NHL Playoff Disaster, Debrincat, and Nikolas Matinpalo

It’s difficult to imagine a worse outcome for the NHL than the four teams that made it into the conference finals (Dallas, Vegas, Florida, and Carolina). While the league itself likely believes it’s a positive result, increasing their footprint in the south, I’ve seen no evidence the Southern strategy has accomplished anything. None of the four teams draw outside their region and local interest is minimal. Ratings are going to be horrific (NHL’s viewership this year is already awful, illustrating that just two seasons of scoring increase isn’t enough to erase thirty years of stagnation–something I’ve gone over a few times). The NHL has never figured out how to market itself because it’s convinced it’s a major sport instead of a regional one whose limitations (expense and playing surface) put a cap on participation. The best thing for the league would be contraction and moving franchises away from dead areas to where they might have some relevance, but that’s an impossibility as long as the current regime remains in power.

I mentioned in my season wrap-up that I thought all the local voices talking about moving on from Alex Debrincat was a sign that the org itself is moving on and I still believe that as additional voices restate the idea. There’s no guarantee, and moving him won’t be easy, but to me the odds of him going continue to increase. Dorion likes to make splashy moves, so I could see it happening at the draft (I suspect, if they’ve given up on Alex Formenton, he’ll also be moved around that time).

The Sens signed an off-the-radar Finnish defensemen in Nikolas Matinpalo (in the spirit of Artem Zub and Olle Alsing); he’s the second European FA prospect they’ve picked up this off-season after signing Jiri Smejkal about a month ago. The 24 (soon to be 25)-year old wasn’t on anyone’s radar (either this year as a free agent or during his draft-eligible seasons). Here’s a quick look at his recent numbers:

Nikolas Matinpalo, DR, DOB 98 (Oct)
2020-21 Liiga 41-1-2-3 (0.07)
2021-22 Liiga 50-4-4-8 (0.16)
2022-23 Liiga 51-7-9-16 (0.31)

Like Smejkal he’s an older prospect with size (6’3 in his case), and his middling numbers have been augmented (to the Sens brass at least) by a good playoff (8-0-4-4) and then representing Finland internationally for the first time (not a high bar when you consider Patrick Brown was on the US roster). This is not a player you sign to produce offense and he’s unlikely to have NHL-caliber talent (he was well behind former Florida draft pick Ian McCoshen on his team this year, whose best AHL season was his first, 68-4-12-16), but his potential is as a defensive presence for the BSens on their already clogged right side. It’s difficult to imagine this turning out well, but it’s interesting that the Sens decided to go this route in the first place. The plus side of the equation is it’s low risk–both in terms of dollars and commitment.

This article was written by Peter Levi


Revisiting Draft Success (2005-10)

Years ago I wrote an article on the relative success in the draft that can be expected as dictated by their successes. It covered 2005-09, the period that embraced the post-Dead Puck era (into the Life Support puck era) and seemed long enough from when I originally wrote it (2015l revised in 2016) that we could safely assess. The reason I’ve returned to this analysis is that I made the somewhat arbitrary choice of calling a ‘win’ any player who had played 200 NHL games (given that there’s no readily accepted iteration of what a ‘success’ is in this circumstance). Years later I think that was overly generous and I believe 400 games (the equivalent of five NHL seasons, with some judgement calls on goaltenders) weeds out the numerous players an org falls in love with then drops out of the league after a few seasons. The other benefit is how much time has passed since then–there are no more mysteries about their careers.

