Senators Player Profile: Chris Phillips

This is the fourteenth in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Chris Phillips, D, Contract: 3.083,333/14 (UFA)
1-1/96 (Gauthier), 6’3, Shoots L, YOB 1978, Calgary, Alb
2008-09 82-6-16-22 -14 66pim TOI 21:52 BkS 114 Hits 113
2009-10 82-8-16-24 +8 45pim (1 fight) TOI 22:20 BkS 142 Hits 97
2010-11 82-1-8-9 -35 32pim TOI 21:31 BkS 152 Hits 116

The last player selected first overall by the Ottawa Senators, Chris Phillips signed a new 3-year deal (http://senators.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=554491) amidst a terrible season and rumours that he would be dealt (espn.go.com/blog/nhl/post/_/id/5074/ weekend-wrap-trade-rumors-including-brad-richards-and-chris-phillips).  While it was a difficult year for the entire team, Phillips was one of the few who failed to improve late in the season.  He led the league in the minus category, making some question his reputation as a top-end, shutdown defenseman (www.silversevensens.com/2011/2/1/ 1961221/chris-phillips-our-defensive-weak-link-a-statistical-analysis).

The previous season, Phillips put up typical numbers (82-8-16-24) and was tied with Alfredsson for second in plus/minus (behind Peter Regin‘s +10).  He was also second in ice time behind Filip Kuba and second in blocked shots behind Anton Volchenkov.  So despite Phillips struggles I have no issue with his re-signing.  There’s no questioning his work ethic or desire, even if that doesn’t always translate into on-ice success.  I don’t like the length of his contract, but in the grand scheme of things for a rebuilding team, Ottawa can afford to give a veteran this kind of deal.  The Senators are unlikely to be in a position to challenge for the Cup over the next three years, so having Phillips doesn’t really impact the ultimate organizational goal.  I don’t think he can have a year as bad as this past season, but I’m not sure how much to expect.  He’ll likely return to his usual 20 points with 6-8 goals, but otherwise it’s hard to predict.  Barring injury, we’ve seen the last of him on the powerplay at least.

Phillips getting drafted: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XovbE04FW54
Arguably the biggest goal of his career: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Xg8VuNzPOo
Throwing a hit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YxFAknHED4

Next up is Chris Neil.

Senators Player Profile: Sergei Gonchar

This is the thirteenth in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Sergei Gonchar, D, Contract: 5.5/13 (UFA)
FA 2010 (Murray), 6’2, Shoots L, YOB 1974, Chelyabinsk, Rus
2008-09 25-6-13-19 +6 26pim TOI 25:11 BkS 38
2009-10 62-11-39-50 -4 49pim TOI 24:23 BkS 92
2010-11 67-7-20-27 -15 20pim TOI 23:11 BkS 94

Sergei Gonchar was Ottawa’s big free agent signing in 2010.  He was the player the Sens targeted (www.thehockeynews.com/articles/34331-Ottawa-Senators-sign-defenceman-Sergei-Gonchar-to-threeyear-deal.html) and most believed it was a great signing at the time (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PO4RGQUjv3c).

The season, as for Senators in general, did not go as planned for Gonchar.  Up through mid-December he struggled defensively (34-4-12-16 -19).  Afterwards his defensive play improved, but his offensive totals slipped (33-3-8-11 +4).  His season was ended by a concussion in March; it was his worst year defensively since 2003-04 (-20) and his worst season offensively (in terms of points-per-game) since 1997-98.  Despite all the negativity, he was second on the team in powerplay points with 20 (Erik Karlsson beat him with 21 in 8 more games); his production was despite Cory Clouston not always playing him on his preferred point position on the powerplay, slam.canoe.ca/ Slam/Hockey/NHL/Ottawa/2010/11/03/15961036.html).

