Looking at Ottawa’s Draft Success (05-07)

Articles reviewing draft acumen proliferate at this time of year (TSN’s Scott Cullen did one recently) and as engaging as they are I’ve always had problems with the way they are defined and presented.  Examinations of the draft that cover a long period of time fail to account for the changes in the league and the draft itself, so that the comparison isn’t particularly apt.  When articles cover more recent drafts (Hockey Futures does them at five-year intervals) they are forced to make judgements on players whose futures are yet to be defined.  All this preamble is to make two key points: 1) the attitude and approach to the NHL draft changed seismically post-lockout, 2) the typical make-or-break moment for a draft pick varies depending on what league they were drafted from.  To expand on the second point: CHL draftees take about five-years to develop (allowing for two more years of junior and then the full length of their ELC); college-bound players can take six, seven, or even eight years, depending on how much time they spend in college (eg, Ben Blood was drafted in 2007, but won’t start his ELC until the fall of 2012); European players used to be even more varied when teams kept their rights forever, but with the deals signed with the DEL, SEL, and SM-Liiga (where rights are only retained for two years) their usual range is now like the CHL (five years).

Given that, how have the Sens done with their selections?  Not enough time has passed to judge many of the post-lockout drafts, but I think I can make judgements on John Muckler’s last two drafts and give some thoughts about Bryan Murray’s first.  So, without further adieu:

2005
Muckler clearly had a hard-on for international tournaments, as every player except the one still with the Sens played in those tournaments.  Pre-KHL Muckler gambled on taking Russians who slid down the draft, but only one (Zubov) ever suited up for the organisation.  It was not a great draft for the Sens by any standard.  A few stats: there are 54/230 (23.4%) number of regular NHLers from the draft (this is based on 200+ games played and my judgement; you can judge for yourself here).  By round: 1st 19/30, 2nd 10/31, 3rd 5/30, 4th 7/34, 5th 6/36, 6th 2/31, 7th 5/36.  Players who have played over 200 games: 34 (14 1st, 6 2nd, 3 3rd, 5 4th, 2 5th, 1 6th, 3 7th); played 100-199 games: 18 (5 1st, 3 2nd, 2 3rd, 1 4th, 4 5th, 1 6th, 2 7th).  Teams that excelled: Montreal, Nashville, and Columbus each had four players make the grade, while Dallas, Detroit, the Rangers, Pittsburgh, and San Jose had three each.  Calgary, Florida, and the Islanders were the only teams to strike out.