2005 (here; the Crosby draft)
First Round
14 players have played 400+ games, including 9 of the top-10 (Luc Bourdon tragically died); 3 never suited up in the NHL
Second Round
7 players hit the mark, with 11 never hitting the ice
Third Round
5 players hit the mark; 12 never played
Fourth Round
7 players have reached the plateau; 17 never played
Fifth Round
3 players hit the mark; 17 never played
Sixth Round
None qualify (Matt D’Agostini #190 comes closest); 21 players never played
Seventh Round
2 players reached the plateau; 26 players never played

Here’s the success by team:
St. Louis (Pleau): 1st (Oshie), 3rd (Bishop), 5th (Reaves)
Columbus (MacLean): 2nd (McQuaid), 3rd (K. Russell), 4th (Boll)
Pittsburgh (Patrick): 1st (Crosby), 3rd (Letang)
San Jose (Wilson): 1st (Setoguchi), 2nd (Vlasic)
Los Angeles (Taylor): 1st (Kopitar), 3rd (Quick)
Rangers (Sather): 1st (M. Staal), 4th (T. Pyatt)
Arizona/Phoenix (Barnett): 1st (Hanzal), 4th (Yandle)
Toronto (Ferguson): 1st (Rask), 7th (Stralman)
Dallas (Armstrong): 1st (Niskanen), 2nd (Neal)
Detroit (Holland): 2nd (Abdelkader), 5th (Helm)
Nashville (Poile): 3rd (Franson), 7th (Hornqvist)
Buffalo (Regier): 4th (C. Butler), 5th (Gerbe)
Anaheim (Coates/Burke): 1st (Ryan)
Carolina (Rutherford): 1st (J. Johnson)
Minnesota (Risebrough): 1st (Pouliot)
Montreal (Gainey): 1st (Price)
Edmonton (Lowe): 1st (Cogliano)
Philadelphia (Clarke): 1st (Downie)
Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell): 2nd (Pavelec)
Colorado (Lacroix): 2nd (P. Statsny)
Vancouver (Nonis): 2nd (Raymond)
Boston (O’Connell): 4th (Sobotka)
Chicago (Pulford/Tallon): 4th (Hjalmarsson)
Fails (7): Ottawa (Muckler), New Jersey (Lamoriello), Washington (McPhee), New York Islanders (Milbury), Florida (Keenan), Calgary (Sutter), Tampa Bay (Feaster)

2006 (here; the E. Johnson draft)
First Round
18 players hit the plateau, including eight of the top-ten; 3 players never played an NHL game
Second Round
6 players hit the mark; 14 players never played
Third Round
3 players reached the plateau; 14 never hit the ice
Fourth Round
2 players; 22 players never played
Fifth Round
No one hit the mark
Sixth Round
4 players hit the mark; 23 prospects never played
Seventh Round
1 player qualifies; 23 players never played

Here’s the success by team:
Toronto (Ferguson): 1st (Tlutsy), 2nd (Kulyomin), 4th (Reimer), 6th (Stalberg), 6th (Komarov)
Washington (McPhee): 1st (Backstrom), 1st (Varlamov), 6th (M. Perrault)
Boston (O’Connell/Gorton/Chiarelli): 1st (Kessel), 2nd (Lucic), 3rd (Marchant)
Columbus (MacLean): 1st (Brassard), 3rd (S. Mason), 7th (Dorsett)
Islanders (Milbury/Smith): 1st (Okposo), 6th (A. MacDonald)
Los Angeles (Taylor/Lombardi): 1st (J. Bernier), 1st (T. Lewis)
St. Louis (Pleau): 1st (E. Johnson). 1st (Berglund)
Pittsburgh (Patrick/Shero): 1st (J. Staal)
Chicago (Pulford): 1st (J. Toews)
Florida (Keenan): 1st (Frolik)
Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell): 1st (Little)
Vancouver (Nonis): 1st (Grabner)
Colorado (Lacroix/Giguere): 1st (C. Stewart)
Philadelphia (Clarke): 1st (Giroux)
Ottawa (Muckler): 1st (N. Foligno)
San Jose (Wilson): 2nd (McGinn)
Edmonton (Lowe): 2nd (Petry)
Detroit (Holland): 2nd (Matthias)
Rangers (Sather): 2nd (Anisimov)
Minnesota (Risebrough): 3rd (Clutterbuck)
Anaheim (Burke): 4th (Beleskey)
Fails (9): Buffalo (Regier), Arizona/Phoenix (Barnett/Maloney), Carolina (Rutherford), Montreal (Gainey), Tampa Bay (Feaster), Calgary (Sutter), New Jersey (Lamoriello), Dallas (Armstrong), Nashville (Poile)

