the Sogaard pick. At 23 Abramov needs to establish himself at the NHL-level. I liked Daccord, but the Sens really didn’t have room for him (the same for Hogberg).

Not making the cut:
Todd Burgess (4-103/16) – Middle of the road NCAA numbers saw him unsigned; the Manitoba Moose picked him up; excluding him counts as a win for Pronman
Angus Crookshank (5-126/18) – His 2019-20 season was roughly equal to his prior, but he improved this past year (0.90) and had an excellent AHL debut (0.84); excluding him counts against Pronman
Jakov Novak (7-188/18) – NCAA numbers improved (0.85 and 1.13), he’s switched schools for his final college season; excluding him counts against Pronman
Viktor Lodin (4-94/19) – Took a step back in 2019-20 (spending only half the time in the SHL), then was kept in tier-2 where he put up his best numbers (for whatever that’s worth); on loan to the SHL for the upcoming season
Mark Kastelic (5-125/19) – Matched his prior year in the WHL and then had an adequate debut given expectations (0.32)
Maxence Guenette (7-187/19) – His final two QMJHL seasons were about equal in terms or production (0.61 in the last), which isn’t all that impressive

The only Pronman angle above is that he left them out. The Sens letting Burgess walk makes sense, as he never broke out in the NCAA. I liked the Crookshank selection (again, going for skill). Novak represents the same risk taken with Burgess–both were high scoring NAHL players–but with better results (how well that translates remains to be seen). Kastellic always seemed liked an AHL player not worth drafting and I don’t see Zack Smith in him (which is what I think they were angling for). I was unimpressed by Lodin’s talent when drafted and despite finally putting up numbers in tier-2 this still seems like a wasted pick to me.

In reference to my prospect rankings (posted about a month after the article here), I stand by my goaltender comments (irrespective of changes). On defense the jury is out on whether I was too high on Christian Wolanin (who I saw as a top-four blueliner), but I was spot-on with Olle Alsing (who crashed and burned) and Andreas England (thankfully gone). As for forwards it’s a bit more of a mixed bag, as I undersold Josh Norris and Shane Pinto, but I’m very happy with my Max Veronneau, Michael Carcone (anyone remember him?), Andrew Sturtz, John Gruden, and Luke Loheit assessments. As for those outside the list, one can quibble with my Nick Paul assessment, but I was spot on about Jack Rodewald, too conservative about Brady Tkachuck, and not ready to give up on the potential of the departed Max Lajoie or Christian Jaros. My assessment of the various AHL-signings was all on-point other than, perhaps, Jonathan Aspirot.

Any thoughts or comments are welcome. I have been out of the rotation for awhile, so there could be nuances I’m missing.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Player Profile: Scott Sabourin

View image on Twitter

I can’t remember the last time I did a player profile, but apparently no one else has one on the guy (with apologies to Colin Cudmore)–at minimum Chirp is excited about him (someone has to be, right?).

Scott Sabourin (DOB 92, RW, 6’3, FA LA 13)
2016-17 AHL 54-8-7-15 0.27 13th in scoring 9 fights
2017-18 AHL 44-4-3-7 0.16 25th in scoring 6 fights
2018-19 AHL 43-4-4-8 0.18 19th in scoring 7 fights

Another local boy who was such a beast of a prospect that there are no scouting reports on him (2010 was his year, btb, which meant digging through physical archives). He made his way from tier-2 locally to Oshawa in the OHL (where he played for D. J. Smith), then on to the AHL as a fighter (you can see his fights here). Dean Lombardi (LAK) signed him to an ELC in 2013 and after he bombed out there he was involved in a three-way trade that included Ottawa (the Sens acquired Finnish flameout Michael Keranen), getting dumped on Minnesota (2016). Anaheim (Bob Murray) signed him the following season (along with pugilist Mike Liambas), where coach Dallas Eakins used him as a part-time forward. When he was dropped from that org he then turned a PTO with Stockton into a contract, but coach Cail MacLean also kept him on a short leash, restricting him to about half a season.

What can we take away from his numbers and his history? His competitiveness is such that he can walk into multiple training camps and earn himself a job–that speaks to his hustle and enthusiasm. After getting signed, Sabourin drops down the lineup, plays irregularly and when he does play can only provide (AHL) fourth-line output. He can fight, but that’s not very important even at the AHL-level anymore (the fight leaders didn’t crack double digits last season and no one has had more than eleven since 2015-16). So he can fight, but can’t score–is he good defensively? The answer has to be no, because if he was a useful PKer he’d play more (current BSen Joseph LaBate is a good comparison there). His only full season in the AHL was his rookie year (also his most productive)–since then he’s been a frequent scratch and used purely as an energy player.

Is this a bad signing? Abstractly, yes–I don’t think that’s debatable–but is it for Ottawa? If you want to fail this season, and the Sens certainly do, then no. They should want Sabourin playing key minutes. What I don’t want to see is this guy in Belleville. The BSens have more than enough low-talent FA’s on the roster that the last thing they need is another one, especially a guy who is 27 and already peaked.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ranking the Sens Prospects

For the first time last year I put out my own prospect rankings. I think most lists, if not all of the ones I’ve seen, are flawed, lacking a proper framework for why player X is higher (or lower) than player Y; there’s difficulties in comparing across positions (is a starting goaltender better than a top forward?), and it’s rare that the players projected growth is used as part of the analysis (instead it tends to be who is better now). I prefer an apples-to-apples approach, so for my purposes I’ll be looking at players by position and potential.

