Pierre Dorion’s Trade Track Record

pierre dorion

Despite having worn the GM-mantle for less than three years, Dorion has amassed a long list of trades. Given that his biggest deal is fresh in everyone’s memory, I think it’s worth diving into his history, even if the ultimate result of several deals remain up in the air.

Generally speaking the ‘winner’ of a trade is the team that gets the best player, but context does matter so it’s not always that simple (a playoff rental, for example, even if he is best player, may not ultimately return the most value). For each trade I’ve gone through why I think the trade was either won or lost and for visual clarity I’ve colour-coded those thoughts (green are wins, red are fails, equal value have no colour, and italics represent those which remain undetermined):

Dance Partners (18 trades)
Calgary (Brian Burke) x 3
San Jose (Doug Wilson) x 3
New Jersey (Ray Shero) x 2
Pittsburgh (Jim Rutherford) x 2
New York Rangers (Jeff Gorton) x 1
Los Angeles (Rob Blake) x 1
Vancouver (Jim Benning) x 1
Carolina (Don Waddell) x 1
Colorado (Joe Sakic) x 1
Chicago (Stan Bowman) x 1
Columbus (Jarmo Kekalainen) x 1
Minnesota (Paul Fenton) x 1

2016 (4)
1st (Michael McLeod) & 3rd (Joey Anderson) picks for 1st (Logan Brown) from New Jersey
The Devils picked McLeod slightly ahead of projections and Anderson after them; the Sens landed Brown slightly after projections
Alex Chiasson for Patrick Sieloff (Calgary)
Chiasson: 81-12-12-24 (playoffs 4-0-0-0) > Wsh
Sieloff: AHL 110-3-19-22, NHL 1-1-0-1
The Flames got a single middling season from Chiasson before he left to win a Cup with Washington (he’s now on a PTO with Edmonton); Sieloff has been an unremarkable blueliner at the AHL-level who is going into his third season with the org–while it’s spare part for spare part, the Flames got 80 more NHL games than Sieloff will ever get with Ottawa
Mika Zibanejad & 2nd (Jonatan Berggren) for Derick Brassard & 7th (Luke Loheit) from NYR
Zibanejad: 128-41-43-84 (playoffs 12-2-7-9)
Brassard: 139-32-45-77 (playoffs 19-4-7-11) > Pit
Mika is the better player and the Sens didn’t even get two full seasons from Brassard–his numbers aren’t even as good as Zibanejad’s in the playoffs; the pick wound up with Detroit (who picked Berggren slightly early); Loheit will almost certainly never be signed
5th (Jan Drozg) for Mike Condon (Pittsburgh)
Condon: 71-24-31-11 .908 2.81
I’m not a huge Condon fan, but he’s played a lot and Drozg wasn’t expected to be drafted; we still can’t truly start to judge it until the latter’s career is sorted out, but it’s a likely win

2017 (7)
Buddy Robinson, Zack Stortini, & 7th (Matthew Hellickson) for Tommy Wingels (San Jose)
Wingels: 36-2-2-4 (playoffs 9-0-0-0) > Chicago
Robinson: AHL 33-10-9-19 > Winnipeg
Stortini: AHL 26-1-0-1 > Carolina
Wingels was acquired for the playoffs where he accomplished nothing, but the pick was flipped to New Jersey and Robinson signed with the Winnipeg afterwards, so while I think it was a useless trade technically the Sens received more value
Future Considerations for Marc Hagel from Minnesota
Hagel: AHL 27-0-3-3 > Norway
Whatever the Wild got for Hagel–cup of coffee, slab of bacon, etc–is of equal value to Hagel bungling around Binghamton’s lineup for 27 games (he’s now playing in Denmark)
Jonathan Dahlen for Alex Burrows (Vancouver)
Burrows: 91-12-13-25 (playoffs 15-0-5-5) > buyout
This trade was always for the ‘now’ and after providing nothing in the Sens playoff run Burrows had to be bought out after he was re-signed–losing this deal is less about Dahlen’s projections and more about just how irrelevant Burrows was
3rd (Evan Barratt) for Viktor Stalberg (Carolina)
Stalberg: 18-2-2-4 (playoffs 17-0-2-2) > NLA
Trading for the playoff run Stalberg was generally useless; Barratt was taken early, so final evaluation hangs in the balance of him getting a cup of coffee in the NHL or not
Curtis Lazar & Mike Kostka for Jyrki Jokipakka & 2nd (Alex Formenton) from Calgary
Lazar: 69-3-12-15 (playoffs 1-0-0-0)
Kostka: AHL 15-2-10-12 > SHL
Jokipakka: 3-0-0-0 > KHL
Dumping Lazar and getting Formenton in the return is a win (Koskta’s partial season in the minors is a wash with Jokipakka essentially not dressing for the Sens)
Future Considerations for Brandon Gormley (New Jersey)
Much like Hagel above, the box of donuts exchanged for Gormley is equivalent value
Kyle Turris, Andrew Hammond, Shane Bowers, 1st (2019) & 3rd (Justus Annunen) for Matt Duchene (Colorado)
Turris: 65-13-29-42 (playoffs 13-0-3-3) <Nsh>
Hammond: 1-0-1-0 .939 2.07 (playoffs 3-1-1 .933 2.63) > Min
Duchene: 68-23-26-49
The Sens hugely overpaid for a player who is likely to leave the org with less than two full seasons in the books and zero playoff appearances; Annunen was taking just slightly later than expected, but the 1st-rounder could blow this out of the water

2018 (7)
Dion Phaneuf & Nate Thompson for Marian Gaborik & Nick Shore (Los Angeles)
Phaneuf: 26-3-7-10 (playoffs 4-0-1-1)
Thompson: 26-1-5-6 (playoffs 4-0-0-0)
Gaborik: 16-4-3-7 > LTIR
Shore: 6-0-1-1 > Cal
The Sens got a handful of games from both players while the Kings have an asset (of sorts) in Phaneuf
Chris DiDomenico for Ville Pokka from Chicago
DiDomenico: AHL 22-8-15-23 > NLA
Pokka: AHL 23-3-8-11 > KHL
While both players left for Europe at the end of the year, DiDomenico had a much larger impact in the minors (putting up great playoff numbers for Rockford)
Derick Brassard, Vincent Dunn, & 3rd (Jesper Eliasson) for Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson, 1st (Jacob Bernard-Docker), & 3rd (2019) from Pittsburgh
Brassard: 14-3-5-8 (playoffs 12-1-3-4)
Dunn: <loaned back to ECHL Brampton>
Gustavsson: 2-4-0 .912 3.01
Detroit got the pick (Eliasson wasn’t highly regarded), Cole was flipped (see below), so it’s going to boil down to Brassard, Bernard-Docker, and the 3rd
Nick Shore for 7th (2019) from Calgary
Shore: 9-1-2-3 > FA
It’s 9 games of Shore for the Flames versus whomever the Sens draft (the odds favour Calgary, but one never knows)
Ian Cole for Nick Moutrey & 3rd (2020) from Columbus
Cole: 20-2-5-7 (playoffs 6-0-3-3) > Colorado
Moutrey: AHL 16-2-3-5
Cole played 20 games for the Blue Jackets and Moutrey was allowed to walk after doing nothing in the minors, so it comes down to the pick (this favours Columbus)
Mike Hoffman, Cody Donaghey, & 5th (2020) for Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman, & 6th (2020) from San Jose
Because Hoffman was immediately flipped to Florida for picks tracking this trade gets messy, but there’s no question the best player involved is Hoffman and there’s no one remotely comparable in the return
Erik Karlsson & Francis Perron for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, 1st (2020), & 2nd (2019) + two conditional picks from San Jose
Unless the 1st-round pick they get from the Sharks turns out to be the first overall there’s no chance they even close to a match in return

Dorion’s Win/Loss/Even (Undetermined) Record (18): 2-8-3 (5)

It’s clear from the above that this is not a man who makes smart trades–you might quibble with one or two of the above, but the general picture is a man who can’t deliver the goods when the stakes are high. What’s truly scary is the trades have been getting worse over time. I’ve long complained that the Sens pro scouting is terrible and these scenarios are evidence of that.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris Profiles

Analysis

It’s a crazy time of year to write about the Sens (there’s so much material so I’m very behind on my MCU stuff). Beyond what follows I have a much delayed post about the Sens ECHL affiliate in Brampton (now no longer shared with Montreal), an article looking at Dorion’s trade history, and another post filled with general bits of news mostly about the rebuild (additional material from my initial post about the subject). This, however, is a look at the org’s newest prospects.