2007 (here; the P. Kane draft)
First Round
18 players hit the mark, including 8 of the top-ten; 5 picks never played a game (Alexei Cherepanov #17 died)
Second Round
3 players reached the plateau; 14 never played a game
Third Round
4 hit the mark; 15 didn’t make it
Fourth Round
2 qualify; 16 never played
Fifth Round
2 players reach the mark; 22 have never played
Sixth Round
4 players qualify; 16 never played
Seventh Round
2 players reached the mark; 24 have never played

Success by team:
Montreal (Gainey): 1st (McDonagh), 1st (Pacioretty), 2nd (P. K. Subban), 3rd (Y. Weber)
Los Angeles (Lombardi): 1st (Hickey), 2nd (Simmonds), 4th (Martinez)
San Jose (Wilson): 1st (Couture), 6th (Bonino), 7th (Braun)
Philadelphia (Holmgren): 1st (Van Riemsdyk), 6th (Maroon)
Edmonton (Lowe): 1st (S. Gagner), 1st (R. Nash)
St. Louis (Pleau): 1st (Eller), 1st (I. Cole), 1st (Perron)
Pittsburgh (Shero): 3rd (Bortuzzo), 5th (Muzzin)
Dallas (Armstrong): 4th (Sceviour), 5th (Benn)
Chicago (Pulford): 1st (P. Kane)
Arizona/Phoenix (Maloney): 1st (Turris)
Washington (McPhee): 1st (Alzner)
Columbus (Howson/MacLean): 1st (Voracek)
Carolina (Rutherford): 1st (B. Sutter)
Colorado (Giguere): 1st (Shattenkirk)
Calgary (Sutter): 1st (Backlund)
Detroit (Holland): 1st (B. Smith)
Nashville (Poile): 2nd (Spaling)
Florida (Martin): 3rd (Dadonov)
Tampa Bay (Feaster): 3rd (Killorn)
Rangers (Sather): 6th (Hagelin)
Buffalo (Regier): 6th (Byron)
Toronto (Ferguson): 7th (Gunnarsson)
Fails (8): New Jersey (Lamoriello), Anaheim (Burke), Ottawa (Br.Murray/Muckler), Boston (Chiarelli), Vancouver (Nonis), Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell), New York Islanders (Snow), Minnesota (Risebrough)

2008 (here; the Stamkos draft)
First Round
16 players, including 8 of the top-ten; three never played
Second Round
7 players have reached the plateau (including #34 Jake Allen); 8 players have never suited up
Third Round
3 players; 18 prospects never made it
Fourth Round
5 made it; 15 players never suited up
Fifth Round
3 players; 17 prospects never played
Sixth Round
3 players qualify; 19 players never suited up
Seventh Round
1 player makes it; 22 never played

Here’s the success by team:
Islanders (Snow): 1st (Bailey), 2nd (Hamonic), 5th (M. Martin), 6th (Spurgeon)
Ottawa (Br.Murray): 1st (E. Karlsson), 3rd (Z. Smith), 4th (D. Grant), 5th (Borowiecki)
Rangers (Sather): 1st (Del Zotto), 2nd (Stepan), 4th (Weise)
St. Louis (Pleau): 1st (Pietrangelo), 2nd (Allen)
Nashville (Poile): 1st (C. Wilson), 2nd (Josi)
Arizona/Phoenix (Maloney): 1st (Bodker), 3rd (Mi. Stone)
Buffalo (Regier): 1st (Myers), 1st (Ennis)
Anaheim (Burke/Bo.Murray): 1st (Gardiner), 2nd (J. Schultz)
Washington (McPhee): 1st (J. Carlson), 4th (Holtby)
Columbus (Howson): 5th (Calvert), 6th (Atkinson)
San Jose (Wilson): 6th (Wingels), 7th (Demers)
Tampa Bay (Feaster): 1st (Stamkos)
Los Angeles (Lombardi): 1st (Doughty)
Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell): 1st (Bogosian)
Toronto (Ferguson/Burke): 1st (L. Schenn)
Philadelphia (Holmgren): 1st (Sbisa)
Edmonton (Lowe): 1st (Eberle)
Florida (Martin): 2nd (Markstrom)
Minnesota (Risebrough): 2nd (Scandella)
New Jersey (Lamoriello): 3rd (Henrique)
Calgary (Sutter): 4th (Brodie)
Detroit (Holland): 4th (Nyquist)
Fails (8): Vancouver (Nonis/Gillis), Chicago (Pulford), Dallas (Armstrong/Hull-Jackson), Boston (Chiarelli), Colorado (Giguere), Carolina (Rutherford), Montreal (Gainey), Pittsburgh (Shero)