There was talk during the season of trading Gonchar (www.ottawasun.com/sports/ hockey/2011/01/28/17078251.html) and that talk has continued in the off-season.  I understand the frustration, but I believe he deserves a pass on this season’s struggles.  It would be one thing if he didn’t deliver when the rest of the team was playing well, but the entire lineup was a disappointment.  Gonchar is one of the most dynamic offensive defenseman of his generation and while he’s not going to produce like he did in Pittsburgh, he’s also not playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin in Ottawa.  I expect him to rebound next season and if he can stay healthy put up 10 goals and 40 points.

The press conference with Murray and Gonchar: video.senators.nhl.com/videocenter/ console?id=73711
Interview with Gonchar early in the season: video.senators.nhl.com/videocenter/ console?id=82082
Gonchar scores: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxoLy70UFEE

Next up is Chris Phillips.

Kaspars Daugavins update

[Daugavins re-signed on August 3rd, but how this effects his KHL tryout contract remains unknown.]

A Latvian report regarding Ottawa RFA Kaspars Daugavins has come out (www.dinamoriga.eu/lv/news/view/parbaudes-laika-ligumi-ar-vairakiem-hokejistiem).  With the help of a reader and a little work on my part, here’s a clearer version of the Google translated text specific to Daugavins: “To be able to officially participate in the Dinamo Riga pre-season training camp, the club has signed forward Kevin Daugavins on a try-out contract.  The 23-year-old winger’s contract ended June 30th with the NHL’s Ottawa Senator, and although the club has qualified his contract, he is not satisfied with the terms. That is why he has decided to participate in Dinamo Riga’s training camp (Dinamo Riga own his KHL rights).  Daugavins will attend the Senators pre-season training camp at which time he’ll decide where to continue his career.”  Hopefully this is a little clearer than my previously posted translation.  It appears as though Daugavins will attend Senators camp, but if he fails to make the time will jump to KHL.  I’m not sure how that would work, given that the KHL and NHL re-signed their agreement to respect each other’s contracts (http://ca.news.yahoo.com/nhl-extends-agreement-khl-respect-contracts-league-192949259.html). If Daugavins has not signed his RFA contract I’m not sure what his status at camp would be.  I’m also not sure the Senators will want him in camp if those are his terms.  Regardless, when there’s further clarification I will post it here.

[July 20 update: Joy Lindsay, who covers the Binghamton Senators, shares my opinion on the matter: http://www.pressconnects.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category= PluckPersona&U=551340dd39644ae695cca9fe0180e879&plckPersonaPage= BlogViewPost&plckUserId=551340dd39644ae695cca9fe0180e879&plckPostId=Blog%3a551340dd39644ae695cca9fe0180e879Post%3a4d36b7a8-1466-4ba1-89c9-6d8d1a16a4d3&plckController=PersonaBlog&plckScript=personaScript&plckElementId=personaDest.]

[July 31 update: I wanted to share another way to look at Daugavins‘ tryout contract.  It’s possible he truly is trying out for the KHL team, but if he fails to make it (European training camps are earlier than the NHL’s) will accept a contract with Ottawa and play in Binghamton.]

Senators Player Profile: Milan Michalek

This is the twelfth in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Milan Michalek, LW, Contract: 4.333,333/14 (UFA)
T 2009 (Murray), 6’2, Shoots L, YOB 1984, Jindrichuv, Cze
2008-09 77-23-34-57 +11 52pim TOI 18:27 Hits 92 TkA 32
2009-10 66-22-12-34 -12 18pim TOI 18:15 Hits 77 TkA 36
2010-11 66-18-15-33 -12 49pim (1 fight) TOI 18:03 Hits 49 TkA 40

Milan Michalek is the last remaining piece of the Dany Heatley trade.  The big power forward (not one who throws a lot of hits, granted) had just completed the first year of his new deal with San Jose when he was packaged with Jonathan Cheechoo and San Jose’s 2nd round pick in the 2010 draft (subsequently moved to Carolina as part of the Matt Cullen deal).  Michalek was the centerpiece of the trade, as Cheechoo‘s declining production and injuries made him at best a project.