To determine that potential I’m using the scouting consensus (when available) and performance (stats), tweaked by my own observations. I’ve removed players who have 50+ games of NHL experience–at that point there’s access to much better statistical breakdowns (and a flood of analysis); I’ve also cut out prospects with four or more pro seasons (ECHL/AHL), by which time I think they are no longer truly prospects. I’ve also excluded players on AHL-contracts. Despite these cuts we still have a very long list.

General comments about scouting: the prejudice against size is slowly eroding away (less so for Ottawa when drafting), with an overabundant affection for physical play that colours perception (the weaknesses of physical players aren’t seen as debilitating as a lack of physicality is in skilled players); defense is also given much more weight than offense, even though the former can be learned and the latter is based on talent. There’s an impression many scouts have that a player who hits people is providing something a player who scores is not. In addition, scouts struggle to project goaltenders and this means much of their material is difficult to parse (Ary talks about that here).

The scouting material included below focuses on potential and flaws (generally speaking we’re aware of what each player is supposed to be). Acronyms: HP: Hockey Prospects, FC: Future Considerations, ISS: International Scouting Service, RLR: Red Line Report, Pronman: Corey Pronman (via The Athletic). I’ve included changes in my ranking from last year in brackets. A final note: there’s less to say about players who have just been drafted–there’s no new information to discuss, so we’re completely dependent on scouting and their statistical output. Most of the players listed here were drafted under Trent Mann’s tenure (2017 and on), with Bob Lowes running the board in 2014-16 after the departure of Tim Murray; those acquired via trade are all courtesy of Pierre Dorion (who became the GM for the 2016-17 season). Mann’s tenure has been a disaster, as he’s flooded the org with bottom-feeding pluggers–most of the serious talent insertions have come from trades made by Dorion.

Goaltenders (5)

Potential Starter (3)

1 (+1). Marcus Hogberg (DOB 94, 3-78/13)
2017-18 AHL/ECHL .899 .327 6-12-0/.915 3.10 8-7-1
2018-19 AHL/NHL 2.32 .917 21-5-6/.884 4.08 0-2-1

Let’s revisit scouting expectations when he was drafted (he is the only prospect remaining who was picked by Tim Murray): RLR liked his size, but thought he lacked mobility and confidence; FC said he needed to improve his lateral quickness and confidence; McKeen’s profile is effusive, but they note excessive movement (something I noticed in his rookie season); he was not ranked by HP or ISS. In general he was seen as great raw material that needed work.

His rookie AHL season didn’t meet expectations, but as I argued at the time wasn’t as bad as the raw numbers made it appear and last season validated that assessment. The BSens were an awful team defensively in his rookie season, and while they weren’t that much better last year Hogberg was by far the best goaltender between the pipes. Among AHL goaltenders who played at least 20 games he was tied for 9th in the league in save percentage (on a terrible, terrible team), so at this level he’s certainly found his groove.

With that said, there’s nothing in Hogberg’s performance or pedigree to suggest he’ll ever be an elite starting goaltender. What he might be is a starter, although we need more than two seasons in the AHL to be sure of that.

2 (-1). Filip Gustavsson (DOB 98, 2-55/16 Pit)
2017-18 SHL/AHL .918 2.07 9-11-0/.912 3.01 2-4-0
2018-19 AHL .887 3.38 12-14-2

Draft: HP thought he was the best goaltender in a weak (2016) class, having good fundamentals, but they had concerns over his rebound control; FC saw his potential as an NHL-starter; ISS mostly echoed the above, but expressed concerns about his blocker play; RLR gave him the same potential, but added the caveat that this applied if he were on ‘an upper echelon team’ (ie, with good defensive support)–they also questioned his play with the puck; there was a general consensus that he played too much on his knees.

Gustavsson arrived on the team with a great deal of fanfare–you can still find fan articles proclaiming him the second-coming–but his rookie season was a disaster. The were signs during his short stint in the AHL in 2018 that he might struggle, but it was far worse than imagined. There are caveats to his performance–due to injuries he was forced to play far more than originally intended and the team in front of him was awful, but the blueline he has this year isn’t much better, so he’ll have to be better on his own this season.

One pro season, especially for a young goaltender, doesn’t mean all is lost. Gustavsson could easily rebound, but he’s never projected out as an elite start–like Hogberg, his threshold is as a starter.

3 (new). Mads Sogaard (DOB 00, 2-37/19)
2017-18 NAHL .909 2.64
2018-19 WHL .921 2.64

As a freshly drafted player we only have the scouts analysis to work from: he was picked ahead of most projections (HP said he’s a late first to early second-rounder, but that range is only found in their profile of him as they cut goaltenders from their basic rankings). HP’s profile is huge, but on their 3-9 scale he’s a 7 for hockey sense, 8 for compete, 7 for skill, and 7 for skating; McKeen’s thinks he has to work on his rebound control and five-hole coverage; FC thinks he struggles to track pucks through traffic and his ability to move the puck once he has it (they like his glove hand more than HP). To maintain his save percentage transitioning from a tier-two American junior league in the WHL is quite a feat, so there’s no questioning his talent. Just like his compatriots above, he’s not projected as an elite starter. He slots below the pair above largely because he doesn’t have a track record in pro circumstances yet.