2009 (here; the Tavares draft)
First Round
17 players have hit the threshold (including 8 of the top-10); one never played
Second Round
9 have (including #46 Robin Lehner); 8 players never made it
Third Round
5 players hit the mark; 13 prospects never made it
Fourth Round
7 reach the threshold; 12 players never suited up
Fifth Round
4 players hit the mark; 19 players never suited up
Sixth Round
2 (including #161 Darcy Kuemper); 16 players didn’t make it
Seventh Round
2 hit the mark; 24 never played

Success by team:
Islanders (Snow): 1st (Tavares), 1st (de Haan), 4th (Cizikas), 6th (A. Lee)
Los Angeles (Lombardi): 1st (B. Schenn), 2nd (Clifford), 3rd (Deslauriers), 7th (Dowd)
Nashville (Poile): 1st (Ellis), 4th (C. Smith), 4th (Ekholm), 5th (Bourque)
Colorado (Giguere/Sherman): 1st (Duchene), 2nd (O’Reilly), 3rd (Barrie)
Buffalo (Regier): 1st (Kassian), 3rd (McNabb), 4th (M. Foligno)
Minnesota (Risebrough): 1st (Leddy), 6th (Kuemper), 7th (Haula)
Washington (McPhee): 1st (M. Johansson), 2nd (Orlov), 3rd (Eakin)
Ottawa (Br.Murray): 2nd (Silfverberg), 2nd (Lehner), 5th (Hoffman)
Tampa Bay (Lawton): 1st (Hedman), 2nd (Panik)
Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell): 1st (E. Kane), 4th (Chiarot)
Arizona/Phoenix (Maloney): 1st (Ekman Larsson)
Columbus (Howson): 1st (J. Moore), 4th (D. Savard)
Anaheim (Bo.Murray): 1st (Palmieri), 4th (Vatanen)
Dallas (Hull-Jackson/Nieuwendyk): 2nd (Chiasson), 3rd (R. Smith)
Detroit (Holland): 2nd (Tatar), 5th (Jensen)
Toronto (Burke): 1st (Kadri)
Edmonton (Tambellini): 1st (Paajarvi)
Florida (Martin/Sexton): 1st (Kulikov)
Rangers (Sather): 1st (Kreider)
Carolina (Rutherford): 2nd (Dumoulin)
Chicago (Pulford): 5th (Kruger)
Fails (8): New Jersey (Lamoriello), Pittsburgh (Shero), Vancouver (Gillis), Boston (Chiarelli), St. Louis (Pleau), Calgary (Sutter), Montreal (Gainey), San Jose (Wilson), and Philadelphia (Holmgren)

2010 (here; the T. Hall draft)
First Round
21 players hit the threshold (including 9 of the top-10); every pick played at least one game
Second Round
9 players (I’m including #31 Tyler Pitlick, who will hit it next season, and Devante Smith-Pelly, who won’t get passed 395, but I think should count); 5 never played
Third Round
3 players; 18 never played
Fourth Round
1 player; 14 never played
Fifth Round
3 players; 16 never played
Sixth Round
2 players; 22 never played
Seventh Round
1 player; 25 never played