Ary posted a breakdown of newly acquired Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris (my own Coles Notes version was out a week ago). Ary’s article is an excellent read, although he admits he’s leaned towards the positive with Norris because he didn’t want the player facing fan wrath and he’s certainly received more negative press than Balcers (for pretty obvious reasons)–Varada has mentioned toxic fans, but we clearly go to different places for Sens opinions as most of what I see/hear are org apologists (I’ve seen nothing toxic, frankly). What new information has Ary brought to light in his article and how has it impacted my opinion?

Rudolfs Balcers

In my original article I simply summarized the scouting material on-hand (prior to the draft and afterwards); Ary quotes some of that, including one opinion from a scout I hadn’t seen before. Beyond that he provides some statistical data (beyond just the obvious numbers). He spends a lot of time on Emmanuel Perry’s NHLe numbers and given that I have little familiarity with that I can’t make much comment on it (other than saying translating minor league or junior production to pro is extremely difficult).

The aforementioned scouting report (written in June, 2016, the year after he was drafted) praises a few things: speed, shot, elusiveness; suggesting his primary need is strength. I didn’t specifically quote the Hockey Prospects appraisal from 2015, so let’s see how it compares:

In both competitions [IIHF U18 and U20] he was able to display his talent, and against his peers in Switzerland he was still dangerous offensively while facing the top nations in the World. Rudolfs is an impressive skater, possesses deceptive speed and he is able to hit another gear apparently without further effort. His skills and skating allow him to get into good shooting positions and his wrist shot is legit. However, too often he doesn’t look determined enough to take his chances as soon as they come up. He looks weak physically and not overly competitive, getting softer as the game gets tougher, even if in April he did show some improvement in that area. He is a prospect that will need a long development path, but given his talent level he might be worth the wait.

It’s clear the only exposure HP had to him were the three international tournaments referenced above (no one is paying scouts to watch games in Norway), but the talent profile is exactly the same. His unusual route to the draft, btw, echoes Alexandre Texier’s from 2017 (playing in the French men’s league but noticed via international tournaments).

What about opinions post-2016? Blogger favourite Corey Pronman wrote about Balcers as part of his San Jose prospect profile on August 15th (prior to the trade) and said the following:

Balcers had a great first pro season, as the best player for the Barracuda, and had a decent World Championships with Latvia. Balcers is a skilled forward, but what stands out the most to me is his hockey sense. He has great vision and overall offensive instincts. He can play at a pro pace and show the intellect to make plays at both ends of the rink. He’s not a big forward and only an average skater, but he makes defensive plays due to his work ethic and hockey IQ. I have some skepticism on his overall upside when I pick apart his skill set, but he keeps producing at a high level.

Pronman then revisited the profile in the wake of the trade:

All he’s done is produce, though, at various levels and events. … Scouts love his skill and IQ, and while they acknowledge he’s not a very fast skater for his size, I’ve heard the term “darting” and “shifty” used more than once in describing how he gets around the ice. I think he plays and he could play soon in the NHL. He’s got talent and is versatile. His biggest backers in the scouting community think he can be a top-six forward. I’m more of the top-nine area right now with the caveat that he’s had some impressive moments in the past year that have made me reconsider. I’d just like to see a tad more speed in his game to get him to that range.

Clearly (like most scouts) Pronman’s only exposure to him in his draft year and the subsequent season was via international tournaments. Once Balcers made the jump to the CHL it became much easier for scouts to see him. One of the things that’s changed is the opinion about his speed: it’s gone from blazing to just average–with agility emphasized. The love of his shot continues unabated. The comment about his work ethic is new and refutes HP’s 2015 opinion (or, to be generous, illustrates a change).

I don’t think Pronman is wrong about his speed and that is of some concern. As long as he has the hands as advertised and is elusive, however, his NHL-potential remains. Pronman plays it safe projecting him as a top-nine forward, but certainly the top-six remains a possibility.

Josh Norris

I’m not that keen on Norris, as was undoubtedly clear in my summary about him, so what new insights do we have via Ary? Let’s first go to a comparison Ary doesn’t make that occurred to me after posting my initial thoughts: he and Johnny Gruden‘s remarkably similar numbers at the same stage of their development:

Norris (16-17): USDP 61-27-34-61/USNTDP 25-12-14-26
Gruden (17-18): USDP 61-28-32-60/USNTDP 25-15-19-34

I projected Gruden to be a marginal pro, but like Norris there are positive underlying numbers despite the underwhelming projections (the underpinning for Norris is the theory of reliance–betweenness–attempting (via numbers) to ascertain how dependent players are on their teammates (the metric being used seems a little simplistic to me, but it is interesting). There is, of course, a much higher ceiling provided for the first-round pick, so why is that? Reading the scouting reports I think its easy to figure out:

Steve Kourniasos (via Ary):

plays physical, is matched up against top players … plays a heavy game and uses his size and determination to win puck battles … Playing in traffic isn’t a problem for Norris … A talented, mature leader with an NHL-ready build

RLR:

Big center is a rugged banger who can do a little of everything … Goes hard to the net both with and without the puck. … Strong physical force who is also good on faceoffs and responsible defensively – strong on the backcheck and kills penalties. High character, you win with guys like him

International Scouting Service (ISS):

Very competitive, he is willing to play in traffic and to battle for possession … [Bryan Smolinksi] uses [his] body well with a little nastiness

Future Considerations:

He is strong on puck and works like a mule … tough to deal with along the boards and effective in the cycle game. … has the ability to throw a hit to create turnovers … his two-way game at a premium position should make him a nice compliment to a team’s bottom-six.

Hockey Prospects:

shows good compete and grit to his game when needed … plays physical … [NHL scout] I like that he makes himself a bit of a pain in the ass to play against
sometimes.

And what about Pronman in the here & now?

[First link] has good athletic traits

[Second link] [how] great an athlete he is and how coaches trust him in all the tough situations

The theme is: he plays a hard, safe game. This is pure adrenaline for the org who, especially since Trent Mann took over their amateur scouting, is the poster child for safe picks (indeed, an anonymous NHL scout quoted by HP literally calls Norris ‘a safe pick’ and Dorion himself has just mentioned a preference for safe picks). Norris has, in short, the sort of ‘truculence’ Brian Burke used to yammer about. This isn’t to say he’s a one-dimensional prospect, as Ary thoroughly explores his offensive skills, but concerns remain:

HP:

There is a lot to like in his game yet not a pure goal scorer with immense creativity and high-end skill [NHL scout] his big issue is consistency

FC

He has a good shot but has to do a better job of finding an open lane before attempting a shot, as it gets blocked a lot leading to the puck clearing the zone … He doesn’t have high-end offensive potential

ISS

3rd line center with offensive upside … [Dennis MacInnis] Not a lot of flash to his game

RLR

Doesn’t have the slick moves and puckhandling wiggle to beat defenders off the rush

Pronman

First link: has skill, but I wouldn’t call it high-end. There are stretches where he can fade into the background offensively … doesn’t have a ton of pace to his game

Second link: they [scouts who like Norris] also acknowledge his skills aren’t standout and he needs work. .. The more pessimistic scouts just don’t buy him having enough offense and projects out as a third-liner — tops. I tend to fall in the latter camp

Summarizing: he may lack talent–there are concerns that he doesn’t have the puck skills to provide more than third-line output, and you don’t need to trade (or draft) for that (especially when you have arguably a more talented player with the same profile in Colin White). Its clear one of the major motivations for San Jose in taking him so early (I had him ranked 43rd for the draft) was because of how good he was at the combine. This is a terrible way to assess a player and clearly San Jose had no problem jettisoning him as part of the deal–the Sharks have been very adept at finding third-line talent for free in Europe for years (Joonas Donskoi, Melker Karlsson, Marcus Sorensen, etc), so it’s not a talent threshold of concern.

The Revised Prospect List

With all that information available, where do I two slot into the Sens prospect pool? Balcers slides in after Chlapik at #4 in the middle-six category (while he had a better rookie season the latter has better draft pedigree), while Norris gets the #9 slot behind Alex Formenton in the top-nine category. The forward top-ten would be:
1. Logan Brown
2. Brady Tkachuk
3. Filip Chlapik
4. Rudolfs Balcers
5. Drake Batherson
6. Gabriel Gagne
7. Colin White
8. Alex Formenton
9. Josh Norris
10. Andrew Sturtz

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

The Rebuild

Image result for bring the hammer down

This is a long post folks, so strap in and enjoy.