Backups (2)

4 (+1). Joey Daccord (DOB 96, 7-199/15)
2017-18 NCAA .909 3.51
2018-19 NCAA .926 2.35

Draft: no one ranked him, but HP had a game report on him which was positive if pretty generic. His underlying metrics with Arizona were good and that paid off in his final NCAA season (Pronman worries about his positioning and decision-making). It’s a limited supply of information to work with, so what’s his threshold? What sticks out to me is that on a bad NCAA team he had bad numbers (despite the aforementioned metrics), while on a good team, he had good numbers. What this says to me is he can’t carry a team on his back. Nothing I’ve seen or read suggests he has more potential than as a backup, which is perfectly fine for a seventh round pick. As it stands he’ll be the third goaltender in Belleville, but if there are injuries (as undoubtedly there will be) or a trade, he’ll become the backup and get a chance to truly test himself.

5 (-2). Kevin Mandolese (DOB 00, 6-157/18)
2017-18 QMJHL .884 3.46
2018-19 QMJHL .895 2.87

Draft: RLR thought he had starter potential, but stayed too deep in his net; ISS was more effusive (offering the same potential); FC liked him, but said sometimes he over commits and can lose focus if he’s not facing a lot of shots; HP repeated that he stays too deep in his net and isn’t aggressive enough, but has pro potential. His numbers in the Q aren’t particularly impressive, but did improve last year (although that only put him 22nd in the league). In Pronman‘s recent review of the Sens system he sounded frustrated by him and to me there’s a very good chance he’s a bust. Best case scenario for him, barring a fantastic QMJHL season this year, is as a backup.

Overall Assessment: In terms of the depth of the pool it’s slightly better than last year, as they now have three players with starter potential, but there’s still no elite goaltender available (in the Sens draft history they’ve only ever picked one, Robin Lehner, way back in 2009). The org continues to pick tall prospects in later rounds and cross their fingers, but it’s difficult to find any rhyme or reason behind their methodology. While I like the Sogaard pick, it seems as random as the Hollett or Mandolese or Driedger and on and on–it comes across as throwing darts at a board and hoping.

Defense (8)

Top-Four (5)

1 (new). Erik Brannstrom (DOB 99, 1-15/17 VGK)
2017-18 SHL 44-2-13-15 0.34
2018-19 AHL 50-7-25-32 0.64

Draft: highly touted going into his draft, but concerns about his size pinned him to the middle of the first round. The question that is yet unanswered is what his offensive potential will be at the NHL-level. Pronman saw him as an all-around top-four blueliner, although there are scouts who have him pegged higher than that. I tend to aim more conservatively with my expectations, so top-four is where I’d project him until we see something more. Ary points out that he wasn’t given top minutes while in AHL Chicago, but when he was in his brief tenure with Belleville, we didn’t see an offensive explosion (granting that the blueline there wasn’t very good).

2 (+1). Christian Wolanin (DOB 95, 4-107/15)
2017-18 NCAA 40-12-23-35
2018-19 AHL/NHL 40-7-24-31/30-4-8-12 0.77/0.40

Draft: no one ranked him, but HP had one game report that’s positive if vague (McKeen’s profiled him, but it’s also vague, suggesting that he needed to improve his defensive play). Pronman didn’t think much of him at the time–believing his hands weren’t high end and that he’s not a great defender (this might give you an idea of why I’m very cautious in using Pronman’s analysis, particularly with skilled players). Brad Phillips thought he was a deep sleeper for fantasy hockey folks.

Wolanin had a fantastic rookie season–I was conservative with my projections and he blew them away. I think he would have been better served seeing him play a full season in Belleville, but you can’t complain about his production; his AHL season can be divided into three chunks between call-ups (26-5-13-18; 9-1-7-8; 5-1-4-5), the latter two segments being when coach Troy Mann had stopped fussing about with his usage (Mann likes his muckers and grinders, of which he has another plethora to play this season).

My projection for him hasn’t changed–he’s a top-four guy who can play on the powerplay and move the puck–and I’m not at all surprised he’s still in Ottawa.

3 (new). Lassi Thomson (DOB 00, 1-19/19)
2017-18 Liiga-Jr 49-12-15-27 0.55
2018-19 WHL 63-17-24-41 0.65

Another fresh face from the draft: he was picked early (Hockey Prospect had him highest at #28). There’s lot’s of scouting material on him, with HP scoring him this way on their 3-9 scale: a 6 for hockey sense and 7 for compete, skill, and skating. McKeen’s, much more briefly, echoes the above, saying the limiting factor is that he doesn’t have any particular high end skill that stands out; FC is concerned about his defensive play without the puck and believes he lacks urgency; Pronman thinks his only path forward is offensively, but that his offensive potential is high enough for that to work. This is mixed praise, despite his (relatively) high ranking among scouts.

He projects in the top-four, but it’s not clear what kind of 3-4 he is–his upcoming season playing with men in the Liiga should help give us a clearer picture of the kind of player he is, as scouts clearly have conflicting ideas.

4 (-3). Jonny Tychonick (DOB 00, 2-48/18)
2017-18 BCHL 48-9-38-47 0.98
2018-19 NCAA 28-0-4-4 0.14

Draft: RLR thinks he’s purely offensive (comparing him to Shayne Gostisbehere); ISS has him as a top-four blueliner with a need to get stronger; FC is effusive, but does reference defensive inconsistency; HP saw him as both offensively gifted and tenacious/aggressive, but agreed his defensive play is average.