Success by team:
Florida (Sexton/Tallon): 1st (Gudbranson), 1st (Bjugstad), 4th (Donskoi), 5th (Hyman)
Carolina (Rutherford): 1st (Skinner), 2nd (Faulk), 7th (F. Andersen)
Minnesota (Fletcher): 1st (M. Granlund), 2nd (J. Larsson), 2nd (Zucker)
Edmonton (Tambellini): 1st (T. Hall), 2nd (Pitlick)
Islanders (Snow): 1st (Niederreiter), 1st (Nelson)
Tampa Bay (Lawton/Kurvers/Yzerman): 1st (B. Connolly), 3rd (Gudas)
Anaheim (Bo. Murray): 1st (Fowler), 2nd (Smith-Pelly)
St. Louis (Pleau): 1st (Schwartz), 1st (Tarasenko)
Los Angeles (Lombardi): 1st (Forbort), 2nd (Toffoli)
Detroit (Holland): 1st (Sheahan), 2nd (Jarnkrok)
Chicago (Bowman): 1st (Hayes), 3rd (Nordstrom)
Dallas (Nieuwendyk): 2nd (Nemeth) 5th (Klingberg)
Boston (Chiarelli): 1st (Seguin)
Columbus (Howson): 1st (R. Johansen)
Atlanta/Winnipeg (Waddell/Dudley): 1st (Burmistrov)
Nashville (Poile): 1st (Watson)
Buffalo (Regier): 1st (Pysyk)
Washington (McPhee): 1st (Kuznetsov)
San Jose (Wilson): 1st (Coyle)
New Jersey (Lamoriello): 2nd (Merrill)
Pittsburgh (Shero): 3rd (Rust)
Montreal (Gainey/Gauthier): 5th (Gallagher)
Rangers (Sather): 6th (Fast)
Ottawa (Br. Murray): 6th (Ma. Stone)
Fails: Phoenix/Arizona (Maloney), Colorado (Sherman), Philadelphia (Holmgren), Calgary (Sutter), Vancouver (Gillis), and Toronto (Burke)

Round-by-round success rate (with year-by-year in brackets):
First: 14/9, 18/8, 18/8, 16/8, 17/8, 21/9; average 17.33/8.33
Second: 7, 6, 3, 7, 9, 9; avg 6.83
Third: 5, 3, 4, 3, 5, 3; avg 3.83
Fourth: 7, 2, 2, 5, 7, 1; avg 4.0
Fifth: 3, 0, 2, 3, 4, 3; avg 2.5
Sixth: 0, 4, 4, 3, 2, 2; avg 2.5
Seventh: 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1; avg 1.5
Total: 38, 34, 35, 38, 46, 40; avg 38.5

Looking at trends in 2011 (keeping in mind the numbers aren’t completely set), all 10 top-ten picks hit the standard (20 overall in the first); 10 in the 2nd; 4 in the 3rd; 3 in the 4th; 2 in the 5th; 2 in the 6th; and 2 in the 7th. This means there are signs of scouting improving over this period–accuracy of picks declines through the rounds (as opposed to the erratic numbers of a solitary year), albeit the odds of finding an NHL player in the 5th-7th rounds are extremely small. It’s also worth pointing out that almost two-thirds of players (63%) are to be found in the first two rounds (conversely, there still are players who slip through the cracks into the later rounds).