I’ve been beating the drum for 2011 rebuild comparisons for quite some time (not because I predicted a rebuild, but because of the rhetoric I was hearing on TSN 1200); in that spirit the mighty Nichols has begun the colonoscopy of that comparison in his usual bold letters. The focus of his latest piece is much broader than that (I was looking at the prospects themselves–specifically the hype generated about them), but he rightly takes to task the ridiculous idea Gord Wilson was floating that the current prospect pool is comparable to that of the 1990s. Nichols succinctly dissects how quickly Melnyk and Bryan Murray gave up on a full rebuild to chase the dream of a Cup (or, more accurately, playoff gates for the cash-strapped owner). He hits the nail on the head when he says:

there is always going to be this nagging suspicion that the Senators will change course as quickly as it did following the Duchene trade and perhaps most importantly, there is also the question of why fans should trust the owner and front office that put this organization in this position to begin with.

Unfortunately, the path to contention isn’t simply a matter of which team accrues the most talent at the top of the draft. Organizations like Buffalo and Edmonton are illustrative of the problems that can be created by poor asset management. Teams can’t simply rely on early first round picks, there needs to be an emphasis on analytics, scouting, recognizing the signs of when it’s time to sell high on players (or walk away) and cap management. 

Preach brother, preach. I’m not sure if it’s ironic or sad that both Edmonton and Buffalo are/have been headed by former members of the Senators org (Peter Chiarelli, who left during the Muckler regime, and Tim Murray).

fail

Speaking of the rebuild process, I’ve mentioned I don’t believe the plan to rebuild goes back to February, but Dorion is sticking to the narrative, repeating that timeframe and saying the only indecision was which piece to move–deciding on Karlsson after contract negotiations weren’t progressing as hoped. Like Nichols, I don’t buy this story at all–the offer made to EK wasn’t at market value and as the Don himself reports:

He [Karlsson] believed, or was led to believe, that Eugene Melnyk was close to selling the team. He was told that his good friend, Daniel Alfredsson, would become the Senators’ president. And he was banking on being presented a contract offer to keep him in Ottawa colours for at least another eight years, followed by one more that would make him a Senator for life.

Nichols points out the org is attempting to place the blame on Karlsson rather than themselves (just as the org did with Daniel Alfredsson). I think Nichols is absolutely right that the intent in hiding the rebuilding plan was to protect the flagging season ticket base, since on the trade front being open about it would make much more sense.

Why do I believe the rebuild hadn’t been decided in February? The most obvious reason: you don’t trade for Matt Duchene in November and just give up on everything three months later (Dorion’s ego is much too big for that kind of cold rationalism). Beyond that, if that decision had been made then we would have seen more trades characteristic of that process–not just big names, but bit parts that have some appeal to contenders that are of no use to a rebuilding team. We already know how the org behaves in a rebuild because we saw it in 2011–moving out favourites like Chris KellyMike Fisher, etc–trading away popular character pieces. That’s not what Dorion did–he moved a couple of fat contracts (Phaneuf and Brassard) and spare parts. The moves were applying a new coat of paint rather than stripping down the engine for a rebuild. The other indicator that the decision hadn’t been made was that they made no moves either leading up to the draft or at the draft itself (save the Hoffman deal, which was forced by the public relations disaster). Given that, if I’m right, why are we getting a rebuild now?

The Melnykian dictum since his SEC issues forced him out of Biovail (2007) has been make the playoffs–fulfill that short-term need and don’t worry about the future. Eugene needs the money from playoff gates to prop up his other activities (Travis Yost doesn’t get enough credit for bringing his financial struggles into the public eye). This is part of the reason why the 2011 rebuild quickly turned into a soft reboot and that we’ve heard that sentiment any time the Sens have had a subpar season up until now (chatter about how quickly a team can turn things around–Todd White was spouting that off today, for instance). What’s changed?

Melnyk can’t afford the lineup he has that’s meant to generate playoff gates. The weight of the internal budget means that the org’s string of short-term fixes (Bobby Ryan in 2013, Derick Brassard in 2016, Duchene in November, etc) aren’t feasible anymore. They also can’t rely on a hometown discount or try and deflate Karlsson‘s price with surrogates in the media whining about his ‘deficiencies’–two Norris trophies and a broad consensus that he’s a generational talent meant he was about to get paid.

The above theory could still fit the February timeline, so what’s my objection to it? I think Melnyk (and probably Dorion) couldn’t accept that the team that nearly made it to the Cup final just a year ago wouldn’t make another deep run. While the rationalists among us understood how fluky that feat was, the org itself was happily drinking its own Koolaid. All that talk we heard in February about them trying to attach Ryan to a Karlsson trade wasn’t just hot air–it was a transparent attempt to free up the money required to re-sign the other stars who could drag Dorion’s collection of detritus (Tom Pyatt et al) back into the playoffs. The org was desperate to maintain the model of mediocrity they’ve repeated ever since they lost the 2007 Cup final. To be blunt, I think Dorion is lying about when the decision to trade EK was made–if he could have moved him in February along with Ryan he would have.

So what happened? The deadline proved no one would swallow the poison pill of Ryan‘s contract, but this wasn’t enough for a philosophical change. It took the Hoffman situation, with the usual unimpressive return, followed by an inability at the draft to get what they wanted for Karlsson. They were left looking down the barrel of a terrible roster with no easy/quick fix.

Dorion and Melnyk were in a no-win situation of their own devising. EK would be moved for a bag of magic beans (how do you let yourself get fleeced by the same guy twice?)–that was apparent long before the trade was made–leaving the org with very few tangible assets. One of the worst teams in the league was going to be much, much worse–there was no high end free agent to sign (internal budget), no first round pick (recklessly traded away), and the prospect cupboard lacked the star power to garner a good return (no Jonathan Dahlen or Shane Bowers or Jakob Silverberg etc). In essence the team painted itself into a corner such that they had no choice but to rebuild.

To summarize: the decision to move Karlsson was made no later than February, but the decision to rebuild didn’t firm up until after the draft in June. All their decisions make sense within that framework.

The Rebuild Comparison (2011 and 2018)

Image result for comparison 2011 2018

I’m going to be fairly reductive in this rather than comprehensive because I’m making a pretty basic point. To narrow it down I want to focus on the prospects at the time, following the criteria I outlined in my prospect rankings a couple of weeks ago (excluding players with 50+ NHL games, 4+ AHL seasons, and those on AHL-contracts). I think it would be fairly simple to point out the established pieces in place in 2011 (established NHLers) were a better group than those who exist now (EK, Alfie, and Spezza vs Stone/Duchene), but for a rebuild I think that’s less relevant which is why I’m looking at the prospects.

2011 Prospect Pool

2011 Draft  (all who have or will play 200+ games are highlighted; this still with the org are in blue)
Mika Zibanejad
Stefan Noesen
Matt Puempel
Shane Prince
Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Fredrik Claesson
Darren Kramer
Max McCormick
Jordan Fransoo
Ryan Dzingel

Others
Top-tier: Mark StoneJared Cowen, Jakob Silverberg, Robin LehnerMike HoffmanPatrick Wiercioch, Andre Petersson, Derek Grant, Jim O’Brien, Stephane Da Costa, Bobby Butler, David Rundblad, Nikita Filatov
Also-ran: Jakub Culek, Marcus Sorensen, Bryce Aneloski, Chris Wideman, Jeff Costello, Corey Cowick, Brad Peltz, Mike Sdao, Mark Borowiecki, Emil Sandin, Louie Caporusso, Ben Blood, Eric Gryba, Kaspars Daugavins, Erik Condra, Cody Bass, Colin Greening, Craig Schira, Pat Cannone, David Dziurzynski

The two-part division may seem arbitrary, but it’s based on thoughts at the time and a synergy of the conventional opinion (you can check out Corey PronmanHockey Futures (John Henkelman), McKeen’sThe Hockey News and Hockey Prospectus‘ lists from back in the day)–briefly:

CP
1. Rundblad
2. Zibanejad
3. Filatov
4. Da Costa
5. Cowen
6. Silfverberg
7. Wiercioch
Lehner (fourth-best goaltending prospect in the league)

THN
1. David Rundblad
2. Mika Zibanejad
3. Nikita Filatov
4. Jared Cowen
5. Robin Lehner
6. Jakob Silfverberg
7. Patrick Wiercioch
8. Stefan Noesen
9. Colin Greening
10. Matt Puempel

HF
1. David Rundblad
2. Jared Cowen
3. Mika Zibanejad
4. Robin Lehner
5. Jakob Silfverberg
6. Matt Puempel
7. Nikita Filatov
8. Bobby Butler
9. Patrick Wiercioch
10. Colin Greening

Hockey Prospectus
1) David Rundblad
2) Mika Zibanejad
3) Nikita Filatov
4) Stephane Da Costa
5) Jared Cowen
6) Jakob Silfverberg
7) Patrick Wiercioch
8) Derek Grant
9) Matt Puempel
10) Robin Lehner

We have the benefit of hindsight and can say players like Rundblad and Filatov were overvalued, but my point isn’t who did or didn’t turn out but the caliber of prospects the org had (as in their value as assets around the league). Guys like Rundblad and Cowen were thought of as top defensemen; Lehner was an elite goaltending prospect (he’d just won the Calder Cup as a teenager); players like ZibanejadSilfverberg, and Da Costa were projected as top-six forwards or better. When I went through the 2018 prospects there was no elite goaltender, no first-line forwards, and no top-pairing defensemen. Zero. That doesn’t mean no one will become that kind of player, but it does mean the prospect pool of today doesn’t measure up to the last rebuild (which itself doesn’t hold a candle to the early days of Ottawa in the 1990s, as Nichols goes over in his post).