His rookie numbers in college aren’t impressive, but he’s playing behind a lot of players and most coaches are reserved when it comes to offensive prospects. We can, however, drop RLR’s Gostisbehere comparison, as he had 22 points his rookie season in the NCAA. Until Tychonick has put in another season projections for him remain the same: a top-four blueliner who can log PP minutes.

5 (-1). Jacob Bernard-Docker (DOB 00, 1-26/18)
2017-18 AJHL 49-20-21-41 0.83
2018-19 NCAA 36-5-12-17 0.47

Draft: RLR saw him as a top-four blueliner; ISS as a top-pairing, two-way defender, questioning his consistency; FC/HP liked him, but questioned his creativity. The question for Bernard-Docker was how well he distributes and moves the puck (since we can presume he’s solid defensively already).

His rookie season was a pleasant surprise in terms of his numbers, although it’s unclear how much of that production was due to undrafted teammates Matt Kiersted and Colton Poolman. He wasn’t picked to put up points however, so in terms of his projections we have to see him as a safe, penalty killing top-four blueliner (Pronman continues to express concerns about his upside).

Bottom-Pair (1)

6 (new). Olle Alsing (DOB 96 FA 19)
2017-18 SHL 51-7-14-21 0.41
2018-19 SHL 49-4-11-15 0.30

Draft: undrafted, HP had a profile on him which can be boiled down to: decent puck skills, a good passer, solid defensively, but concerns about his board/body play. It’s notoriously difficult to project European production to North America, but nothing screams out at me to say he’s going to be particularly productive–his numbers are similar to Christian Jaros, but they are very different players so I’m not sure how far you can take that. He’s almost certainly going to be an effective AHL player, but I think his ceiling is pretty limited–he’d be a safe, depth defenseman, although there’s no harm in hoping for more (after being signed he was loaned back to Djurgardens).

Marginal NHLer (1)

7 (new). Maxence Guenette (DOB 01, 7-187/19)
2017-18 61-1-11-12 0.19
2018-19 68-8-24-32 0.47

Draft: while not ranked by McKeen’s (or making Bob McKenzie’s truncated list), he was picked after other projections (a fourth for HP and a fifth for FC). On HP’s 3-9 scale he’s a 6 across the board (hockey sense, compete, skill, and skating), which seems like the HP equivalent of ‘mediocre’ for a prospect. FC thinks his skating is just average, that he’s not fully engaged defensively, and struggles to get his shot through.

He projects as a safe, two-way defender, but one without enough talent to be an NHL-regular. At best he’s a seventh defenseman who can rotate in on the PK, but why do you need to draft a player like that? Trent Mann’s obsession with pluggers remains frustrating.

Bust (1)

8 (unchanged). Andreas Englund (DOB 96, 2-40/14)
2017-18 AHL 69-1-9-10 0.14
2018-19 AHL 68-3-11-14 0.20

Draft: RLR liked his mean, physical play and compared him to Alexei Emelin; ISS questioned his skills with the puck, but projected him as a top-four shutdown blueliner; FC saw him as a top-six shutdown blueliner and liked his outlet passing; HP questioned his hockey sense (as do I). Looking back over time, HP had the best assessment (followed by FC), which also suits which publications have the most accurate selections for who will be drafted.

Needless to say most of these estimations were overly optimistic, as Englund struggles to be an effective AHL defensemen, much less an NHL blueliner. The org still likes him, but that’s purely because of his physicality. His zone exists are either lobbing grenades up the ice or pounding the puck off the boards–in both cases forwards are forced to adjust to prevent turnovers because he simply can’t make a pass; his supposed defensive acumen is overblown, so other than his physical play he doesn’t excel at anything (including the PK).

His mild uptick in his numbers this past season doesn’t undercut the fact that he has hands of stone (down the stretch, when it mattered, he was 14-0-0-0, his worst stretch of the season). He’s shown no sign of improvement since turning pro and re-signing him was a dumb decision–he’ll be back in Sweden next year.

Overall Assessment: the blueline depth is largely unchanged from last year–the org still lacks bonafide elite talent at the position and they are quite short on organizational depth (three of these players will come off the list next year). The org has been desperate for blueliners who move the puck for years and there’s simply been no push to fill that need under Dorion’s regime.

Forwards (21)

Top-Six (3)

1 (+3). Drake Batherson (DOB 98 4-121/17)
2017-18 QMJHL 51-29-48-77 (1.51)
2018-19 AHL/NHL 59-22-40-62/20-3-6-9 (1.05/0.45)

Draft: HP praised him and called him a legit prospect, liking his hockey IQ and offensive instincts; FC/ISS/RLR didn’t rank him, as Batherson eluded most scouts because he’d sailed through one draft already and it was his strong second half that put him on the radar. I was quite conservative about what to expect from him last year and he blew away projections. Given his pathway to being drafted Tanner Pearson seemed like a good comparable, but he was a far better AHL player than Pearson was as a rookie, suggesting he’ll be a much better NHL-player as well. Pronman, who initially wasn’t much of a fan, has come around and (other than his speed) accepted that he’s a great player.

Of all the prospects who appear on this list, he’s the one who has the best chance of breaking through and becoming a top-line player–the odds aren’t high, but overachieving and defying expectations is what elite talent does. If there’s a parallel for him as a prospect it might be Mike Hoffman, but it’s too early to tell yet.