1-9 Brian Lee (DR, US high school/USHL; WJC) – NHL (Tampa Bay); 187 NHL games played; marginal NHLer (5-6 d-man)
An enigmatic player who after five years as a professional has still not defined what kind of player he is.  He’s big, but not physical.  He makes a good first pass, but is unable to produce offensively.  He can play a limited role in the NHL, but does not dominate in the AHL.  His career, for however long it goes, will likely remain on the margins.  Many Sens fans groused about Lee because of the fantastic players taken after him (Anze Kopitar and Marc Staal), but he’s not the worst player taken in the first round (3 never played a game, 6 more played less than 50), and one can argue whether he’s better or worse than Jack Skille who was taken by Chicago at #7.  To me, the pick isn’t a complete failure, but it’s several steps removed from what it could or should have been.
3-70 Vitali Anikeyenko (DR, Russia tier-3; U-18) – deceased (Lokomotiv plane crash); bust
Other than attending one development camp (in 2005), the Sens could got a sniff of Anikeyenko, who spent the bulk of his career playing for Lokomotiv (which tragically cost him his life).  Whether he had NHL potential or not remains an open question, but judging by his KHL numbers I’d suggest he projected at best a bottom-pairing defender.  Naturally there were better picks available, including Conn Smyth winner Jonathan Quick (#72), but between his selection and the Sens next pick, only 3 (of 24) NHL regulars were selected.  The pick has to be viewed as a failure, both for the Sens inability to anticipate the problems of signing Russian players and also for not ascertaining just how interested Anikeyenko was in coming to North America.
4-95 Cody Bass (CR, OHL; U-18) – two-way contract (Columbus); 48 NHL games; AHLer
He spent four years in the Senators organisation where he helped Binghamton win the Calder Cup, but Bass remains a fringe player.  Not productive or durable enough for full-time fourth line duty in the NHL, he’s destined to bounce back and forth between leagues as a “character guy”.  Players like him are good for their organisations.  In terms of who was available between his pick and the Sens next there was depth blueliner Chris Butler (#96) and Chris VandeVelde (#97) could become an NHLer with Edmonton.  In terms of style of play, the Sens would have been better off picking Jared Boll (#101).
4-98 Ilya Zubov (C/LW, Russia tier-2; U-18); – KHL (Moscow); 11 NHL games; AHLer
The most successful of the Russian picks, he spent two years in the organisation where he established himself as a productive AHLer.  Like Bass he probably could have stayed in North America and been an occasional call-up, but he clearly did not have the talent to become a regular NHLer.  There were 5 regular NHL players over the next 17 picks (the best is Keith Yandle at #105), so plenty of better talent was available.
4-115 Janne Kolehmainen (LW, SM-Liiga; WJC) – SM-Liiga (KalPa) – bust
The last Finn selected by the Senators, there’s never been any interest expressed by the Sens to sign the big winger, whose performance flatlined the year after he was drafted.  If there’s any solace in the wasted pick it’s that only 1 NHL regular was selected over the following 21 picks (Darren Helm at #132).
5-136 Tomas Kudelka (DL, Czech junior; U-18) – Czech Elite League (HC Vitkovice) – marginal AHLer
The second-last Czech picked by the Sens (Jakub Culek was the last), he was a solid junior player in the WHL who did not excel in his three years in the AHL.  In a lot of ways he was like a less-talented Brian Lee, as he has good size, but wasn’t overly physical and his offensive game did not translate at a higher level.  There are 5 NHL regulars over the next 50 picks (granting that enforcer Ryan Reaves could stop being regular at virtually any moment), but none of those players match the talent of those missed earlier.
6-186 Dmitri Megalinsky (DL, Russia tier-3; WJC) – KHL (Novokuznetsk) – bust
Here again the Sens can be criticised for not doing their homework, because unlike Anikeyenko (one development camp) or Zubov (two years in the AHL) they never got a sniff of Megalinsky, who became a KHL regular.  There were 2 NHL regulars selected through the next 18 picks and Sergei Kostitsyn (#200) certainly would have been a better role of the dice.  Whether Megalinsky had the chops to play in the NHL remains an unresolved, but doubtful proposition.
7-204 Colin Greening (C/LW, CISAA) – NHL (Ottawa); 106 NHL games – NHL regular (top-9 forward)
The final role of the dice was the only true payoff in the draft.  I suspect Greening is the only player drafted right out of Upper Canada College.  He spent five years developing before joining the organisation and the payoff is more than could have been expected, as Greening will have a long career as a solid top-nine forward.  Two other NHL regulars came after his selection, with the best being the last (Patric Hornqvist at #230).

2006
Muckler’s last draft.  He broke his obsession with international tournament players and Russians, with all North American selections save Daugavins.  In Ottawa terms this is a much better draft with 2-4 regular NHLers coming out of it.  A few stats: there are 43/213 (20.2%) number of regular NHLers from the draft (this is based on 200+ games played and my judgement; you can judge for yourself here).  By round: 1st 19/30, 2nd 11/33, 3rd 5/30, 4th 2/30, 5th 0/30, 6th 3/30, 7th 3/30.  Players who played 200 or more games: 22 (16 1st, 5 2nd, 2 3rd, 1 7th), ; played 100-199 games: 15 (3 1st, 5 2nd, 2 3rd, 1 4th, 3 6th, 1 7th).  Teams that excelled: Toronto and Washington both picked four players, while Columbus and Boston picked three.  Calgary, Dallas, Nashville, New Jersey, and Tampa struck out.