Team Performance (this is quantitative, not qualitative)
St. Louis (Pleaux6): 3, 2, 3, 2, 0, 2=12
Columbus (MacLeanx2; MacLean/Howson; Howsonx3): 3, 3, 1, 2, 2, 1=12
Los Angeles (Taylor; Taylor/Lombardi; Lombardix4): 2, 2, 3, 1, 4, 2=12
Islanders (Milbury; Milbury/Smith; Snowx4): 0, 2, 0, 4, 4, 2=12
Washington (McPheex6): 0, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1=10
Nashville (Poilex6): 2, 0, 1, 2, 4, 1=10
San Jose (Wilsonx6): 2, 1, 3, 2, 0, 1=9
Toronto (Fergusonx3; Ferguson/Burke; Burkex2): 2, 5, 1, 1, 0=9
Minnesota (Risebroughx5; Fletcher): 1, 1, 0, 1, 3, 3=9
Rangers (Satherx6): 2, 1, 1, 3, 1, 1=9
Detroit (Hollandx6): 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2=9
Buffalo (Regierx6): 2, 0, 1, 2, 3, 1=9
Ottawa (Mucklerx2; Muckler/Br. Murray; Br. Murrayx3): 0, 1, 0, 4, 3, 1=9
Edmonton (Lowex4; Tambellinix2): 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2=8
Florida (Keenanx2; Martinx2; Martin/Sexton; Sexton/Tallon): 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 4=8
Anaheim (Coates/Burke; Burke; Burke/Bo. Murray; Bo. Murrayx2): 1, 1, 0, 2, 2, 2=8
Dallas (Armstrongx3; Armstrong/Hull-Jackson; Hull-Jackson/Nieuwendyk; Nieuwendyk): 2, 0, 2, 0, 2, 2=8
Pittsburgh (Patrick; Patrick/Shero; Sherox4): 2, 1, 2, 0, 0, 1=6
Montreal (Gaineyx5, Gainey/Gauthier): 1, 0, 4, 0, 0, 1=6
Colorado (Lacroix; Lacroix/Giguere; Giguerex2; Giguere/Sherman; Sherman): 1, 1, 1, 0, 3, 0=6
Arizona/Phoenix (Barnett; Barnett/Maloney; Maloneyx4): 2, 0, 1, 2, 1, 0=6
Carolina (Rutherfordx6): 1, 0, 1, 0, 1, 3=6
Chicago (Tallon/Pulford; Pulfordx4; Bowman): 1, 1, 1, 0, 1, 2=6
Tampa Bay (Feasterx4; Lawton; Lawton/Kurvers/Yzerman): 0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 2=6
Philadelphia (Clarkex2; Holmgrenx4): 1, 1, 2, 1, 0, 0=5
Boston (O’Connell; O’Connell/Gorton/Chiarelli; Chiarellix4): 1, 3, 0, 0, 0, 1=5
Winnipeg/Atlanta (Waddellx5; Waddell/Dudley): 1, 1, 0, 1, 1, 1=5
Vancouver (Nonisx3; Nonis/Gillis; Gillis): 1, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0=2
New Jersey (Lamoriellox6): 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 1=2
Calgary (Sutterx6): 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0=2

In terms of ranges through the six drafts:
4 teams had 12 successes
2 teams had 10
7 teams had 9
4 teams had 8
7 teams had 6
3 teams had 5
3 teams had 2

The majority of teams (80%) managed to find at least one NHL player per draft, while the best teams (13%) were able to find two. Most (76%) were between those ranges, but with management changes it’s not always easy to pin down where organizational flaws or successes were (except for bottom feeders like Calgary and New Jersey). There’s also a prejudice against teams that had extra first-round picks since those are more likely to work out. This leaves plenty of room to assess GM’s independent of their teams (ten teams had the same management in place), but I think that warrants a separate discussion. All of this just scratches the surface, but it sheds some interesting light on the draft in the current era.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Sens News & Notes

Recently former Sens and current commentator Marc Methot commented (46:40, since the YTers don’t timestamp their podcast) that Artem Zub is a bottom-pairing player and the Sens will regret his contract extension. This is interesting, because just in December Methot called the signing ‘a steal’. In context, his comment seems based on his estimation of the kind of player Tyler Kleven will be (which would explain the abrupt about face, since the tiny sample of Kleven and Zub‘s injury-plagued year are paired in Methot’s head). It’s also highly amusing how fearful Methot is of analytics (see below). If you’re asking what separates the two players in Methot’s mind, given the context (the Sens content is largely about Brannstrom), it’s that Kleven is a more physical player–we all know how much Methot values the physical dimension (look at how a big, physical team like Calgary is dominating in the playoffs right now). What’s funny to me is how easily Methot flipped the switch on someone who was one of his favourite players, which he blames on this season (and given his Tweet, clearly very late in this season). As for my opinion, I do think Zub was overpaid for what he does, however I think it’s a less ridiculous contract than others Dorion has signed and it’s more easily moved if the Sens decide he doesn’t fit into their plans (since defensive defensemen are overvalued in the league).