2 (-1). Logan Brown (DOB 98 1-11/16)
2017-18 OHL/NHL 32-22-26-48 (1.50)/4-0-1-1 (0.25)
2018-19 AHL 56-14-28-42 0.75

Draft: RLR had him as a second-line playmaker, wanting him to be more assertive; ISS/FC also saw him as a top-six player who needed to shoot more; HP put him in the top-six. Pronman questioned his conditioning and ability to keep up with the pro pace. While his speed remains a concern, many of the worries dropped away as the AHL-season went on and Troy Mann stopped jerking him around in the lineup.

While his rookie performance doesn’t blow you away (although his impact on his team does), it’s good enough that he remains on track for his potential, although I hope they let him develop most or all of this upcoming season rather than getting his head kicked in at the NHL-level (he’s still in Ottawa as I write this).

3 (new). Vitali Abramov (DOB 98 3-65/16 Clb)
2017-18 QMJHL 56-45-59-104 (1.85)
2018-19 AHL 70-16-13-29 (0.41)

Draft: highly touted in his draft year, with the emphasis on his offensive production. The concerns were the usual ones for offensive and smaller players: he needed to work on his defensive play and to bulk up. So what about the context of his rookie season? He played on the offensively challenged Cleveland Monsters (lead by former NHLer Nathan Gerbe), where he was eighth among forwards in scoring. The Monsters are a bad team that struggles offensively under coach John Madden (who hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons). I doubt Abramov was receiving a ton of ice time, but with that said his numbers are simply average for a player of his pedigree as a rookie and that didn’t really change in his short time in Belleville.

I expect more from Abramov–he should produce more at the AHL-level, but some players are slow burners (Mike Hoffman comes to mind) so the rookie season doesn’t shipwreck projections yet.

Top-Nine (4)

4 (new). Rudolfs Balcers (DOB 97 5-142/15 SJ)
2017-18 AHL 67-23-25-48 (0.71)
2018-19 AHL/NHL 43-17-14-31/36-5-9-14 (0.72/0.39)

Draft: scouting reports praised his speed, shot, and elusiveness; suggesting his primary need is strength. HP echoed that, but worried about his competitiveness (a sentiment that’s about as relevant as peanut butter). Pronman’s would echo this, except caution that his footspeed was not great and seeing him as a top-nine forward (while admitting others saw him in the top-six).

I think he would have been better served spending all of last year in Belleville, but when he was there his production was unchanged from his rookie season in San Jose. It’s not clear to me if that’s his offensive cap or if the lengthy stay in the NHL impacted an expected increase. There remains a chance that the optimistic scouts will be right–that he’s more than a top-nine player who can score–but we didn’t see enough last year to push his ceiling to that point (this seems echoed by Ary in his assessment of him).

5 (-2). Filip Chlapik (DOB 97 2-48/15)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 52-11-21-32 (0.62)/20-1-3-4 (0.25)
2018-19 AHL 57-16-18-34 (0.60)

Draft: FC had his potential as a top-nine, two-way forward, liking his hockey sense, playmaking, and defensive ability; RLR saw him as a dynamic third-line forward whose only concern was his skating; ISS saw him as a third-liner who can do spot-duty on the second PP (their only issues were his physicality); HP was concerned with his skating. Pronman is concerned about his skating and his defensive play.

I’m a big fan of Chlapik’s, but he does have limitations and the projections for him are about right. What’s unclear is how much offense he brings to the table at the next-level, because I think he needs to chip in to be effective. He’s played hurt for significant stretches in both his prior seasons, so if he can stay healthy it’ll be interesting to see how he does.

6 (+1). Alex Formenton (DOB 99 2-47/17)
2017-18 OHL 48-29-19-48 (1.00)
2018-19 OHL 31-13-21-34 (1.10)

Draft: RLR didn’t think he could score, projecting him as a third-line checker; ISS saw him as a bottom-six energy forward with upside whose weakness was puck skills; FC saw him as a third-line winger with questions about his shot and creativity; HP had him within the third/second line category. Last year Pronman also slotted him as a third-line checker and that hasn’t changed as he continues to worry about his ability to produce at the top level.

Nothing Formenton did last season changed perceptions about him. He didn’t see a significant increase in performance in the OHL and that suggests concerns over his offensive limitations are legit. A third-line checking center seems to be where he tops out.

7 (new). Josh Norris (DOB 99 1-19/17 SJ)
2017-18 NCAA 37-8-15-23 (0.62)
2018-19 NCAA 17-10-9-19 (1.11)

Draft: The theme from scouts was he plays a hard, safe game. Norris has the sort of ‘truculence’ Brian Burke used to yammer about. This isn’t to say he’s a one-dimensional prospect, but concerns about his abilities remain–that he lacks talent and doesn’t have the puck skills to provide more than third-line output (when he was acquired I went over how similar his junior numbers were to uninspired prospect Johnny Gruden below).

His college numbers represent a nice improvement (small sample size, admittedly), and Pronman’s assessment this summer is more positive, but he still ranks him below Formenton, which puts him in top-nine territory. It’ll be interesting to see how much offense he brings to the table with Belleville.