My point isn’t to demean current prospects–there are a lot of players to like–but they are all complimentary players–guys who round out top-flight talent which the team largely lacks. My intention, frankly, is perspective. The absurd hype I’m hearing needs context–fans need to be realistic about what they have and where the org currently stands. Losing out on that first overall pick (likely this year) means there’s no elite relief in sight until the 2020 draft rolls around. That means it’s time to buckle up and prepare for the long haul of losing.

Public Relations

One of the funnier/sadder things about the org is how out of touch they are with the fanbase. There are a small number of hardcore folks who buy-in with the team no matter what, but by and large Melnyk and Dorion habitually put their foot in their mouths when attempting to discern the mood of the public.

Ruszkowski’s comments only serve to alienate [upset fans] and reinforce the idea that the front office is comprised of like-minded individuals who serve their boss for better or worse. (Mostly worse.)

I absolutely agree with this and it’s interesting to me that comments like this are so rarely heard anywhere else. It’s been clear for quite some time that the org is a poster child for confirmation bias and I have no idea what (if anything) can shake them from it. Dorion’s response to unhappy fans is to talk about parking improvements and concession prices, which is so tone deaf I’m at a loss to make a coherent response to it–how could either matter if those fans simply don’t show up? The org is in no position to turn its nose up at any part of the fanbase and advertising defense-first hockey doesn’t lend itself to an entertaining product. Melnyk has long assumed eroding attendance was due to performance, not him, and I doubt he’d allow any subordinate to suggest otherwise.

Summary and What to Do

I’m making four basic points:
1) The organization is being disingenuous (or, at worst, lying) about how we arrived at the rebuild
2) The org has demonstrated neither the patience, will, or understanding to conduct a proper rebuild
3) The org is clueless about its own fanbase
4) We begin the rebuild in much worse shape than the aborted 2011 rebuild

None of this comes as a surprise other than the decision to rebuild itself. I wasn’t sure Melnyk would ever allow it given his financial difficulties, but there really isn’t a choice now that they’ve traded away their only superstar.

So what, as fans, are we to do? My approach won’t change. I’m still a Sens fan, but I gave up on this incarnation of the org quite some time ago, which is one of the reasons most of my coverage is on prospects and the AHL team–I can enjoy them regardless of the Luddites in charge. In that respect I’m quite keen on Belleville’s upcoming season (depending, a little, on how many prospects are rammed into the NHL lineup). In respect to the NHL side of things: until there is change at the top it’s just not realistic to expect the nonsense to stop. Removing Pierre Dorion wouldn’t change things because Melnyk would simply hire someone just like him. Melnyk has to go before the Ottawa Senators can truly evolve and compete.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on the Karlsson Trade

Image result for chris evans laughing

So the trade we’ve long expected and dreaded has arrived and just like when the Sharks fleeced the Sens in the Mike Hoffman trade they’ve done it again. Doug Wilson doesn’t laugh very much, but adding Erik Karlsson must have put a smile on his face. We’d all accepted that the Sens were going to lose the trade–you can’t get proper return for a generational player–but the question remained if they were going to get burned as badly as Bryan Murray did in the Jason Spezza trade (for whom the Sens got nothing in return). I don’t think Dorion’s deal is as bad as that, but it’s not a good deal either (as The Athletic has just gone over in interviews with scouts/execs).

What did the Sens get for their best player (and Francis Perron)? Four bodies and some picks. No elite players–none with high upside–but two seemingly decent NHLers and a couple of okay prospects.

While the analytic breakdowns for both Chris Tierney (82-17-23-40) and Dylan DeMelo (63-0-20-20) haven’t come out yet (I figure Nichols or Yost will do it), we can take a quick look at them: Tierney has played 284 NHL games while the latter has logged 133–both have decent numbers for depth players and are young enough that there might be some upside, but they were easy for the Sharks to give up (for perspective: the former was behind Boedker in points-per-game, so not part of the top-six; the latter was fourth in blueline ppg’s).

So that’s two competent if unexciting NHLers, but what about the prospects? Again the Sharks did not give up the guys at the top of their prospect list. Instead we got the kind of prospects the Sens have in abundance–middle of the road players without elite potential:

Rudolfs Balcers 21 LW (5-142/15; 19-20) AHL 67-23-25-48 (0.71)
The Latvian was drafted out of a Norwegian league so only Hockey Prospects profiled him (no one ranked him)–HP liked his skill set but thought he was too soft and not competitive enough (a pretty generic criticism in scouting circles–Pronman shared this view until his numbers just didn’t go away). Kuddos to the Sharks for finding the guy as, if nothing else, he can play at the AHL level (leading the hapless Barracudas in scoring in his rookie season–none of his teammates were even close to his production).
No one made projections for Balcers when he was drafted, but he’s produced offensively in every league he’s played in and his tally would have lead the BSens last year–if nothing else he will help Belleville’s anemic offense and there’s always the hope those puck skills can translate at the next level. [In the aftermath of the trade Pronman projected him as a top-nine forward.]

Josh Norris 19 CL (1-19/17) NCAA 37-8-15-23 (0.62)
Every scouting resource I saw projected him as a third-line checking center with good character and offensive limitations (a taller Colin White, at least by description). Why San Jose used a first-round pick for that, I have no idea, but losing him doesn’t cost them anything. There should be no rush by the Sens to get him out of the NCAA environment.

The picks: the Sens will get a late 2019 or 2020 first-rounder (almost certainly the latter because the former is conditionally owed to the Sabers if the Sharks make the playoffs), a late 2019 second-rounder [this is actually the better of San Jose or Florida’s picks, so might be decent], and there are two conditional picks (which even if triggered will be late in whatever round they’re in). While it’s possible to turn the two guaranteed picks into good NHLers, the Sens have not had great luck with their top-picks, so while the picks are better than nothing there’s no chance of a Karlsson replacement (or near-replacement) from them.

In the end the trade comes across as a salary dump–a victim of the internal, Melnykian budget, and it’s a move that the Sens are going to have a very difficult time recovering from for years ahead. In the short term the move might actually help the BSens as the two players who came back means one less prospect will be shoved into the NHL lineup and Balcers adds a genuine offensive threat. Glass half full, right?

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ottawa Senators Rebuild: Part Deux

Image result for hot shots part deux

[About an hour after I posted this the Karlsson trade went down–revisions in progress!]

Dylan DeMelo 25 DR (6-179/11; 19-20) 63-0-20-20
Rudolfs Balcers 21 LW (5-142/15; 19-20) AHL 67-23-25-48
After the hilarious late night Twitter message from Eugene Melynk declaring a rebuild to the player who has taken the most headshots on the roster, fans were alerted to the Second Coming of a Melnykian rebuild (something Pierre Dorion claims has been underway since February–a statement I simply don’t believe given how leaky the org is to the media–my guess is they made the decision as late as July). That this is Part Deux seems to have gone over the heads of most people (barring Nichols and a few others), with the only meaningful difference in the circumstances between now and 2011 being the perception fans have of the owner and the org: twinned incompetency.

Ian Mendes has offered information about the Sens rebuild that came via a Dorion presentation to select members of the media (I have to wonder if preparing this was what occupied Dorion all summer, as he’s been remarkably quiet in the off-season, or if it was an emergency reaction to how poorly the Twitter video was received).