Jiri Smejkal, LW/C, Nov/96, 6’4, SHL 49-23-20-43 0.87
I was surprised when the Sens signed Jiri Smejkal out of the SHL (1yr/950k), although perhaps I shouldn’t be since they did something similar with Olle Alsing in 2019. The Czech forward was 6th overall on Pronman’s list of FAs and 2nd out of Europe. An older player (26), it’s uncommon for an NHL talent to be found at that age, but it does happen. Smejkal bounced around early in his pro career, but found his footing in Finland and was able to translate that production into the SHL this past season. He’s not an unknown quantity, as he spent two years in the WHL (2014-16) playing for Moose Jaw and Kamloops. According to Pronman he’s a: “Big, powerful winger with good skills who can help on both special teams. His skating is just OK and whether he will score in North America is a question.” The Sens have never been shy about poor skating, although watching the speed in the playoffs you have to wonder how much that approach will hurt them. More importantly, let’s try to unpack his successful seasons:

20-21 Liiga (Tappara) 48-9-17-26 0.54 6th
The 6th most productive forward on a team, but the most productive import (ahead of Charles Bertrand); former Sens prospect Ben Blood (4-120/07) was on the roster, which is funny to see
21-22 Liiga (Pelicans) 44-25-20-45 1.02 2nd
Played on the top line lead by former Vancouver prospect Lukas Jasek (6-174/15) and there’s a further connection as Jasek has signed with Oskarshamn for next season; as a prospect in the AHL Jasek was unremarkable save his last (half) season in his fourth year (he never played in the NHL)
22-23 SHL (Oskarshamn) 49-23-20-43 0.87 3rd
Finished well behind the team’s top two players, Patrik Karlkvist and Antti Suomela (the latter spent time in San Jose and Toronto’s organizations, playing 51 games for the Sharks with middling AHL numbers), but he was able to remain productive despite a step-up in competition

What can we expect from Smejkal? He’s on a two-way contract and there’s a good chance he spends most of his time in Belleville. His offensive output in European leagues is solid, but not spectacular. He should be productive in the AHL, but his NHL window is as a depth forward. While he’s big I’m not expecting him to crash and bang, but that’s not what’s required. I think he’s a reasonable gamble for the Sens to make, even though they are loaded on the left side. If we want to go into conspiracy theories, perhaps the Sens grabbed Smejkal in order to trade some of their prospects on that side–time will tell.

Back to Methot: I haven’t seen him in quite some time (he left Coming in Hot in the fall, which is the only hockey show I sometimes watch) and I was amused to see how much he complained about people arguing with him on social media about his opinions. The problem for Methot is that his arguments are based on feelings–he’s not a numbers guy–so it’s a bit like religion. If the world was made in six days and you don’t think evidence for that to be true is required, it’s going to get really annoying when people keep asking you about all those fossils lying around. I think Methot is a fun guy to hear from, but like a lot of ex-players he struggles to understand that just playing the game does not make your opinions bulletproof (nor is it a get-out-of-jail-free card in arguments). I think he’d be a a better commentator if he became comfortable with analytics and learned how to incorporate that into what he experienced and sees. Just a thought.

This article was written by Peter Levi

Sens Prospects Turning Pro Next Season

As an adjunct to my BSens review (as well as future speculation about Ottawa’s roster), let’s take a look at Sens prospects who will or could be turning pro for the 2023-24 season. Those below in green are signed to an ELC.

Jorian Donovan has to go back to junior (his only other option is playing in the NHL)
Luke Loheit (CR, 7-194/18, via the Mika Zibanejad trade) won’t be signed
–Jonny Tychonick (LD, 2-48/18, a pick acquired as part of a pick-swap to get JBD) won’t be signed (he turned pro with Toronto’s ECHL affiliate; technically the Sens hold his rights until August 15th)
-Jakov Novak (C/LW, 7-188/18) signed with the Allen Americans, who are Ottawa’s ECHL affiliate, so in theory he could get a PTO or AHL-contract from the BSens
Leevi Merilainen (G, 3-71/20, pick acquired in the Dylan DeMelo trade) will be playing in Belleville.