Michalek‘s first year with Ottawa was injury-plagued.  He was expected to match or improve on his totals in San Jose the year before (look along the panels on the right hand side of http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/preview2009/team?page=nhlpre09/ott), but despite getting off to a hot start he slumped when Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson were out of the lineup before suffering a a series of injuries which culminated in being knocked out of Ottawa’s playoff series against Pittsburgh (tearing his ACL).  Overall it was a disappointing season for Michalek, with his lowest point total of his NHL career (he also carried the second worst plus/minus on the team behind Cheechoo).

In the off-season he recovered from surgery and started the season with the team.  Expectations were that he would improve on last year’s totals (http://sports.yahoo.com/ nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/NHL-2010-11-Season-Preview-Wrestling-with-Ottaw?urn=nhl-271127), but just like the previous season, he missed 16 games of the season and put up mediocre numbers.

Michalek came to the team as a strong, two-way player with upside.  He’s gone through two injury-plagued seasons with subpar numbers and is a combined -24.  He doesn’t make the players around him better and has struggled to mesh with linemates or produce on the powerplay (he only put up 4 points with the man-advantage last year).  I’m not saying Michalek isn’t a good player, because he is, but he simply hasn’t been able to provide what the Senators need from him.  He will play in the top-six again this year and put up his usual numbers (35 points with 15 goals is reasonable), but I also expect him to get hurt and miss some time.

Player profile from the 2009-10 season: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMy4mSAJ4nU
A Michalek hat-trick: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEiDeYEZK1k

Next up is Sergei Gonchar.

Ottawa Senators’ 2011-12 Roster and Expectations

With the signing of Bobby Butler the Ottawa Senators now have 19 players on one-way deals and another 3 on two-ways expected to play.  For all intents and purposes their roster is set.  A lot could change between now and the end of training camp, but assuming no one is traded it’s worth taking a look at the lineup and consider how competitive a team they will be.

First, the basics (the players):
-Forwards signed to one-way deals: Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Chris Neil, Nick Foligno, Bobby Butler, Peter Regin, Colin Greening, Jesse Winchester, Zack Smith, Zenon Konopka, and Erik Condra.
-Forwards on two-way deals who are expected to be on the team: Nikita Filatov.
-Defencemen signed to one-way deals: Sergei Gonchar, Filip Kuba, Chris Phillips, Brian Lee, Matt Carkner.
-Defencemen on two-way deals who are expected to be on the team: Erik Karlsson and David Rundblad.
-Goalies (both on one-way deals): Craig Anderson and Alex Auld (this situation is so clearcut that I won’t go into it further).

This makes for a 22-man roster with a cap hit of 50,545,833 (using capgeek‘s calculator), which is just a little over the cap floor.  There’s a lot of speculation on who might play where, but there are a number of things I think can be taken for granted (some of these may seem obvious, but they’re worth mentioning):
1. Jason Spezza will center the first line
2. Erik Karlsson will be in the top pairing
3. Milan Michalek, Daniel Alfredsson, Bobby Butler and Nikita Filatov will play in the top six
4. Zenon Konopka and Jesse Winchester will play on the fourth line
5. Chris Neil will play in the bottom six
6. Peter Regin will play center
I don’t think there’s much room for argument here and it provides a framework to guess at the lineup we might see.