The Lineup

Mendes says according to Dorion this is the projected lineup this season (sadly it’s not written out as a lineup, but it can be pieced together from his article) [I’ve left the original projections with the trade-revisions below it in bold]:

Dzingel-Duchene-White (Batherson)
(Tkachuk)-Pageau-Stone
Ryan-Stone-Boedker
McCormick-Brown (Chlapik)-Pyatt
No mentioned: Paajarvi
LTIR: Gaborik and MacArthur

Chabot-Karlsson
Wolanin (Harpur)-Ceci
Borowiecki-Wideman

Dzingel-Duchene-White
Tierney-Pageau-Stone

Ryan-Stone-Boedker
Paajarvi (Tkachuk)-Brown-Pyatt
Extra: McCormick

Chabot-Ceci
Wolanin (Harpur)-Wideman/DeMelo
Borowiecki-Wideman/DeMelo

What’s clear is that not everything is decided, but most of the high end prospects are penciled in for Ottawa (making sense of the overloaded roster in Belleville). When I wrote my roster speculation about the BSens a month ago I assumed Brown, Wolanin, and White would be in the NHL (I didn’t consider Tkachuk because he can’t play in the AHL, but I mentioned both he and Formenton as possibilities on Twitter). Chlapik was always a possibility, but I thought the roster glut would keep him out–the same for Batherson (who I don’t expect to be on the team for a full season). Putting that aside for a moment, where the hell is Paajarvi? Did Dorion forget him or did Mendes? Presumably he slots in on the fourth-line more than McCormick does (I’m thinking Max picks up the coffee for the boys in the morning).

How close to reality is the above? Barring a trade I think it’s pretty close (Travis Yost takes a look at how common a big roster turnover is).  Harpur will be a spare part on the defense, but otherwise it’s hard to imagine any other combinations (given the Karlsson rumours [ahem, Karlsson trade] we have to take it with a grain of salt–remove Karlsson from the top pairing and replace him with Ceci and we can pencil the Sens in for 31st in the league). As for the forwards, Boucher likes safe, defensively responsible players, so White will certainly be on the team, leaving no room for Batherson. Brown is more marketable than Chlapik (he’s a first-round pick), which means the latter will spend at least part of the year in Belleville. Tkachuk will get his nine games and then a decision will be made–the bar for him is low given that its a rebuild (not Brett Lindros low, we can hope).

Team Approach

Dorion made two other comments that are worth looking at–one completely in-line with expectations, the other not. The first:

Dorion also indicated the team needs to play with a defence-first philosophy — something that cost the team dearly last season. He added that head coach Guy Boucher would be changing his tactics on things like the power play and forechecking. In particular, Dorion said, the club would move away from a passive approach and deploy an “unrelenting” forecheck.

Boucher has always been a defence-first coach and Dorion (and the org) have always liked an aggressive forecheck, so while this indicates Boucher will move away from the 1-3-1 (the only style that’s ever given him success), the overall purview is right in line with what the org wants to do anyway (Boucher’s long term tenure on any team has always been poor: TB .628, .512, .435; Bern .690, .455; Ott .598, .409–clearly his approach cannot be sustained).

We will embrace the power of data and insights to measure our impact

I find this hard to believe. The org is notoriously dismissive of analytics (as is the Borocop) and their revolving door of analysts have had no discernible impact on decisions. Despite the avalanche of evidence that analytics can help the Sens, the org wants to see the game through the bifocalss of the fight-happy 70s & clutch-and-grab 90s/00s–eras that required fighters, toughness, size–a philosophy that impacts both their rhetoric and impacts their drafting tendencies. Until I see some evidence that analytics is behind a personnel decision, I’m just not going to believe it.

Image result for steve yzerman

This is a crazy thought, but when Steve Yzerman stepped down from the Tampa job, committing to remaining as an adviser until the end of the season, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’s thinking of a return home to Ottawa. It’s a pipe dream–he became a US citizen for his wife years ago and Ottawa ownership here is insane, but a guy can dream.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

Melnyk Boro

Christmas does come early sometimes and Eugene Melnyk offered us an early present with a delightfully awkward ‘promotional’ video featuring everyone’s favourite local boy/character guy/good-in-the-corners Sen Mark Borowiecki. For some fans this ridiculous spectacle might be the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of their perception of Melnyk/the org, while for myself it’s simply another in a long line of examples of his issues as an owner. Chris Stevenson (paywall) breaks it down and among the hilarity is this from Eugene:

I think this coming year, we’re going to have 10 out of the 22 players are going to be new, meaning they’re either rookies or they’ve played maybe under 10 games last year. Then the following year, it’s going to go up to about 15 of the 22, maybe 16.

Forgive me if I don’t recall, but when did Melnyk announce himself as GM? Since he’s making personnel decisions, his lackey (Pierre Dorion) must be working the phones hard to clear space for ten rookies. When I went over the potential BSen lineup like a sane person I was assuming only Colin WhiteLogan Brown and Christian Wolanin (among those with AHL-eligibility) would play regularly with the Sens and while it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine Brady Tkachuk and (possibly) even Alex Formenton on the team, arriving at ten rookies isn’t easy. Admittedly, I’m confident Melnyk made up both numbers on the spot (he wouldn’t be cap compliant with sixteen), and what does ‘either rookies or under ten games’ mean anyway–if they’ve played ten games they are still rookies. It’s the kind of stupid (audacious?) statement that routinely comes out of his mouth. He then added:

you are not going to win

That has to buoy ticket sales. I agree with him, incidentally (see below), but I’m not sure the Sens marketing folks are going to jump for joy at hearing that. Stevenson is correct, I believe, in translating Melnyk to mean he’s dumping his expensive players and going cheap for a rebuild (or sorts) while expressing it in the worst way possible. This isn’t a surprise and I’m glad it shatters any illusions the fanbase might have had that we were going to get a sensible way out of this clusterfuck. This does, btw, fit Steve Lloyd and Gord Wilson’s ebullient prospect praise as they fall in line with where the org is going. I suspect TSN 1200 is going to be pumping the tires of prospects as hard as they did in 2011 to provide some hope (for those interested in a perspective founded in the scouting material go here).

Funnily enough I actually approve of the idea of a rebuild in abstract, but it requires a better scouting apparatus, a better GM, and a better owner.

analysis

The Athletic‘s Dom Luszczyszyn previewed (paywall) the Sens and ripped them apart–great analysis that has no local bias impacting it. Dom projects them to finish the season with a meager 77 points (which is slightly higher than the other methodologies he references, providing a range of 71-77 points). He’s not a fan of org favourties Tom Pyatt, Max McCormick, Borowiecki, Ceci, or the goaltending (nor am I). It’s fully worth the read, although for those who’ve been paying attention I don’t think you’ll find his analysis or conclusions surprising.

Image result for final countdown

The Silver Seven completed its countdown of the top Sens prospects and I wanted to comment on it (you can see my list here). My intention is to both assess it and make suggestions for how it can be improved. As I’ve mentioned previously I wish prospect analysts would cite scouting reports and (where available) statistical data in their assessment, but The Silver Seven doesn’t have a universal approach–each writer does their own thing (I’m not a huge fan of the under-25 format either, since there’s a big difference in a known pro quantity like Cody Ceci and a college free agent like Andrew Sturtz). Some of the writers are more or less unfamiliar with players who haven’t appeared at the NHL level–this is understandable, but if that’s the case, why not divide the prospects up to suit the comfort level of the writer? Let’s briefly go the material:

