Sens Prospects Review

Let me begin by making it clear what prospects I’m looking at: those not already in the system (so not already in Ottawa or Belleville). I make this distinction because I think the data available for the latter is so different that they occupy different categories of analysis. It’s also important to recognize that most of these players will never be significant NHLers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun looking and assessing. Speaking of which, I do not have access to the minute data that scouts do (or those willing to pay for it, ala Ary etc), nor have I seen most of these players play this season, so I’m purely analyzing from pre-existing scouting reports and statistical comparisons (both immediate and in relative terms).

I like to divide players by age, since that makes comparing where they are in the development curve easier (keeping in mind goaltenders almost always take longer to pan out), so the players below are in order of oldest to youngest. I’m going to link my thoughts on the players when they were drafted (and you can see where I was right or wrong interpreting scouting data). For the most current season I’ve included (in brackets) how they performed on their team in relative scoring (forwards vs forwards and defensemen vs defensemen).

Jakov Novak, LW/C, Oct 98, 6’3, 7-188/18
2017-18 NAHL 56-32-41-73 1.30
2018-19 NCAA 37-7-8-15 0.40
2019-20 NCAA 35-16-14-30 0.85
2020-21 NCAA 15-7-10-17 1.13
2021-22 NCAA 39-8-9-17 0.43 (6th)

Novak switched from Bentley to Northeastern in his final season and saw his steady increase of progression halt as he played behind other drafted players. Because of the league he was drafted from, there was precious little scouting information about him when drafted, but he compares to another Sens pick (pre-Mann) Todd Burgess (2016), who came from the same league. Burgess was never signed and spent most of this season playing with Manitoba in the AHL (35-7-6-13). The two players aren’t clones, as offensively Novak has better career NCAA numbers (0.63 vs. 0.49), Burgess spent an extra year in college, and so on. Will/should the Sens sign Novak? It’s hard to say–looking at the stats isn’t enough given his change in schools and it’s less clear to me what role the Sens envision for him–his size is in his favour. As a fan I’d like to see him perform better than sixth on his team in scoring, but that’s not the be-all, end-all for all prospects.

Viktor Lodin, C/LW, June 99, 6’2, 4-94/19 (signed)
2018-19 SHL 41-1-4-5 0.12
2019-20 SHL 22-0-4-4 0.18
2020-21 Allsven 47-14-26-40 0.85
2021-22 SHL 44-12-15-27 0.61 (3rd)

Son of long time Swedish defenseman Hans, Lodin was an off-the-board pick I couldn’t find much information on at the time. What little I could find made me think he was yet another grinder, but that impression was false (such that my reaction, link above, was off). At least at the minor pro level, Lodin is a point producer. The Sens signed him after the 20-21 season, but loaned him to Timra and that seems to have been beneficial to him. His minor pro sample size is small (ten games), but it seems like he can play at that level. Can he be an NHL regular? I think that’s up in the air and I suspect he has to make space for himself in the bottom six and be a specialist like an Erik Condra or Peter Schaefer (which is to say, provide some offensive punch in a depth role).

Jonny Tychonick, DL, Mar 00, 6’0, 2-48/18
2017-18 BCHL 48-9-38-47 0.97
2018-19 NCAA 28-0-4-4 0.14
2019-20 NCAA 24-4-7-11 0.45
2020-21 NCAA 23-3-5-8 0.34
2021-22 NCAA 24-2-6-8 0.33 (4th)

The offensive defensemen the Sens picked in the 2018 draft has not been able to maintain that production at the college level (you’d like to see is an arc that steadily increases). The org is unlikely to leave a high pick unsigned, but the expectations of what kind of pro he’ll be has to have changed and Tychonick will need to be a good defender to carry forward his pro career (if we’re looking for an Ottawa prospect comparable it would be a borderline player like Max Lajoie–similar size and okay but not great offensive numbers).

Eric Engstrand, LW, May 00, 6’4, 5-155/20
2019-20 SuperElit 37-23-35-58 1.56
2020-21 SHL 45-1-4-5 0.11
2021-22 SHL 41-7-3-10 0.24 (12th)

Already re-signed by Malmo for the next two seasons, Engstrand won’t be in an arena near you any time soon. An overage pick in the mold of a Filip Ahl (2015) and Markus Nurmi (2016)–a big, physical European winger–he’s the second youngest on the roster and his progression is in the right direction. I believe the way it works with Swedish draft picks is you have 4-years to sign them, so the org can be patient and watch how his play evolves. Incidentally, speaking of Nurmi, I think there’s a chance he could make it as a depth NHLer (albeit the Sens no longer have his rights), perhaps ala Marcus Sorensen who the Sens never signed but spent five years with San Jose.