Forward Lines
First: Filatov-Spezza-Butler
This assumes Filatov makes the team (otherwise Foligno gets this spot); Butler played well with Spezza down the stretch while not showing much chemistry with any other center; neither winger makes much sense in the bottom-six
Second: Michalek-Regin-Alfredsson
For whatever reason Michalek has never meshed well with Spezza (bleacherreport.com/articles/507151-power-ranking-the-30-nhl-top-lines#/articles/ 507151-power-ranking-the-30-nhl-top-lines/page/19); Alfredsson could easily play on the top-line, but I believe Butler will be given that opportunity for the reasons outlined above
Third: Foligno-Smith-Condra
I don’t think Smith is a good fit on the third line, but the organisation is high on him so I think he’ll be given that chance (slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/Ottawa/2011/03/ 06/pf-17517966.html); Chris Neil could be here as well, but I think he’s more effective as a fourth-liner (and Condra as a third-liner)
Fourth: Greening-Konopka-Neil
The addition of Konopka means Winchester is no longer required in the lineup for his faceoff acumen and I believe Greening is a better fit on the wing

Defence Pairings
First: Karlsson-Phillips
There’s no question that Karlsson will lead the team in ice time (as he did last year) and will have a defensive stalwart on the other side, which I believe will be Philliips (Kuba could, potentially, be slotted here)
Second: Kuba-Rundblad
This assumes Rundblad is in the lineup (if it’s Brian Lee, then he takes the right side with Gonchar in this slot), and Rundblad needs someone responsible to play with
Third: Gonchar-Carkner
I suspect Gonchar‘s even strength play will be reduced from last year and Carkner is a decent partner for him–neither is fleet of foot, but Carkner is good defensively.  Brian Lee could be in this spot instead of Carkner, in which case I believe this would become the second unit (KubaRundblad being the third)

A few obvious questions present themselves:
1. Why David Rundblad over Jared Cowen?
There are a couple of reasons for this.  First and foremost, there are 3 NHL veterans ahead of Cowen on the left side (Phillips, Gonchar, Kuba) who also have the biggest salaries on the blueline.  The only way they aren’t playing is via injury or trade.  On the right side for the Sens after Erik Karlsson there’s only heavyweight Carkner and Brian Lee–both are useful spare parts, but more easily displaced.  Secondly, Rundblad has spent three full seasons playing against men in the Swedish Elite League.  As good as Cowen has been as a junior and playing for Binghamton in the playoffs, it’s not quite the same resume.  Admittedly, both Phillips and Gonchar can play their off side, but I’m guessing they won’t.
2. Peter Regin struggled last season, why is he the second line center?
The simplest answer is that he’s the best available player to have that role.  The other centers (and I’m excluding both Nick Foligno and Colin Greening, since the organisation clearly prefers them on the wing) are Zack Smith, Jesse Winchester, and Zenon Konopka.  These are not top-six players.  In theory Mika Zibanejad or Stephane Da Costa could be in the conversation, but I think that’s unlikely (for the latter I have to reference Muir’s comments here m.si.com/news/archive/archive/detail).
3. Why is Sergei Gonchar on the third pairing?
This is the biggest guess on my part and is based on Rundblad being in the lineup.  I think both Gonchar and Rundblad need defensively responsible partners, but at the same time I think Rundblad will play more than Carkner; given that they play the same side, I think Kuba will play with the latter.
4. Greening/Condra played higher in the lineup last year, so why won’t that continue?
They are tough to slot, since both are good enough defensively and offensively to play throughout the lineup.  However, on the right side there’s no question that Alfredsson and Butler are ahead of Condra while on the left side Michalek, Foligno, and (if he makes the team) Filatov are ahead of Greening.
5. What about the organisational claim about competition in camp?
I think they mean it, but to shake this lineup the prospect is going to need a fantastic camp.  I don’t believe anyone beyond Zibanejad or Silfverberg (if they can convince him to come to camp) has a realistic shot at making the roster for opening night.  However, I do expect changes to be made as the season progresses.

Naturally, how players perform as the season progresses will dictate changes in the lineup, but right now these look like the lines and pairings the team will use.

So the question is, how good is this team?  Not a playoff contender, I believe.  I fully expect the Ottawa Senators to be more entertaining to watch, but among the basement dwellers in the East.  They are a younger and more physical team.  There is more skill on the blueline, but the team lacks scoring depth.  They are depending on projections and players stepping up, but there are no guarantees.  If everything goes right, they might have a shot, but that rarely happens.