  • Ary (Joel Daccord, Francis Perron, Markus Nurmi, Alex Formenton) – thoroughly researched and analyzed, hunting down information that isn’t easily accessible; they are among the best of the articles written for the series
  • Ross A (Parker Kelly, Ben Harpur, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Brady Tkachuk) – he’s inconsistent; a largely descriptive piece for Kelly rather than analytical (when I mentioned it would help to have included scouting material he subsequently added it); his Harpur piece is good, albeit none of the AHL or amateur scouting material is used; the JB-D article is solid, but more scouting material would help (multiple reports offer a clearer picture); the Tkachuk piece is well-rounded (although it includes notes from development camp which isn’t something I’d bother with)
  • Beata Elliott (Andreas Englund, Nick Paul, Thomas Chabot) – her Englund scouting link is actually an Ottawa Citizen article where Englund talks about himself (which isn’t that useful); she does better with Paul’s NHL-side, but the complete lack of amateur scouting material or AHL-elements means the content doesn’t add much to our picture of him; her Chabot material has neither scouting or analytics material whatsoever which is very disappointing (Beata’s comment that she doesn’t pay much attention to prospects makes me wonder why she’s writing about them)
  • Colin Cudmore (Jonathan Gruden, Jonathan Tychonick, Filip Chlapik) – he’s very thorough on Gruden with statistical data included; the Tychonick piece is also good, although I would have liked more than just one scouting report to work on (for a balanced picture); Chlapik’s is quite thorough (and includes the AHL data)
  • B_T (Cody Ceci, Colin White) – his Ceci piece is excellent and packed with analysis; the White post is strong on the limited NHL sample, but has nothing useful from his many games in the AHL (his comment that he doesn’t really follow prospects makes me question why he’s writing about them–and if you are, at least put the effort in to be thorough)
  • Spencer Blake (Maxime Lajoe, Gabriel Gagne, Logan Brown) – starts off as descriptive with Lajoie, but does use the AHL-material (amateur scouting would have been nice as well, but it’s not a crippling absence); his Gagne piece is only descriptive, which sadly means it adds very little (there’s no AHL material or amateur scouting material); conversely the Brown piece is very good, featuring very useful statistical analysis
  • NKB (Aaron Luchuk, Marcus Hogberg) – Luchuk is only descriptive with no scouting material; his Hogberg profile is better (I’m happy he linked my AHL stuff, but it would have been nice to see it used for analysis)
  • N_Dew (Christian Jaros, Drake Batherson, Filip Gustavsson, Chrisian Wolanin) – purely descriptive for Jaros & Batherson with the only insights via SensProspects about Development Camp (!)–there’s no scouting reports used for Wolanin (not even the SensProspects treatment); there’s a scouting report for Gustavsson (although as I’ve said earlier, you want multiple when you can get them), but not much else

The content of the list is wildly inconsistent–among absolute gems is useless fluff (descriptors with highlights). The latter approach would be fine if that was the aim, but the point of the list is assessing players to justify their place on it and as it is I don’t think it works. My suggestion to The Silver Seven is to provide guidance to the contributors and help them out with material–the scouting reports aren’t that hard to find (I have it all here, but Google is another good resource); the AHL material is harder to find (in many instances I’m the only source), but it is available. Statistical and/or comparative analysis would be wonderful as well (where it has been used it adds a great deal).

My favourite two profiles were on Nurmi (Ary) and Gruden (Colin); the worst were Wolanin, Jaros, and Batherson (all Dew) and Chabot (Beata), which are pretty big misses. I can’t fully compare their final list to my own because of our different methodologies, but we can put their rankings next to my own (for the ‘why’ of my list just follow the link):

Goaltenders
1. Filip Gustavsson – #8
2. Marcus Hogberg – #14
3. Kevin Mandolese – NR
4. Jordan Hollett – NR
5. Joel Daccord – #24

Defense
1. Jonny Tychonick – #12
2. Christian Wolanin – #6
3. Christian Jaros – #11
4. Jacob Bernard-Docker – #13
5. Maxime Lajoie – #17
6. Julius Bergman – NR
7. Andreas Englund – #23
8. Macoy Erkamps – NR

Forwards
1. Logan Brown – #2
2. Brady Tkachuk – #4
3. Filip Chlapik – #5
4. Drake Batherson – #9
5. Gabriel Gagne – #16
6. Colin White – #3
7. Alex Formenton – #10
8. Andrew Sturtz – NR
9. Aaron Luchuk – #15
10. Francis Perron – #21
11. Todd Burgess – NR
12. Markus Nurmi – #20
13. Parker Kelly – #25
14. Jakov Novak – NR
15. Nick Paul – #19
16. Adam Tambellini – NR
17. Johnny Gruden – #22
18. Angus Crookshank – NR
19. Filip Ahl – NR
20. Jack Rodewald – NR
21. Luke Loheit – NR

Due to my approach I don’t have Chabot (#1), Ceci (#7), or Harpur (#18) listed.

Free_Agent_logo_2

With training camps around the corner we can finally look at which free agent prospects were signed as well as how many were picked from my 2018 list of European free agents. It’s an auspicious year for me as 12 players from that list were signed, along with 5 from previous lists (2 from 2017, 1 from 2016, 1 from 2015, and 1 from 2012–Kovar, although the Islanders are getting him on the decline after he spent his best years in the KHL). This year see’s a decline in NCAA signings, once by far the largest pool of FA talent for NHL teams (last year it was 24 NCAA, 21 Europe, and 9 CHL). The pendulum has swung to Europe this year, which might be due to improved scouting. I’ve highlighted those from the 2018 list in bold and added italics for those from earlier lists:

Europe (35): Vincent Praplan (SJ), Niclas Westerholm (Nsh), Lukas Radil (SJ), Yannick Rathgeb (NYI), Miroslav Svoboda (Nsh–originally drafted by Edm), Dominik Kahun (Chi), Michael Lindqvist (NYR), Juuso Ikonen (Wsh), Ville Meskanen (NYR), Filip Pyrochta (Nsh), Maximilian Kammerer (Wsh), Carl Persson (Nsh – attended Ott’s development camp in 2018), Lawrence Pilut (Buf), Igor Ozhiganov (Tor), Par Lindholm (Tor), Joel Persson (Edm), Saku Maenalanen (Car–originally drafted by Nsh), Juuso Riikola (Pit), Yegor Yakovlev (NJ), Kevin Lankinen (Chi), Patrik Rybar (Det), Ilya Lyubushkin (Ari), Michal Moravcik (Mtl), David Sklenicka (Mtl), Jacob Nilsson (Chi), Bogdan Kiselevich (Flo), Antti Suomela (SJ), Marcus Hogstrom (Cal), Yasin Ehliz (Cal), Brooks Macek (LVK), Martin Bakos (Bos), Michael Fora (Car), Veini Vehvilainen (Clb; drafted rather than signed), Jan Kovar (NYI), Sergei Shumakov (Wsh)
NCAA (18): Zach Frye (SJ), Zach Whitecloud (VGK), Merrick Madsen (Ari–originally drafted by Phi), Cooper Marody (Edm–originally drafted by Phi), Cam Johnson (NJ), Mitch Reinke (Stl), Eric Robinson (Clb), Andrew Sturtz (Ott), Daniel Brickley (LA), Sheldon Rempal (LA), Josh Dickinson (Col), Tony Calderone (Dal), Karson Kuhlman (Bos), Andrew Oglevie (Buf), Jordan Gross (Ari), Ross Colton (TB), Joel L’Esperance (Dal), Logan O’Connor (Col)
CHL (8): Patrick Bajkov (Flo), Hayden Verbeek (Mtl), Tanner Jeannot (Nsh), Alexandre Alain (Mtl), Brad Morrison (LA–originally drafted by NYR), Aaron Luchuk (Ott), Skyler McKenzie (Win), Vladislav Kotkov (SJ)

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ranking the Sens Prospects

prospects

I don’t think I’ve ever formally made a prospect list before–I’ve commented on them, but never put out my own. The lists can generate some interesting discussion, although there rarely seems to be a strong framework for why player X is higher (or lower) than player Y (one would assume higher is better, but that’s often difficult to discern especially the lower you go on the list–it comes across as a mishmash of ‘best potential’ to ‘best right now’ or even ‘most likely to be signed’). I also think comparing across positions is problematic–is a starting goaltender better than a top forward? The question isn’t asked. I prefer an apples-to-apples approach, so for my purposes I’ll be looking at players by position and potential.

Projected potential isn’t comprehensively covered in these kinds of lists–to my mind the guy who tops out as a #6 blueliner should not place ahead of someone who might be top-four regardless of relative performance at the time. To determine that potential I’m using the scouting consensus (when available) and performance (stats), tweaked by my own observations when possible.

I’ve removed players who have 50+ games of NHL experience because at that point there’s access to much better statistical breakdowns, leaving less room for speculation; I’ve also cut out those with four or more AHL seasons (by which time they are no longer truly prospects). Given those parameters I won’t be discussing Thomas Chabot, Ben Harpur, Patrick Sieloff, Chase Balisy or Ben Sexton (you can find breakdowns via The Silver Seven or my own). I’ve also excluded players on AHL-contracts (Boston Leier, Ryan Scarfo, Joseph LaBate, and Jordan Murray–I’ve detailed them in various places previously–for example)–until they sign ELC’s they aren’t true prospects. Despite all these cuts it still leaves us with thirty-four players to look at and I will detail them all below.

Some general comments about scouting: while the prejudice against size is slowly eroding away, there’s an overabundant affection for physical play that colours perception: the weaknesses of physical players aren’t seen as debilitating as a lack of physicality is seen in skilled players (Tkachuk is an obvious example of this, but there are many more). This is why we see an avalanche of ‘character’ players drafted despite most bombing out as prospects. There’s an impression many scouts have that a player who hits people is providing something a player who scores is not. In addition to this, scouts continue to struggle to project goaltenders and this means much of their material is difficult to parse (Ary talks about that here).