1-28 Nick Foligno (LW, OHL) – NHL (Columbus); 351 NHL games – NHL regular (top-9 forward)
Arguably the second best pick of the draft from that point onward (behind Milan Lucic at #50), he also trumps a number of players taken before him (3 never played in the NHL, 5 have played fewer than 30 NHL games, he’s clearly better than James Sheppard (#9), Jiri Tlusty (#13), Trevor Lewis (#17), and the jury is still out on Michael Frolik (#10), Jonathan Bernier (#11) and Michael Grabner (14)).  Given that, he is a very successful selection despite his inability to firmly nail down a top-six role.
3-68 Eric Gryba (DR, USHL) – RFA (Binghamton) – marginal NHL prospect (5-6 D)
The big blueliner spent four full years in the NCAA before graduating and helping Binghamton to their first Calder Cup.  He was on the horizon for the NHL club coming into last season, but Mark Borowiecki has moved ahead of him on the depth chart.  There’s still NHL-potential for Gryba, but his ceiling isn’t particularly high.  Four regular NHLers were picked over the next 23 selections, with Brad Marchand (#71) the best.
3-91 Kaspars Daugavins (LW, Belarus; WJC)  – RFA (Ottawa); 66 NHL games – marginal NHL prospect (fourth-liner)
It has been a long road for the undersized forward to get to the NHL.  He spent three season in the CHL and then two more in Binghamton before becoming a regular.  His upside is limited and he could make more money in Europe, so I expect his future as a Sen will be shorter than longer.  Only two NHL regulars occur over the next 30 picks (James Reimer at #99 and Matt Beleskey at #112).
4-121 Pierre-Luc Lessard (DL, QMJHL) – CIS (Trois-Rivieres) bust
A high-scoring blueliner from the Q, he was never offered a contract and only had a cup of coffee as a pro (ECHL).  He’s a complete miss as a pick, but none of the next 30 selections have become regular NHLers.
5-151 Ryan Daniels (G, OHL) – CIS (Laurier) – bust
A rare goalie selection for the Sens, he is another player who was not offered a contract, but unlike Lessard didn’t even get that professional cup of coffee.  There are three regular NHLers over the next 30 picks, with Viktor Stalberg (#161) the most prominent.
6-181 Kevin Koopman (DR, KIJHL) – ACHA II (Brown) – bust
A prospect where the scouts did not do their homework, as Koopman retired to become a doctor before the Sens could think about offering him a contract.  Two regular NHLers were selected over the next 30 picks (with Derek Dorsett at #189 clearly the best).
7-211 Erik Condra (RW, NCAA) – NHL (Ottawa); 107 NHL games –  NHL regular (bottom-6 forward)
The third last pick of the draft, he finished up his college career, earned rookie of the year honours in Binghamton before becoming a solid attention to the regular lineup in the NHL.  Even though Condra has limited upside, to get a player this late is clearly a home run.

2007
Muckler was fired two weeks before the draft, so while this is nominally a Bryan Murray draft it’s basically following Muckler’s philosophy.  Not surprisingly, Murray traded away the team’s late round picks so that the next draft could fully follow his direction.  Not enough time has passed to truly assess how many hits and misses this draft had, but it’s a weaker draft for Ottawa (possibly worse than 2005).

1-29 Jim O’Brien (CR, NCAA; U-18) – RFA (Ottawa); 34 NHL games – marginal NHLer (fourth-liner)
After two mediocre years in the WHL and a terrible rookie season in the AHL, many thought O’Brien‘s days were numbered.  However, he turned his game around, won a Calder Cup, and did not look out of place with the Sens when called up this season.  The sample size is small, but it appears as though he can take a regular shift with the big boys, albeit in a supporting role.  Compared to the players taken before him, 6 have never played in the NHL (keeping in mind that Cherepanov tragically died), and 4 have played fewer games thus far.  Three regular NHLers were taken over the next 31 picks, with P. K. Subban (#43) the best of them.
2-60 Ruslan Bashkirov (LW, QMJHL) – VHL (Ryazan) – bust
The last Russian taken by Murray at the draft, Bashkirov is such a bust he can’t even play in the KHL.  This is the definition of a bad pick with Wayne Simmonds taken immediately after him (#61), granting that only one other (out of 30) is a definitive NHLer (Yannick Weber at #73).
3-90 Louie Caporusso (C/LW, OPJHL) – AHL (Binghamton) – potential AHLer
Despite a strong NCAA resume Caporusso struggled at the AHL level this season which is a bad sign for a college graduate.  He may have it in him to become a regular AHLer, but his NHL potential seems non-existent.  Currently there’s only 2 established NHLers taken over the next 30 picks (Alec Martinez at #95 and Matt Halischuk at #117), but 6 more seem likely to have similar status, making the pick look much worse.
4-120 Ben Blood (DL, USUS) – AHL (Binghamton) – potential marginal NHLer
There was a long wait for Blood, as he spent a year in the USHL and then four more at college before turning pro.  He has the potential to be a bruising bottom-pairing NHLer, but without significant pro experience it’s difficult to judge.  As Ottawa’s last pick in the draft he has to be compared to the rest of the selections (91 picks), where at least 6 players are either regular NHLers or on their way (the best being Jamie Benn at #129).  Given that neither Blood nor most of the rest of the players fates are set yet however, it’s hard to judge the pick.

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2 Comments

  1. […] Looking at Ottawa’s Draft Success (05-07) […]

  2. […] optimistic view here’s Sports Illustrated; for a look at the overall success of the draft go here), Ottawa made four selections, trading away their final three picks to Tampa for a fourth round […]


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