I’ll come back to this article and update it when the season begins.  I plan on doing the same exploration of Binghamton’s lineup in the near future.

[An update (July 19): Yahoo sports has an article on the Senators that, in part, takes a look at its lineup (http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/news?slug=teamreports-2011-nhl-ott).  The article makes an error (suggesting winger Erik Condra is in the running for the second-line center position, a position he’s never played).  They also include Nick Foligno in that discussion (those who saw him as a pivot this past season will be surprised at that) and Zack Smith.  The article also compares Condra to Chris Kelly.]

Senators Player Profile: Matt Carkner

This is the eleventh in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Matt Carkner, D, Contract: 0.7/12 (UFA)
FA 2007 (Murray), 6’4, Shoots R, YOB 1980, Winchester, Ont
2008-09 AHL 67-3-18-21 +3 210pim (14 fights)
2009-10 81-2-9-11 190pim Even (24 fights) TOI 16:54 BkS 125 Hits 127
2010-11 50-1-6-7 136pim Even (12 fights) TOI 14:53 BkS 59 Hits 71

Originally a Montreal draft pick (2-58/99), Carkner was among Bryan Murray’s first free agent signings (July 3, 2007, http://www.oursportscentral.com/services/releases/?id=3500163).  For his entire junior career in Peterborough and throughout his first four seasons in the AHL Carkner was primarily a fighter and shutdown defenceman.  In his final year in the San Jose system (2005-06), Carkner broke out offensively in the AHL (69-10-20-30).  It earned him his first NHL call-up and then landed him a contract with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where he continued to put up good numbers (75-6-24-30).  Murray signed Carkner to a two-year, two-way contract.

Carkner finished his first year in Binghamton tied for second in points for defenceman as well as second in penalty minutes and fighting majors on the team (behind Jeremy Yablonski).  The following season, at Carkner’s suggestion, he attempted to make the team playing as a winger.  The attempt failed, but in his one call-up that season he played on the wing.

Heading into the 2009-10 season, Carkner faced a crowded blueline that included super rookie Erik Karlsson.  He surprised many by making the team out of camp (he goes unmentioned here http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Preview-Introducing-the-2009-10-Ottawa-Senators?urn=nhl-190908) and was able to play an important role on the team (including an OT winner against Pittsburgh in the playoffs).  It earned him a two-year, one-way contract (www.ottawasun.com/sports/hockey/2009/ 10/20/11468661.html).

This past season the blueline was rarely healthy but when it was Carkner was occasionally scratched by Cory Clouston (again in this season preview he goes unmentioned, http://espn.go.com/nhl/preview2010/team/_/name/ott), with his minutes dropping considerably towards the end of his season.  Injuries also caught up to Carkner, whose last game was in late February.

So what should be expected of Carkner going into the final year of his contract?  He’ll continue to play less minutes and, if the club carries seven defenceman, I suspect he’ll be rotated with Brian Lee and (depending on how he plays) David Rundblad.  Carkner is one of the best heavyweight fighters in the league, but with more fighters on the team (UFA Zenon Konopka as well a full season from Zack Smith) he won’t be required to drop the gloves as often.  I would guess Carkner will slide in under 10 points and produce at least 1 goal.

Carkner’s OT goal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkTf5biPUeM
A couple of Carkner’s fights: http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/101127 and http://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/100289

Next up is Milan Michalek.