Bottom-Six (4)

8 (new). Max Veronneau (DOB 95 NCAA FA 19)
2017-18 NCAA 36-17-38-55 (1.52)
2018-19 NCAA/NHL 31-13-24-37/12-2-2-4 (1.19/0.33)

Draft: a local boy (Dorion’s favourite) who spent his entire career playing with Ryan Kuffner (who was consistently slightly better, meaning we have to ask how much Veronneau benefited from his teammate). Unlike most college FA’s there are no scouting reports from when he was draft-eligible, so we only have the numbers to go by. The odds of him being a significant contributor are very small (given the history of NCAA free agents), so the optimistic appraisal is that he becomes a useful bottom-six forward (Pronman doubts his offensive talent will translate at the top level, which is ominous if true–he wasn’t signed to be a checker).

9 (new). Michael Carcone (DOB 96 CHL FA Van 16)
2017-18 AHL 68-15-12-27 0.39
2018-19 AHL 62-20-24-44 0.71

Draft: undrafted, but we do have a thorough scouting report from HP in 2016 that can be summarized this way: a good skater with great agility; a good, quick release on his shot and he can score from different locations; he’s not big and his size could be a problem at the next level, as he will need to add some strength; a bit of one-dimensional player, as he will need to score at the next level to achieve success. Vancouver signed him, eventually trading him to Toronto where he finally started to produce.

I’ve said many times before I like drafting (or acquiring) skill. It doesn’t always work, but the value added is much higher than any other asset. Carcone showed last season there’s a chance he could blossom into a genuine scorer–at least at the AHL-level. I think he tops out as a bottom-sixer who can skate and chip-in.

10 (new). Shane Pinto (DOB 00 2-32/19)
2018-19 USHL 56-28-31-59 (1.05)

Draft: picked ahead of projections. HP’s breakdown on their 3-9 scale gives him a 6 for hockey sense, compete, and skill, with a 7 for skating. FC says his skating is average, doesn’t like his faceoff ability or his hustle after it (the opposite of HP), and that defensively he’s a mixed bag (largely based on his positional play); McKeen’s two-sentence profile doesn’t add anything new. Pronman‘s opinion of him is very low–at best topping out in the bottom-six. Because he’s an early second-round pick I’m putting him above Sturtz below, but the tea leaves on him are not at all favourable, so we’ll have to hope the scouts are wrong.

11 (-3). Andrew Sturtz (DOB 94 NCAA FA 18)
2017-18 NCAA 37-14-26-40 (1.08)
2018-19 AHL 15-2-4-6 (0.40)

Draft: He was never ranked or discussed while draft-eligible (playing in the GOJHL and CCHL at the time). He attended Pittsburgh’s development camp in 2017 and there’s a profile of him as a free agent from Ben Kerr that describes him as aggressive and having discipline problems–otherwise there’s not much material on him. His rookie season with Belleville was injury-filled and his usage was incredibly bizarre (virtually no PP time, which is odd for a scorer). I’d basically ignore his rookie season, but it’s difficult to see him as ever being anything more than a bottom-six forward (given his NCAA production and the history of NCAA FA’s as pros), assuming he doesn’t simply bomb out entirely.

Marginal NHLer (6)

12 (+6). Angus Crookshank (DOB 99 5-126/18)
2017-18 BCHL 42-22-23-45 (1.07)
2018-19 NCAA 36-10-13-23 (0.64)

Draft: RLR called him a great skating energy winger; FC is effusive, but questions his strength and defensive play; ISS ranks him, but doesn’t offer a profile; HP didn’t rank him or profile him, but have a few game logs that simply echo similar sentiments. I’m somewhat surprised by the muted response by the scouts, as scoring is the hardest thing to do at any level and he finished tied for second on his team as a freshman last season. If he can keep that up then he has a legitimate shot to play.

13 (new). Jonathan Davidsson (DOB 97 6-170/17 Clb)
2017-18 SHL 52-10-21-31 (0.60)
2018-19 SHL 37-10-11-21 (0.57)

Draft: I only have one scouting report on Davidsson (from HP), who landed on their radar after a good rookie season in the SHL and participating in the U20 camp that year. They thought he was a pass-first, offensively focused player who makes good decisions, but who needed work on his defensive play, was weak in one-on-one battles, and whose production was a bit lower than expected for the kind of player he is. Davidsson was signed by Columbus, but loaned back to Djurgardens where he essentially mirrored his previous season (while playing more on a weaker team). There’s nothing currently that suggests Davidsson has outgrown the general scouting sentiment when he was picked and he’s a long shot to develop into a productive NHL-player. For him to pan out, he needs to be a safe, reliable player who can move the puck and chip in some offense.

14 (-3). Todd Burgess (DOB 96 4-103/16)
2017-18 NCAA 34-1-11-12 (0.35)
2018-19 NCAA 36-7-9-16 (0.44)

Draft: HP didn’t think his tier-two NAHL scoring would translate at the NHL-level, but that his playmaking could; they also thought his skating and defensive consistency needed work; RLR listed him as a sleeper; ISS/FC didn’t rank him. He missed an entire year due to injury and while his numbers may not seem remarkable, RPI doesn’t score very much so he was their fourth-leading scorer. His only path to the big leagues is production, so he needs to score a bunch this year to be signed and progress as a pro.

15 (-1). Jakov Novak (DOB 98 7-188/18)
2017-18 NAHL 56-32-41-73 (1.30)
2018-19 NCAA 37-7-8-15 (0.40)

Draft: No one ranked him, but HP does have a profile, calling him a power forward with good offensive tools who struggles with discipline. He is, in many ways, the mirror-image of Burgess above, simply having slightly worse numbers in tier-two. His college numbers seem good for a rookie, but it’s worth noting Bentley scored quite a bit such that he was just eighth on the team.

