I was reading through Trevor Shackles post and one thing he brought up is worth emphasizing: Matt O’Connor is not a sure thing. That statement goes for almost every prospect, but it’s worth keeping in mind. The fact that multiple NHL teams pursued him is a positive, but they also chased Bobby Butler (and many other collegiate free agents who have crashed and burned), so it’s entirely possible O’Connor never turns out. Something to keep in mind for the upcoming season, although it’s fortunate the Sens have Marcus Hogberg in their back pocket (more on him later).
Ladies and gentlemen, we got him: Nichols has delightfully gone back to qualifying his statements about prospects:
It’s worth noting that I don’t necessarily agree wholeheartedly with Wagman’s assertions. For example, he lost a couple of points of credibility noting that the Senators farm system took a hit because the organization didn’t recoup full value for trading Brian Elliott. I suppose on one hand, the acquisition of Craig Anderson single-handedly cost the organization a shot at drafting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Gabriel Landeskog. But on the other hand, having Anderson and Mika Zibanejad is a pretty fucking good consolation prize. I also have a problem with Wagman definitively writing off prospects like Matt Puempel, Nick Paul and Colin White because they “look like solid third liners, at best.”
Presumably he would have several paragraphs for Pronman as well if he disagreed with him. We’ll give Nichols a pass for letting Wagman’s unjustified Harpur comment go through (more on him below), but at least Wagman’s cheerleading for Marcus Hogberg has had an impact on Nichols more than anything I’ve said.
Nichols (link above) also talks about the recent Chris Phillips revelation that:
The pain and numbness have gone away, but Phillips told Brennan that he won’t put a timeline on when he’ll resume hockey activities. Considering we’re already towards the end of August and that Senators training camp usually begins in the second week of September, Phillips does not have a lot of time to prepare for the season and get ready for the start of camp.
Is it too much to hope that it’s a very long time before the Big Rig threatens to suit up? Perhaps by the time he returns there will be no room for him, although with a roster that boasts Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki, it’s probably too much to hope for.
There’s a decent chance the 2015-16 Ottawa Senators will be a complete disaster. The seeds of that potential remain as the worst players from last year’s roster are still here, but more importantly there’s a great deal of uncertainty in net. Can Craig Anderson stay healthy through most of the season? It’s highly unlikely. I’m also concerned for Anderson because the last time he was safely a #1 goaltender (2010-11 with Colorado) he completely bombed–the worst season of his career. I have no faith in Andrew Hammond–by that I mean I’m expecting the guy who stumbled horribly in Binghamton last year until he demonstrates differently. There’s no margin for error between the pipes because behind Anderson it’s all hope and projection.
I thought I’d take a look at the rookies turning pro this season. Before I get there, I thought I’d add I’m not completely sold on Matt Puempel. Maybe this is the year he breaks out, but his two seasons in Binghamton have been unremarkable. His points-per-game actually dropped in his sophomore campaign (slightly, admittedly), and he certainly didn’t lack for opportunity. He could be a late bloomer, but as a first-rounder known for offense he should dominant in the AHL; just a note of caution. It’s worth noting all assessments of prospects (including mine) are simply notes of caution (or triumph).
Another prospect we have to take with a grain of salt (for now) is Tobias Lindberg (you can read a more detailed profile here), and I’m speaking specifically of his offensive upside. He put up decent, but not remarkable numbers in the Swedish junior system and the better numbers he had with Oshawa in the OHL were influenced by first-round pick Michael Dal Colle and third-rounder Cole Cassels. This isn’t to say he was wholly dependent on those two, but there’s little doubt they inflated his production above what it would have been with a different roster.
There’s no such comparative concerns for Nick Paul, who showed consistent improvement season by season and, while he technically finished second in scoring for North Bay, was their top player in points-per-game, so no one was elevating his numbers. That doesn’t guarantee his upside, but it means the scouting impressions of him aren’t being prejudiced by his teammates.
I’ve gone through Ben Harpur‘s issues before, but for those who missed it let’s address my concerns: he started this past season on fire, with 19 points in his first 18 games–this is clearly an outlier as he’s never had production like that at any point in his career. If you take out that production, this is his performance: 39-1-11-12 (ppg 0.30), which represents a modest improvement over his previous season, but as a 19-20 year old in the OHL he’s going to get a production bump regardless. If a prospect doesn’t produce in junior, they do not suddenly produce as a pro, so Harpur is not going to generate offense in the AHL (or likely the ECHL); all he can be with his “physical gifts” (he’s 6’6), is be a safe, defensive defenseman. I’m not a fan of defensive specialists on the blueline–everyone at the back-end needs to be able to move the puck (as the unintentional hilarity of Ottawa’s blueline the first half of this season illustrated)–but the key problem with seeing Harpur as that guy is this: even before the draft scouts were complaining about his poor decision-making and that criticism hasn’t changed–in two-year of development he’s still making poor decisions. You can’t be good defensively if you don’t make good decisions, so fans should take the limited hype about him with a very large grain of salt.
Why am I (and others) so excited about Mikael Wikstrand? I wrote a long profile about him back in February and there’s a lot to like about the Swedish defender. Before he was drafted he was seen as a safe, dependable blueliner who did everything well, but wouldn’t provide much offense. The scouts were wrong about the latter, at least at the Swedish level, as Wikstrand has produced offense. The season after he was drafted he benefitted from playing with Anze Kopitar for a couple of months, but he actually scored more the following year. Whether his production carries over to the next level remains uncertain, but the consistent word from scouts is that he’s a mistake-free player–that will likely create a place for him somewhere.
That leaves Vincent Dunn, a prospect nobody is talking about and there’s good reason for that. Dunn was let go by his team (Rimouski) during the season and that’s pretty damning for a player who was putting up adequate production for them. He was drafted as a hard-working pest back in 2013 with warning signs about his behaviour; he signed the subsequent summer after a solid year with Gatineau. His production dipped this past season, but given his relationship with his team that doesn’t mean what it usually does and he wasn’t drafted to be a scorer anyway. Is there room for a Sean Avery-type in the NHL anymore? I’m not sure Dunn has enough talent to be that guy or if the Sens should want that guy, but what happened in Rimouski is a big red flag and my expectations are very low for him.
A bit of trivia I neglected to mention in my last post: Branden Komm (the Evansville goaltender) was a development camp invitee back in 2013.
Back in March I looked at European free agents of interest, knowing full well the Sens do not dip their toe into that pool of talent (likely due to the extreme costs of scouting in Europe). Of the 16 players identified 5 were signed to ELC’s: Kristian Nakyva (Nashville), Artemi Panarin (Chicago), Joonas Donskoi (San Jose), Markus Hannikainen (Columbus), and Eetu Laurikainen (Edmonton). Other Euro’s signed include Sergei Plotnikov (Pittsburgh), Niclas Andersen (Pittsburgh), Vojtech Mozik (New Jersey), Dean Kukan (Columbus), Sergei Kalinin (New Jersey), Matthias Plachta (Arizona), Joonas Kemppainen (Boston), Yvgeni Medvedev (Philadelphia), Jakub Nakladal (Calgary), Christian Marti (Philadelphia), and Andreas Martinsen (Colorado; I identified him back in 2012). That’s 12 different teams, with 4 signing two (Columbus, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia). Most of these players won’t pan out, but they’re as worthwhile a risk as an NCAA free agent, so I’m always interested in seeing how they do.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)