Senators Player Profile: Bobby Butler

This is the tenth in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Bobby Butler, RW, Contract: 1.075/13 (RFA)
FA 2010 (Murray), 6’0, Shoots R, YOB 1987, Marlborough, MA
2009-10 NCAA 39-29-24-53 20pim
2010-11 AHL 47-22-11-33 +5 35pim (1 fight), NHL 36-10-11-21 -16 10pim TOI 15:25

Bryan Murray has a long history of signing free agents out of the NCAA, and at the end of the 2009-10 season he managed to land the hotly pursued New Hampshire star  (m.si.com/news/archive/archive/detail/2429977 prior too and then www.tsn.ca/ nhl/story/?id=315921; Muir’s comments include an amusing one about Stephane Da Costa, incidentally).  Butler, just like Jesse Winchester in 2008, played at the tail end of the season, but was ineligible to appear in the playoff series against Pittsburgh.

Coming into last season, Butler (along with Roman Wick) was thought to have a good chance at beating out Ryan Shannon for a roster spot (http://www.ottawasun.com/ sports/hockey/2010/09/13/15339741.html), but was unable to do so.  Unlike all the other rookies in Binghamton, Butler got off to a good start.  When he returned from a brief call-up in December he went through a mini-slump that lasted into mid-January.  Like fellow rookies Colin Greening and Erik Condra, he benefitted when Bryan Murray went into rebuild mode and was given a ton of ice time when he was called up.  Butler’s ten career goals are already more than Winchester has scored in three NHL seasons.  With Ottawa’s season over, Butler was returned to Binghamton where he finished seventh in playoff scoring (23-13-4-17), first among rookies.  There was little doubt the team would re-sign him and that he’d have to play his way out of a top-six (http://www.canada.com/Bobby+Butler+signs+with+Senators/5102403/story.html).

Butler has good speed and a great shot.  He’s also proven to be durable, playing 106 professional games this past season.  The issues going forward are consistency and defensive play.  I think reasonable expectations for him are 50 points with 20 goals (assuming, of course, that he stays in the top-six for the entire season).

His scanty Hockey Futures profile: www.hockeysfuture.com/prospects/bobby_butler
His interview on The Team after signing his contract (July 15): www.team1200.com/default.asp

Next up is Matt Carkner.

Senators Player Profile: Erik Condra

This is the ninth in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Erik Condra, RW, Contract: 0.625/13 (RFA)
Drafted 7-216/06 (Muckler), 5’11, Shoots R, YOB 1986, Trenton, MI
2009-10 AHL 80-11-27-38 +4 61pim (1 fight)
2010-11 AHL 55-17-30-47 +20 28pim, NHL 26-6-5-11 -1 12pim TOI 15:52

The last pick in GM John Muckler’s last draft, the undersized Erik Condra had just won Rookie of the Year in the CCHA playing for Notre Dame.  He spent the four full years in the NCAA, leading his team in scoring every year (159-48-110-158).

Bryan Murray signed him to his ELC and without much fanfare and Condra joined Don Nachbaur’s Binghamton Senators (a good article about him when he signed is here http://www.und.com/sports/m-hockey/spec-rel/070709aaa.html).  Outplaying fellow rookie Jim O’Brien, Condra was named Rookie of the Year in Binghamton (http://www.examiner.com/binghamton-senators-in-binghamton/smith-tallies-twice-b-sens-win-home-finale).

This past season, Condra’s game took a significant leap forward, not only in terms of production and defensive play, but he clearly made the players around him better (particularly Jim O’Brien and the now departed Roman Wick).  When Bryan Murray began to clean house at the NHL level, Condra was brought up and remained with the team the rest of the season.  Coach Cory Clouston was a big fan of Condra’s, who received more ice time than any other recalled rookie.  I think Condra played a role in Ryan Shannon‘s increased production at the end of the season (15 of his 27 points came after Condra’s recall, much of it spent playing together).

When the season ended Condra was given a two-year, one-way contract (joining fellow 7th-rounder Colin Greening).  A versatile player who doesn’t excel at any particular aspect of the game other than with his brain–he’s an incredibly smart player.  Condra credits Randy Lee in helping his game www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150715917210585&oid=254660295467&comments.  It’s difficult to project how Condra will perform next season, since he can slide all over the lineup, but I think 30 points with 10 goals is reasonable.