16 (-3). Parker Kelly (DOB 99 CHL FA 17)
2017-18 WHL/AHL 69-29-30-59 (0.85)/5-1-0-1 (0.20)
2018-19 WHL 64-35-32-67 1.04

Draft: HP liked his all-around game and while they weren’t sure his offensive skills would translate they thought he had enough intangibles to make him worth drafting; ISS/RLR/FC didn’t rank him. While his production modestly improved last season (fourth on his team), Pronman doesn’t think much of it and that’s the real problem for him–if he can’t score, he immediately slams into a low NHL-ceiling.

The hope for Kelly (and the org) is that he can fill an energy/PK-role while not being completely anemic offensively. The latter is the real problem, as we have yet to see enough to believe he can do that.

17 (-5). Markus Nurmi (DOB 98 6-163/16)
2017-18 Liiga 51-10-11-21 (0.41)
2018-19 Liiga 60-1-11-12 (0.20)

Draft: FC saw him as a top-nine, two-way player; HP thought he topped out as a checker; RLR didn’t like his skating; he wasn’t ranked high enough for ISS to profile him. While there were some positives to take away from his 17-18 season, everything crashed and burned for him last year and Pronman has written him off.

At this stage if Nurmi has any potential at all it’s as a fourth-line grinder. Unlike Burgess, who has the possibility of scoring his way into the league, Nurmi just doesn’t seem to have that in him and grinders are a dime a dozen.

Bust (4)

18 (-1). Johnny Gruden (DOB 00 4-95/18)
2017-18 USHL 61-28-32-60 (0.98)
2018-19 NCAA 38-3-12-15 (0.39)

Draft: ISS projected him as a third/fourth-liner with concerns over his defensive play; FC is effusive with their only concern being that he overhandles the puck sometimes; RLR called him an intelligent, complimentary player; HP’s concern is whether his game translates at the next level; Pronman said his skill level isn’t that high last year and this year questions whether there’s any role in the NHL that he can fill.

When he was drafted I seriously questioned why the org picked him and that opinion hasn’t changed. It’s hard not to read his jump from the NCAA to the OHL as a sign that he was struggling to at the college level and if that isn’t working what hope does he have as a pro? And worse, the team signed him to an ELC (!). Reading through reports scouts struggle to point out what exactly he does well and that’s the real problem as its clear to me his teammates have been producing the offense for him. There’s no niche for him to inhabit and without one he’s simply doomed as a prospect.

19 (new). Mark Kastelic (DOB 99 5-125/19)
2018-19 WHL 66-47-30-77 1.16

Draft: Only McKeen’s listed him in the draft, and for them he was a mid-seventh rounder. While McKeen’s doesn’t include a scouting report, HP does, talking about his lack of agility, high end senses, and hockey IQ (all things that seem like basic necessities for a pro player). Because he’s a tough guy he’ll linger with the org for awhile, but the odds of him becoming a regular pro are basically negligible. I could tell the hope from the org was that he’d be another Zack Smith, but the chances of that are so remote that it’s a waste of a fifth-round pick (when you compare their stats and scouting reports you can see the difference in talent between the two).

20 (+1). Luke Loheit (DOB 00 7-194/18)
2017-18 USHS 40-15-22-37 (0.92)
2018-19 BCHL 43-8-16-24 (0.56)

Draft: Only HP ranked him, calling him a two-way player, but one of the scouts they quote didn’t care for his hockey sense. There’s very little written about him and what I have seen bends over backwards to try to find anything that suggests pro potential. This summer Pronman basically waived the white flag that he just doesn’t have enough talent as a prospect–his BCHL numbers are atrocious.

21 (new). Viktor Lodin (DOB 99 4-94/19)
2018-19 SHL 41-1-4-5 (0.12)

He wasn’t ranked anywhere by anyone for the draft (not only this year, but in all his other draft-eligible years–not even by Central Scouting). It’s exceedingly rare (if not unprecedented in the modern era) for a region as well scouted as Sweden to miss a quality prospect and since Lodin doesn’t have puck skills I don’t know what the org expects him to do for them. My guess is they think he’s another plugger with intangibles, but there’s never a need to draft players like that.

Overall Assessment: the org has added a potential top-six forward, lost all middle-six projections, and have one fewer top-nine forward. Some of these changes are due to me being a bit more discerning about prospects. With that said, Trent Mann keeps shoving terrible prospects into the pool and this is especially true at forward. The above list is filled with Vincent Dunn’s, Shane Eiserman’s, and Chris LeBlanc’s; it’s hard to see how this will improve as long as Mann is in charge.

On the Outside Looking In (Players Excluded)

Because of how I define my list we’re missing a few org players that fans are interested in. None of these quality as prospects as I see it, but I want to address those that I think there are questions about. Let’s start with the pro players, those with four seasons in the minors that might be thought of as having NHL-potential.

