Reviewing the Senators 2015 NHL Draft

I’ve been asked to go beyond my light comments about the Sens draft and give more detailed thoughts and analysis, so here it is.  All sources cited in my previous post are used along with anything else I can get my hands on.  This is the first year Bryan Murray has drafted without his nephew (Tim Murray) since the disastrous 2007 class (picked with John Muckler’s scouts, admittedly).  Without Tim, we saw Murray favour size and strength over smaller, skilled players.  Pick-by-pick, here we go (ppg=points-per-game; AR=aggregate ranking–for that see the link below):

Thomas Chabot (1-18; DL, 6’2, QMJHL 66-12-29-41, 0.62 ppg; AR #20)
Technically lead the Saint John Sea Dogs in scoring from the blueline, although first rounder (#13) Jakub Zboril was actually well ahead of him in ppg and 2016 draft-eligible Luke Green was only slightly behind.  He was selected roughly where the scouting consensus landed (see my aggregate ratings); he’s seen as a good skater and puck carrier with a high hockey IQ; his defensive play was criticized by Pronman/McKeens (and praised by FC), and there was a call for him to increase his strength (McKeens; the latter seems almost like an ad hominem addition to most scouting reports), although some said he was quite strong (RLR; you can see how scouts can watch the same player and come to very different conclusions).  Craig Smith (of Hockey Prospectus) projects him this way:

Chabot will most likely never win a Norris trophy, score 20 goals, or be a top flight point producing defensemen. Think of Jay Bouwmeester post Florida Panthers type of player. 25 plus minuets of ice time against other teams top units is more than acceptable for any pick in any draft. Closer to home comparison, he will have similar production and value as Cody Ceci.

For Smith he’s a home run pick and with largely universal praise from the scouting community it’s easy to see why; he’s a safe bet to be an NHL-talent and what remains to be seen is his ceiling.

Colin White (1-21; RW/C; 6’0, USHL/USDP 74-27-44-71, 0.95ppg; AR #21)
This is the pick the Sens acquired from Buffalo in the Robin Lehner trade (notably not Buffalo’s own pick, but the Islanders’).  No relation to the former NHL defenseman, his numbers dropped from the previous season (82-47-45-92) and at least some or all of that can be blamed on a wrist injury and a bout of mononucleosis.  He was sixth in scoring on the US National team, although of the three drafted players ahead of him he was selected first (Jack Roslovic #25, Christian Fischer #32, and Jeremy Bracco #61).  Scouts praise his hockey IQ and his two-way play; RLR likes his skating (Smith is less impressed), but fears his size hurts his ability to be a top-six player (which is a very old school, Dead Puck Era way of viewing players).  Craig Smith compares him to Curtis Lazar, so a player with limited offensive capability, but strong defensive play.  There’s no actual criticism here except for his scoring ability at the next level, so he seems like a safe, bottom-six player of the future.

Gabriel Gagne (2-36; C/RW; 6’5, QMJHL 67-35-24-59, 0.88ppg; AR #63)
The Sens traded their second-round pick (Dallas’, acquired via the Jason Spezza trade, #42) and a conditional pick (4th-rounder in 2016) to move up a few spots to pick Gagne–an immensely puzzling decision for a player scouts slatted as a third-round pick, but Murray loves big players (think of how well Jakub Culek and Jordan Fransoo worked out).  Kidding aside, Gagne was third in scoring on Victoriaville (well behind overager Angelo Miceli and St. Louis draft pick Samuel Blais; also trailing overage Mathieu Ayotte in ppg).  Scouts liked his size and stride (FC), but felt he didn’t have great hands, wasn’t particularly physical, and had work ethic problems–Smith was the most complimentary about him, comparing him to Mike Hoffman (his shot and his speed), but there are red flags all over the place and to trade for a prospect like this is worrying.  If he pans out Murray looks like a genius, but if he doesn’t it’s multiple wasted assets for nothing.