Hockey Futures profile: http://www.hockeysfuture.com/prospects/erik_condra
Condra’s interview prior to his rookie year in Binghamton: http://video.senators.nhl.com/ videocenter/console?id=45110

Next up is Bobby Butler.

Senators Re-Sign Bobby Butler

The Ottawa Senators have announced the re-signing of Bobby Butler (senators.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=569316) to a two-year, one-way deal.  Butler was signed as a free agent out of college (New Hampshire) at the end of the 2009-10 season.  Last year he splite his time between Binghamton (47-22-11-33) and Ottawa (36-10-11-21).  Butler’s deal has a cap hit of 1.075 per season (as per www.capgeek.com/players/display.php?id=1660).

Kaspars Daugavins remains the only RFA whose future is still unknown.

Senators Player Profile: Erik Karlsson

This is the eighth in a series of profiles on each player for the Ottawa Senators.

Erik Karlsson, D, Contract: 1.3/12 (RFA)
Drafted 1-15/08 (Murray), 5’11, Shoots R, YOB 1990, Lannaskede, Swe
2008-09 SEL 45-5-5-10 10pim
2009-10  60-5-21-26 -5 24pim TOI 20:06 PPP 1-9-10 TkA 31, AHL 12-0-11-11
2010-11 75-13-32-45 -30 50pim TOI 23:30 PPP 4-17-21 TkA 56

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft was the first real draft for Bryan Murray.  He was the GM for the previous draft, but all the scouting work was done under John Muckler who was fired shortly beforehand.  The Senators had the 18th overall pick, but Anders Forsberg and Tim Murray were high on Erik Karlsson, so the Sens made a trade with Nashville to grab him with the 15th overall pick (www.canada.com/Everything+turning+Swede/ 1724631/story.html; Nashville wound up with Chet Pickard and Taylor Beck, incidentally).

There was no doubt that Karlsson needed another year of seasoning before coming to the NHL, so he spent one more year with Frolunda before signing his first NHL contract.  Karlsson’s expectations for himself were much more moderate than many fans (http://video.senators.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=44771), but he made the team out of training camp (http://www.ottawasun.com/sports/hockey/2009/09/22/ 11061326.html), which lead to Jared Cowen being returned to the WHL and Christoph Schubert put on re-entry waivers (claimed by Atlanta).  Karlsson was demoted to Binghamton in late October and stayed there for a month, putting up nearly a point-per-game numbers.  Recalled at the end of November, he spent the rest of the season in the NHL.  Other than hurting his shoulder trying to throw an open-ice hit on Ryan Kesler in February, Karlsson enjoyed a strong rookie season including a great playoff against Pittsburgh (6-1-5-6).

Heading into last season, expectations for Karlsson were high.  There was no question that he was going to play regularly and play a lot.  For awhile he actually lead the team in scoring (http://www.ottawasun.com/sports/hockey/2010/12/26/16678841.html), although questions remained about his defensive play (www.senatorsextra.com/main/ ottawa-senators-at-washington-capitals-on-oct-10-2010/).  At season’s end he was first on the team in powerplay points (one ahead of Sergei Gonchar, who played fewer games), second in points, and just lost out to Chris Phillips for the team lead in the minus category (he also played in the NHL all-star game).

Karlsson’s development as a prospect has been meteoric.  While he’s never going to be fantastic defensively, I think he’s better than he’s given credit for.  He should benefit both from new coach Paul MacLean’s puck-possession system and a more balanced offensive attack on the back end (with the inclusion of David Rundblad and what I anticipate as a bounce-back year for Gonchar).  If Karlsson can stay healthy he should put up 50 points and 10 goals.

His Hockey Futures page: http://www.hockeysfuture.com/prospects/erik_karlsson
A bunch of his goals: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKZhl5p64Bo

Next up is Erik Condra.