Luke Loheit, RW, Jul 00, 6’1, 7-194/18
2017-18 USHS 24-12-18-30 1.25
2018-19 BCHL 43-8-16-24 0.55
2019-20 NCAA 33-5-1-6 0.18
2020-21 NCAA 28-3-2-5 0.17
2021-22 NCAA 34-2-4-6 0.17 (11th)

Always intended to be a long term college prospect, I think my analysis at the time he was drafted is spot on. He has one more NCAA season to show his mettle, but at this point it’s difficult to imagine anything will change. This is a player who can only become a pro through great defensive play and/or being an agitator, but from what we can see the skillset just isn’t high enough for that to ever happen.

Philippe Daoust, C/LW, Nov 01, 6’0, 6-158/20 (signed)
2019-20 QMJHL 58-7-22-29 0.50
2020-21 QMJHL 21-6-22-28 1.33
2021-22 QMJHL 38-24-23-47 1.23 (3rd via ppg)

I like gambling on skill and while Daoust isn’t going to be a world beater, he was able to put in some time in Belleville (15-games) and has solid QMJHL numbers. What’s his ceiling? Probably not high, but he should help the BSens and could be a top-nine player (the hope for a pick like this is always another Pageau (2011), but getting players of that caliber late rarely pans out).

Tyler Kleven, DL, Jan 02, 6’4, 2-44/20
2019-20 USDP 45-2-10-12 0.26
2020-21 NCAA 22-5-2-7 0.31
2021-22 NCAA 38-7-3-10 0.26 (4th)

His goal to assist ratio for a defenseman is bizarre; he was Sanderson’s teammate on a team stacked with draft picks (9 in total). How good is he? I think that’s very much up in the air–the Sens tend to get blinded by size and so the question remains if he can fulfill their plans for him. With that said, in theory he has another two seasons in the NCAA to develop, so there’s no rush to judgement on him.

Jake Sanderson, DL, Jul 02, 6’2, 1-5/20 (signed)
2019-20 USDP 47-7-22-29 0.61
2020-21 NCAA 22-2-13-15 0.68
2021-22 NCAA 23-8-18-26 1.13 (1st)

Son of NHLer Geoff, his production curve is exactly what you want to see from a high pick and while it doesn’t guarantee greatness at the NHL level, it is nice to see a Sens top pick perform as expected. There’s always less to say about a player who is properly on the curve, so at this stage we just have to wait and see–is he ready for prime time in the NHL, or will he need (like Chabot) to spend some time in the AHL? I’m perfectly fine if he needs that seasoning–there’s no reason to rush.

Ridley Greig, LW, Aug 02, 6’0, 1-28/20 (signed)
2019-20 WHL 56-26-34-60 0.93
2020-21 WHL 21-10-22-32 1.52
2021-22 WHL 39-26-37-63 1.61 (1st by ppg)

Son of marginal NHLer Mark, like Sanderson above, he has the curve you want in a prospect. How will his agitating game translate at the NHL level? I have no idea, but that edge means if his production doesn’t translate there is another role for him. I’m not sure if he’s ready at the NHL-level (Sens marketing in the summer will tell you he is, but that doesn’t mean much). He’s definitely capable of helping in the AHL and I’ll be interested to see what the Sens do with him. Just like Sanderson above, I’m happy with a patient approach.

Leevi Merilainen, GL, Aug 02, 6’3, 3-71/20
2019-20 U20 .908
2020-21 U20 .934
2021-22 OHL .891

An off the wall pick from Finland, he crossed the pond to play in the OHL this season where he was middle of the pack among goaltenders (which is completely fine). The Sens amateur scouting for goaltenders has been pretty good–not great, perhaps, but in finding players who can play pro hockey. Goalies can take forever to develop and the Sens can be impatient, but there’s no rush with him at this point.

Ben Roger, DR, Nov 02, 6’4, 2-49/21
2020-21 did not play
2021-22 OHL 55-1-12-13 0.23 (5th)

The mystery is: can he be more than a big body (ala Ben Harpur, who could not stay in Nashville’s lineup this year)? There’s plenty of time to find out and I don’t think we’re close to answering that– his size will give him time to prove himself with the org, but I’m generally pessimistic about players who don’t produce at the junior level, so I need to see that before thinking he can make it.