The scouting material included below focuses on potential and flaws (generally speaking we’re aware of what each player is supposed to be). Acronyms: HP: Hockey Prospects, FC: Future Considerations, ISS: International Scouting Service, RLR: Red Line Report, CP: Corey Pronman (via his Athletic article from this summer [paywall])–I use CP selectively because some of his breakdowns don’t contain enough specifics to be useful.

A final note: there’s less to say about players who have just been drafted–there’s no new information to discuss so we’re completely dependent on scouting and their statistical output.

Goaltenders (5)

Potential Starter (4) [None project as elite starters]
1. Filip Gustavsson 2-55/16 Pit
2016-17 SHL .911 2.70 4-10-0 4-10-0
2017-18 SHL/AHL .918 2.07 9-11-0/.912 3.01 2-4-0
2018-19 AHL
Draft: HP thought he was the best ‘tender in a weak class, having good fundamentals, but they had some concern over his rebound control; FC saw his potential as an NHL-starter; ISS mostly echoed the above, but expressed concerns about his blocker play; RLR gave him the same potential, but added the caveat that this applied if he were on ‘an upper echelon team’ (ie, with good defensive support)–they also questioned his play with the puck; there was a general consensus that he played too much on his knees.
Gustavsson enjoyed a career year in Sweden last season (playing backup to Joel Lassinantti–someone who appeared on my European FA list a couple of times, but has been passed over due to size), so why did the Penguins let him go? They have a young starter in Matt Murray (only 24) and two young prospects (Tristan Jarry and Alex D’Orio) on the way up, making him an option for the Derick Brassard trade. When he came over to play with Belleville for the final stretch of the season he looked good, although as I pointed out he was beginning to regress to the mean (his last two starts he was .865 and .867; with three of his six starts in that range). This means I can’t be sure he’s better than the other goaltenders who played for the BSens last season, but as a 20-year old there’s breathing room for him to grow and he’s expected to get more opportunity than Hogberg did last year.
While his Swedish numbers have never been as good as Hogberg’s, projections for him are better and he’s only 20 years old (Hogberg posted .917 when he was that age). This and the latter’s struggles in Belleville are what land him in the top spot.

2. Marcus Hogberg 3-78/13
2016-17 SHL/AHL 19-14-0 .932 1.89/.865 4.34 0-3-0
2017-18 AHL/ECHL 6-12-0 .899 3.27/.915 3.10 8-7-1
2018-19 AHL
Draft: RLR liked his size, but thought he lacked mobility and confidence; FC said he needed to improve his lateral quickness and confidence; McKeen’s profile is effusive, but they note excessive movement (something I noticed in Belleville); he was not ranked by HP/ISS. In general he was seen as great raw material that needed work.
The Sens left Hogberg in Sweden for four full seasons and after a bit of a wonky start in the first he posted solid numbers with Linkoping: .917, .911, and .932; good for 8th, 10th, and 4th in the league (splitting duties with David Rautio initially before earning the starting role his final season). There was nothing left for him to achieve in the SHL and he came over with considerable hype. His rookie AHL season didn’t meet expectations, but wasn’t as bad as the raw numbers make it appear (bad enough that CP simply ignored him in his list this summer). When you compare him to the other goaltenders in Belleville, his numbers are virtually identical (both Andrew Hammond and Danny Taylor were at .900, while Chris Driedger was down at .885)–only Filip Gustavsson, who barely played, is well above him (.912), but as I discuss above he could have benefited from the small sample size. The BSens were an awful team defensively and while that doesn’t mean Hogberg couldn’t do better, it does mean his numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. I really wonder how much he was affected by being part of the ridiculous four-goalie rotation for months until the Sens finally moved Hammond and demoted Driedger. The biggest criticism from me about Hogberg is his consistency–in both the AHL and ECHL he was all over the place. He has plenty of talent, but his technique needs work and there may be confidence issues (not helped, I think, by starting this upcoming year as part of a three-headed monster in goal).

3. Kevin Mandolese 6-157/18
2017-18 QMJHL .884 3.46 15-13-0
2018-19 QMJHL
Draft: RLR thought he had starter potential, but thinks he stays too deep in his net; ISS was more effusive (offering the same potential); FC liked him but said sometimes he over commits and can lose focus if he’s not facing a lot of shots; HP repeats that he stays too deep in his net and isn’t aggressive enough, but has pro potential.
His numbers in the Q aren’t particularly impressive, so he skates by Hollett because he hasn’t had a down season after being drafted.

4. Jordan Hollett 6-183/17
2016-17 WHL .901 2.83 15-2-0
2017-18 WHL .896 3.43 16-13-0
Draft: FC liked his potential, but noted he struggled to follow the puck on broken plays; RLR thought he had huge upside, but was a boom or bust prospect; ISS/HP didn’t rank him (HP didn’t even discuss him, despite having comments on many players they don’t rank).
His season after being drafted wasn’t impressive, although he was (marginally) better than his goaltending partner (Michael Bullion); finishing 24th in the league in save percentage is worrisome. He needs to be much better this upcoming season if he wants the Sens to sign him (his struggles are undoubtedly part of the reason Mandolese was picked).

Backups (1)
5. Joel Daccord 7-199/15
2016-17 NCAA .892 4.03 3-8-1
2017-18 NCAA .909 3.51 8-19-5
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: no one ranked him, but HP had one game report which was positive but pretty generic.
Since he was picked he’s played for a very poor Arizona team where his underlying metrics are improving, but what is his ceiling? I have to think the best hope for him is as a backup in the NHL, as there’s nothing that I’ve seen or read that suggests he has more potential than that. I’d expect further improvement this year and he’ll need to do so in order to get signed when his college career is over (which won’t be this year but next).

As a group the goaltenders aren’t particularly impressive. There’s no elite talent–no one flashy like Robin Lehner–and while having either Gustavsson or Hogberg achieve their potential is fantastic neither goaltender projects as the kind that can put a team on his back. Since the Murray regime took over in 2007 the org has struggled to either draft or sign goaltending prospects who reach their potential (Lehner remains the best in either category and he never did fully evolve as expected–being bipolar and having addiction issues being a huge reason for that).

Defense (8)

Top-Four [None are projected in the top-pairing]
1. Jonny Tychonick 2-48/18
2017-18 BCHL 48-9-38-47 (0.97)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: RLR thinks he’s purely offensive (comparing him to Shayne Gostisbehere); ISS has him as a top-four blueliner with a need to get stronger; FC is effusive, but does reference defensive inconsistency; HP saw him as both offensively gifted and tenacious/aggressive, but agreed his defensive play is average.
In the absence of him having played since there’s not much we can add to this (the offensive potential is certainly exciting–I’d take a Gostisbehere if that’s what he really is).

2. Christian Wolanin 4-107/15
2016-17 NCAA 37-6-16-22 (0.59)
2017-18 NCAA/NHL 40-12-23-35 (0.87)/10-1-2-3 (0.30)
2018-19 NHL/AHL
Draft: no one ranked him, but HP had one game report that’s positive but vague (McKeen’s profiled him, but it’s vague suggesting that he needed to improve his defensive play). CP doesn’t think much of him–his hands aren’t high end and he’s not a great defender–this opinion isn’t shared by The Silver Seven (sadly their profile includes zero analytics from his NHL games). Brad Phillips thinks he’s a deep sleeper for fantasy hockey folks.
In his final (third) season in college he was second on his team in points-per-game (just behind forward Nicholas Jones) and tenth in the NCAA among defensemen. It’s difficult to parse his numbers because someone like Patrick Wiercioch also had very good college numbers (with much more scout-hype) and never established himself as an NHLer. Clearly the expectation for Wolanin is as a top-four defender who produces points.