Filip Chlapik (2-48; C; 6’1, QMJHL 64-33-42-75, 1.17ppg; AR #37)
The third player drafted from the Q, he’s only the second Czech-player Murray has picked in Ottawa, but like Culek before him he’s taken from the QMJHL.  He was second in scoring for Charlottetown (behind fellow second-round pick Daniel Spong); scouts like his playmaking and hockey IQ, his skating is in question and Pronman is uncertain about his defensive play (all the other scouting publications think he’s good defensively)–Smith comes down the middle on the defensive question.  He strikes me as a fairly safe pick, but one whose skating might prevent him from taking that next step (keep in mind the Sens are strong believers they can improve that element, ala Mark Stone).

Christian Wolanin (4-107; 6’1, DL, USHL 56-14-27-41, 0.73ppg; AR unranked)
The Sens traded Eric Gryba to get this pick (originally Pittsburgh’s), which is the second puzzling trade of the draft as no one had the overage son of the former NHLer slotted to be picked.  He led Muskegon in scoring by a defenseman and the Sens brass will like his high PIM (tops on the team, although that included only one fighting major, so discipline could be a concern).  He’s a forward converted to defense and his offensive prowess (as well as “character”) are about all you can say about him.  Smith believes he has to work on his defensive game and skating (both, admittedly, correctable issues).  Very much a hit or miss player.

Filip Ahl (4-109; LW/RW, 6’3, SuperElit 34-20-22-42, 1.23ppg; AR #80)
Son of former SHL goaltender Boo, as a 17-year old he was dominant at the Swedish junior level (tops in scoring for HV71’s squad), but not quite ready for prime time in the SHL (15-0-2-2).  Smith doesn’t like his speed or his lack of physicality (RLR echoes the latter), which are both categories FC and ISS like–the conflicting opinions suggest a certain amount of inconsistency from him; if he hits projections he’s a grinding power forward with some offensive upside, but the prospect of him getting there seems iffy.

Christian Jaros (5-139; DR, 6’3; SuperElit 23-4-8-12, 0.52ppg; AR #139)
He’s the first Slovak Murray has selected, but typically he’s from Sweden rather than his local scene.  The 18-year old (now 19; he was passed over in last year’s draft) spent half the year with Lulea in the SHL (25-0-1-1), which is impressive for a teenager (he was the youngest blueliner to suit up).  In terms of his junior production he was roughly tied for the ppg lead with Simon Akerstrom, although with only half a season in the books it’s reasonable to assume he likely would have led the team if he’d played it through.  It’s not his offensive prowess that Smith praises however, but instead his physicality (making the unfortunate comparison of Borowiecki) and projects him at the same level (something HP and ISS generally agrees with); FC describes him as mobile, but not quick and they like his offensive instincts; RLR thinks he’s one of the slowest skaters in the draft.  There seems little reason to doubt he has the capability of being a depth defenseman, although I hope the Sens think he can be more than that as there’s little reason to waste a draft pick on that kind of player.

Joey Daccord (7-199; GL, 6’3; USHS 1.80 .933; AR unranked)
Only Central Scouting had him listed; the overage high school goaltender is coming off career bests at Cushing before he moves on to Arizona State in the NCAA (his father Brian was a successful NLA goaltender and is now a goaltender coach).  Smith offers this:

Daccord is a very good if not an elite level athlete. He moves laterally quickly and has good recovery skills. He positions himself correctly and tracks puck very well. Daccord handles the puck very well for a goaltender.

Rick Wamsley said this:

He’s a good skating, good hands, smart goalie. His father’s a real good goalie coach in the Boston area so obviously he’s well-schooled. I like how smart he appears, really like his hands. He’s probably got the best hands of the group that’s here this week. His feet can improve a little bit but his skating’s pretty good. I like what I see.

Not much to go on, but projecting goaltenders remains difficult for everyone, so we can only throw up our hands and see how it goes.

The Sens selected 8 players (4 forwards, 3 defenseman, and a goalie), 3 of whom are overage, and virtually none of whom are considered to have a strong offensive upside at the NHL-level–it’s a collection of two-way, grinding/character players, which is disappointing.  If scouts are looking for home runs I want production and possession (in fairness, the latter does show up here)–the AHL and bottom rung of the NHL is filled with “character” guys you don’t need to waste draft picks on.  There was no change in where the Sens drafted from: 3 from the CHL (QMJHL specifically), 3 from the US junior systems, and 2 from Sweden.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)