Nick Paul (4-101/13 Dal)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 54-14-13-27/11-1-0-1 0.50/0.09
2018-19 AHL/NHL 43-16-23-39/20-1-1-2 0.90/0.10

Last year I called Paul a marginal pro–someone perhaps worthy of a call-up, but who will never fill-in for regular NHL duty. During his ELC he was frustratingly inconsistent at the AHL level while showing nothing whatsoever with Ottawa (he’s played 56 NHL games to this point). Suddenly, Paul put up tremendous numbers in Belleville–is this his breakthrough, is this his Mike Hoffman moment? No, and I’ll explain why: those numbers are due to one thing and one thing only, Drake Batherson. I’ve mentioned in assessments of Paul in the past that he does not make players around him better–you can go through his history and it doesn’t happen–but Batherson does. That’s the only reason why we saw an uptick in his numbers.

Jack Rodewald (AHL FA 17)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 62-14-11-25/4-0-0-0 0.40/0.00
2018-19 AHL/NHL 59-23-24-47/6-0-0-0 0.79/0.00

My favourite redhead–okay, the only redhead, but I have to reference my fellow gingers. Rodewald was an undrafted CHLer originally picked up by Toronto on an AHL-contract. He has blazing speed–loves those corners–but is an immensely inconsistent performer who isn’t a good PKer (putting him in a very odd place in terms of his role). So, what about this past season with career highs? Did he break through? No, he got Batherson’d (well, actually Paul Carey’d, but you get the idea). Just like Paul above, Rodewald doesn’t make players around him better, but he can support a better player and that’s what happened here. More so than Paul, however, Rodewald simply can’t maintain a high pace all season and regressed to the mean (shoutout to Travis Yost) a lot harder at the end of the season. Like Paul he was cut from Ottawa and he is what he is–a maddeningly inconsistent player who should probably play on an energy line in the AHL–that’s it.

As for the prospect graduates (ie, those ELC players over the 50+ game threshold), I just posted my concerns about Brady Tkachuk, so won’t repeat them here (other than to say I have concerns); I’m a fan of Max Lajoie and happy to see him given more time to marinate in Belleville (last year’s assessment said potential top-four D and that hasn’t changed); I also like Christian Jaros, but think spending the year in Ottawa didn’t do him any favours (I’d previously said top-four potential, but Dom comparing him to Mark Borowiecki is a kick-in-the-balls and would match what Ary said about him a couple of years ago).

AHL-contracts
Specifically those of young players where there is hope for some evolution. The vast majority of players like this amount to nothing–the best case scenarios are the Rodewald‘s or Jordan Murray‘s of the world who become effective (if not elite) AHL-players. Here’s our list for this season:
Alex Dubeau (G) – one of many QMJHL/CIS grads the org has signed, he had exactly one good season at University to earn the contract–he’ll patrol the crease in Brampton
Jonathan Aspirot (D/LW) – unremarkable QMJHLer attended two development camps–he’s such a nonentity no one has a scouting report on him–what he offers is ‘truculence’
Miles Gendron (D; 3-70/14 Ott) – failed Sens pick inexplicably given a contract–unable to produce at any level, we can hope he vanishes into the Brampton ether
Francois Beauchemin (RW) – it’s difficult to express just how bad this QMJHL-grad was in Belleville last year, but the org loves him, so we’ll likely see him at that level for at least part of the year
Jean-Christophe Beaudin (C/RW; 3-71/15 Col) – acquiring him was the price to be paid to get rid of Max McCormick and his contract–he’s terrible, but it was the only way to move a bad asset
Christopher Clapperton (LW; 5-122/13 Flo) – I assessed him here; yet another CIS signing; a smaller, offensive player who will try his luck at carrying that production into the AHL (there should be no expectation of NHL-talent from him; his past is similar to the departed Boston Leier’s)

Summary

I didn’t highlight a single elite talent–this is a sentiment shared by Pronman and the majority of the scouting community. We could be wrong–it would be great for fans if we were–but the org lacks a game-breaker (they currently have one: Thomas Chabot). The overall talent pool is about the same as last year, but I’ve been more rigorous in how I assess projections. The one player who could overachieve is Batherson. What we have on our list is an overabundance of players with offensive limitations–Ottawa could supply most of the league with depth players, which is the least useful asset to have. The org desperately needs top end talent, but given their current draft philosophy that’s just not going to happen. I don’t like Pierre Dorion at all–he’s a terrible GM–but most of the higher end talent added has come from trades, not the draft. That’s faint praise however, as he’s traded away elite talent in return for simply good talent.

As I pointed out last time, on average (per NHL team) 1.5 players per draft play at least 200 games in the NHL. The above list comprises players from seven different drafts, but going through the individual drafts year-by-year I think the following players are most likely to achieve that requisite game number: possibly Hogberg (13), either Chlapik or Wolanin (15), Brown and possibly Lajoie (16), Batherson and possibly Formenton (17), either Bernard-Docker or Tychonick (18), and then Thomson and possibly Sogaard (19). The remaining players are statistically almost certain to finish as failed picks in some respect, although one exception among the other 22 prospects is likely.

The question most fans are going to have is: are there diamonds in the rough? Is there another Mark Stone lurking in the later rounds who will emerge for the Sens? The answer to that right now is simple: no. Trent Mann doesn’t want to draft talent in the later rounds and he’s a man of his word–each year he’s picked less and less talented players late in the draft (none after the second round most recently). This approach is going to asphyxiate the prospect pool and Dorion simply isn’t savvy enough to either address that problem or fix it with trades. Ottawa is becoming the Edmonton Oilers pre-Ken Holland, but without the superabundance of first overall picks.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)