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)

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  1. […] Reviewing the Sens 2020 and 2021 Drafts […]


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