We also need to keep in mind what we know about Belleville’s roster next season. Given the nature of the AHL, many spots are up for grabs and prospects can graduate to the NHL, but here’s how things stand right now (those with a decent chance to be on Ottawa’s roster are in italics):
Goaltenders (2): Merilainen, Sogaard
Defense (3): Thomson (R), Guenette (R), Heatherington (L)
Forwards (5): Jarventie (LW), Greig (C/LW), Crookshank (LW), Daoust (LW), Reinhardt (LW)
Goaltenders (2): Mandolese, Ferguson
Defense (3): Bernard-Docker (R), Aspirot (L), Larsson (L)
RFA (2): Lodin (C/LW), Sokolov (RW)
This means there’s plenty of room at forward, especially on the right side and at center, while the same applies to defense on the left side.

Pro Candidates

Stephen Halliday (Jul/02) CL, (4-104/22), NCAA 40-9-32-41
The only prospect the Sens don’t have to sign who could be signed (given his season); I don’t think it’s likely (memories of Louie Caporusso loom–still playing in the ECHL after years in Europe), but no one else for whom a decision must be made is anywhere near turning pro.

Ben Roger (Nov/22) RD, 2-49/21, OHL 49-2-11-13
Selected after a pick-swap with St. Louis; he signed an ATO with the BSens towards the end of the season, but never dressed (unlike Donovan). Despite his early selection (2nd-round), he was picked on hope–that puck skills would evolve–but that’s almost never the case (unlike defensive play or skating). I’m not sure what the Sens will do with him–the numbers don’t support signing an ELC, but they clearly like the package he represents.

Tyler Boucher (Jan/03) RW, 1-10/21, OHL 21-10-7-17
Since he was drafted he’s struggled, but barring a trade he’ll be trying to justify his draft position in Belleville. There’s a lot to criticize about the pick, someone whosenot going to score that much, though, due to a lack of offensive IQ and NHL speed, but he could be a “hard to play against” bottom-six winger who plays every day.” He’s also struggled to stay healthy (often the case with rugged players), with just 89 games over the last three years.

Carson Latimer (Jan/03) RW, 4-123/21, WHL 53-14-26-40
The pick acquired as part of a pick-swap with Carolina; his claim to fame was speed, but his junior numbers never really evolved so I suspect he’s not in the org’s future plans.

Zach Ostapchuk (May/03) CL, 2-39/21, WHL 55-31-36-67
A pick via the Karlsson trade; not a top-line player, but projects as a third or fourth-liner who will get plenty of ice time in Belleville. The latest sentiment: “I don’t think he’s going to be the most natural scorer as a pro who makes a ton of plays, but he has some offense. I think he’s for sure a bottom-six winger, with a chance at more if his offense is more consistent.” Keep in mind that Corey Pronman generally thinks no one will score much at the NHL-level, but in this case I think his assessment is fair.

Chandler Romeo (Jul/03) LD, 7-202/21, OHL 54-9-8-17
Picked because of his size and fitness, but just like Roger above, the puck skills are modest. He is a big blueliner, so there’s a chance the org will give him a shot (perhaps on an AHL-contract).

Tomas Hamara (Mar/04) LD, 3-87/22, OHL 56-2-15-17
Pick acquired in the Mike Reilly trade; because he was drafted from Europe, he could turn pro, but given his lackluster season in the OHL I think the Sens will let him play another year before doing so. He seems like a carbon copy of JBD. “As a 6-foot defenseman who doesn’t excel at either end it’s unclear what his NHL role would be, but he has a good enough toolkit to be a third-pair defenseman.” I have no idea why the Sens were so eager to sign him, but maybe this was an off year for the Czech defender.

What I think we’ll get is Boucher and Ostapchuk in Belleville; possibly Novak on an AHL-deal, with an outside chance of Romeo or Roger getting something similar.

This article was written by Peter Levi