Tyler Boucher, RW, Jan 03, 6’1, 1-10/21
2020-21 USDP 14-9-5-14 1.00
2021-22 OHL 24-7-7-14 0.58 (4th by ppg)

Son of former NHL goalie Brian, he bailed from Boston U mid-season to join the OHL, where he did not produce like a top-pick (keeping in mind the 67s were a low scoring team). I was underwhelmed by the selection when it was made and I’m still pessimistic about it, but there’s time for Boucher to prove me wrong.

Carson Latimer, RW, Jan 03, 6’1, 4-123/21
2020-21 WHL 22-5-11-16 0.72
2021-22 WHL 62-18-22-40 0.64 (5th)

When drafted his main claim to fame was he is fast; the questions was if he was anything else and that remains unanswered at this stage. I think he’s entering the make-or-break stage as a prospect and he needs to break out offensively or be dominant as a PK/specialist to move forward.

Zack Ostapchuk, LW, May 03, 6’3, 2-39/21 (signed)
2020-21 WHL 22-7-9-16 0.72
2021-22 WHL 60-26-17-43 0.71 (3rd)

Enjoying a great playoff and I’m always happy when the org gambles on skill. How good can he be? I think that’s up in the air–we need to see more before we can truly gauge that (given that his production didn’t jump expectations should be tempered). The brass are satisfied, so when it’s time we’ll at least see him at the AHL-level.

Chandler Romeo, DL, Jul 03, 6’5, 7-202/21
2020-21 did not play
2021-22 OHL 67-2-16-18 0.26 (4th)

Normally I’d complain about picking a player purely due to size, but the seventh round is the place to swing for the fences–will Romeo pan out? Probably not, but I won’t be too critical if not. At his age there’s plenty of time to let him marinate and develop.

Oliver Johansson, CL, Jul 03, 6’0, 3-74/21
2020-21 Allsven 5-0-3-3
2021-22 J20 33-19-22-41 (1st by ppg)

An excellent skater who is still finding his way in the junior leagues in Sweden; there’s plenty of time to wait and see if Johansson can turn the corner to be good enough to cross the pond, but this season doesn’t change my opinion of him one way or another. I’d expect at least another couple of years in Sweden (barring a breakout), where he tests himself in the Allsvenskan/SHL.

Final Thoughts

There’s less to tease out with the prospects from the most recent draft, but a year of development does add to the body of evidence we have for them. Most of these prospects, as mentioned at the top, won’t make it and the expectations of most are modest–they are depth players. That’s not inherently a flaw so long as a few could be something more. Let’s categorize them for convenience:

Top-six F/top-four D/starting ‘tender (or better)
Jake Sanderson
Ridley Greig

Top-nine F/top-six D/back-up
Viktor Lodin
Jonny Tychonick
Philippe Daoust
Tyler Kleven
Leevi Merilainen
Tyler Boucher
Zack Ostapchuk
Oliver Johansson

Fourth-liner/6-7 D/minor starter
Jakov Novak
Eric Engstrand
Ben Roger
Carson Latimer
Chandler Romeo

No Future
Luke Loheit

I’m curious what lessons, if any, the Sens scouting staff has learned from the last few years, where a very skilled Tampa has won and only teams with deep talent pools have made it to the conference finals this year. I’d like to think at least some awareness of that has seeped into the org–Mann seems aware that speed is important enough to invest in, at least. I don’t know how myopic Dorion is–we have to remember that coming into the 2021-22 season he thought Ottawa would compete for a playoff spot, so will he spend a lot of capital for some perceived final piece to get them over the hump? That’s a fear I have, as Dorion’s pro deals are generally disasters. Time will tell. Regardless, I’m happy to hear thoughts or corrections in the comments and I’m looking forward to the draft.

This article was written by Peter Levi

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4 Comments

  1. Are you doing a mock draft 2022?

    • I haven’t done one since 2019–when I was doing it regularly, Hockey Prospects had the best overall accuracy (whether they maintained that I couldn’t say). It’s fun to do, but also a lot of work, so the answer is probably not.

  2. How about a Mock draft only 1st rd.?

    You have an excellent batting average.

  3. […] Sens Prospects Review […]


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