3. Christian Jaros 5-139/15
2016-17 SHL 36-5-8-13 (0.36)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 44-3-13-16 (0.36)/2-0-0-0 (0.00)
2017-18 AHL/NHL
Draft: FC was effusive–their only criticism being he was sometimes overly physical, projecting him as a top-six, two-way defender; ISS put his potential as a top-four, shutdown defender, believing his primary weakness was offensive consistency; HP noted he’d improved his skating since his initial draft year (2014), but would never be an offensive defenseman despite a powerful shot; RLR’s only comment was they didn’t think he could skate and that criticism seems rooted in his 2014 impression.
Arriving in the AHL Jaros was fantastic–his production didn’t drop in transition and despite injury issues he was among the best defensemen in Belleville (the team was much better when he played); he was strong on the powerplay and spent most of his time carrying around the dead weight known as Andreas Englund. CP’s comments about him illustrate that he didn’t to watch him very often (“there was an adjustment period to the AHL in terms of pace and knowing when to try and make a certain offensive play”)–the only adjustment for Jaros was getting used to some of his useless partners whose failings meant his play varied considerably depending on who he was paired with. My concern coming into last season was that Jaros would waste time running around looking for big hits, but by and large he was careful and picked his spots. The guy is built like a truck so requires no adjustment to the physicality of the next level.

4. Jacob Bernard-Docker 1-26/18
2017-18 AJHL 49-20-21-41 (0.83)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: RLR saw him as a top-four blueliner; ISS has him as a top-pairing, two-way defender, but questioned his consistency; FC/HP liked him, but questioned his creativity. Much like Tychonick until we see more of his play we are reliant on the scouting opinions and his numbers, but certainly his ceiling seems lower than those above (since defense-first blueliners are a dime a dozen). The question for Bernard-Docker going forward is how well he distributes and moves the puck (since we can presume he’s solid defensively already).

5. Maxime Lajoie 5-133/16
2016-17 WHL 68-7-35-42 (0.61)
2017-18 AHL 56-1-14-15 (0.27)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: RLR saw him as a top-four, two-way defender or bust; ISS put his potential as a 4-5 two-way defender (with concerns about his defensive consistency); FC was effusive and had him as a top-four, two-way; HP was very positive and liked his hockey-IQ. The org was also excited about him, signing him far earlier than necessary.
His rookie pro season was disjointed and hampered by Kurt Kleinendorst’s coaching (his usage was bizarre). His excellent puckmoving was often hampered by incompetent partners and with limits to his TOI it wasn’t easy for him to truly get into the flow of the game. It wasn’t a wasted season entirely, but it skewed his numbers. How much opportunity he’ll get to play in an overstuffed BSen lineup I don’t know, but hopefully it will be more.

Marginal Pros/AHLers
6. Julius Bergman 2-46/14 SJ
2016-17 AHL 64-3-27-30 (0.46)
2017-18 AHL 65-10-10-20 (0.30)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: ISS thought he could be a top-four player, but needed to work on his shot and physicality; FC saw his potential as a top-six blueliner with a pretty generic description of his abilities; RLR didn’t rank him; HP didn’t rank him because they thought he was too soft for the next level.
Three years in the San Jose system have shown he has solid AHL-talent, but not enough to move beyond that. Last season the Sharks’ AHL-team saw a 20% drop in total offence, meaning his drop in production (30%) has some context. While it’s not impossible for Bergman to show NHL talent at this stage, it’s getting very late in the game for that to happen and it’s certainly not what I expect.

7. Andreas Englund 2-40/14
2016-17 AHL 69-3-7-10 (0.14)
2017-18 AHL 69-1-9-10 (0.14)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: RLR liked his mean, physical play and compared him to Alexei Emelin; ISS questioned his skills with the puck, but projected him as a top-four shutdown blueliner; FC saw him as a top-six shutdown blueliner and liked his outlet passing; HP questioned his hockey sense (as do I).
Needless to say most of these estimations are overly optimistic as Englund struggles to be an effective AHL defensemen, much less an NHL blueliner. The org still likes him, but that’s purely because of his physicality. His zone exists are either lobbing grenades up the ice or pounding the puck off the boards–in both cases forwards are forced to adjust to prevent turnovers because he can’t make a pass; his supposed defensive acumen is overblown (this was most apparent on the penalty kill), so other than his physical play he doesn’t excel at anything. He’s shown no sign of improvement since turning pro and the org would do well to shuffle him along at the first opportunity.

8. Macoy Erkamps CHL FA 16
2016-17 AHL/ECHL 11-0-2-2 (0.18)/58-6-19-25 (0.43)
2017-18 AHL/ECHL 46-1-3-4 (0.08)/2-0-0-0 (0.00)
2018-19 ECHL/AHL
Draft: FC said he was an efficient puck-mover who isn’t consistent; HP liked his physicality, but questioned his vision and hockey IQ; RLR thought he was underrated; ISS and McKeen’s didn’t rank him.
When the Sens signed him I pointed out that a lot of his production was likely due to his partner (Flyer first-round pick Ivan Provorov), who would make any partner look good. This thought proved entirely accurate as Erkamps is at best an adequate ECHL defenseman and his lengthy tour with Belleville last season was comically bad; he doesn’t do anything well at the AHL-level. The org needs to move on from him.

Because I removed Chabot from the equation this list doesn’t jump out with elite talent; what it has is a lot of useful potential, but all capped at a relatively low ceiling. The org is going to need a couple of guys to push beyond expectations to truly flesh out their future blueline.

Forwards (21)

Top-Six [None are projected as first-line players]
1. Logan Brown 1-11/16
2016-17 OHL 35-14-26-40 (1.14)
2017-18 OHL/NHL 32-22-26-48 (1.50)/4-0-1-1 (0.25)
2018-19 NHL/AHL
Draft: RLR had him as a second-line playmaker, wanting him to be more assertive; ISS/FC also saw him as a top-six player who needed to shoot more; HP puts him in the top-six.
CP questions his conditioning and ability to keep up with the pro pace.
One thing the Sens do routinely is shove top picks into the NHL and use them as part of their marketing (Curtis Lazar, Jared Cowen, Mika Zibanejad, Cody Ceci, etc), so I think regardless of whether Brown is ready or not he’ll be on the roster. He was a very good junior player (with improving metrics) and would produce in the AHL, but how well will he do in prime time? The concern here is the long haul and at least thus far fears over ‘assertiveness’ and physicality haven’t mattered, just his overall durability. If he actually has a conditioning issue that can absolutely hurt his ability to perform, but otherwise even if his skating is average as a puck distributor there’s no reason to doubt his ability to achieve his potential.

2. Brady Tkachuk 1-4/18
2017-18 NCAA 40-8-23-31 (0.77)
2018-19 NCAA/NHL/OHL
Draft: RLR has him as a top-six, physical winger; ISS has him as a second-liner with questions about his quickness and consistency; FC also wonders about his speed, defensive play, and him overhandling the puck; HP brings up his skating, but likes his defensive play; CP bends over backwards to make his own caveats come across as acceptable: “His skill isn’t dynamic … I saw the occasional [my emphasis] high-end flash of vision … he’s never going to wow you with his speed”–this is all okay because of his physicality.
One of the painfully obvious things about the scouting reports is how enamored they are by his physical play, something we’ve long known has little impact on the game, but this appreciation clearly colours their view of him. What I need to see is him dominant offensively in whatever league he’s playing in–he’s a top-five pick and there shouldn’t be these kinds of questionmarks about his ability. There’s a very real fear that Tkachuk won’t live up to expectations and if he doesn’t no guarantee the Sens will get the chance to roll the dice on another top-five pick for quite some time. There’s also the question: why use the #4 pick for someone who tops out as a second-liner? It’s a rare opportunity to truly swing for the fences and the Sens decided to bunt instead–as fans we can only hope it all works out.

Middle-Six (second or third line)
3. Filip Chlapik 2-48/15
2016-17 QMJHL 57-34-57-91 (1.59)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 52-11-21-32 (0.62)/20-1-3-4 (0.25)
2018-19 AHL/NHL
Draft: FC had his potential as a top-nine, two-way forward, liking his hockey sense, playmaking, and defensive ability; RLR saw him as a dynamic third-line forward whose only concern was his skating; ISS saw him as a third-liner who can do spot-duty on the second (their only issues were his physicality); HP was concerned with his skating. CP continues to be concerned about his skating and his defensive play.
I don’t share the latter concern, but certainly some of his AHL tendencies offensively will have change at the NHL-level (he tends to hang on to the puck longer than you can get away with at that level). With that said, his AHL-achievements are remarkable when you move beyond the raw numbers–no one was jerked around the lineup more than he was and despite spending nearly half the season in the bottom six he was second on the team in production (points-per-game). I really like Chlapik’s game and I hope he can translate his skills at the next level.

4. Drake Batherson 4-121/17
2016-17 QMJHL 61-22-36-58 (0.95)
2017-18 QMJHL 51-29-48-77 (1.51)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: HP praised him and called him a legit prospect, liking his hockey IQ and offensive instincts; FC/ISS/RLR didn’t rank him.
Batherson eluded most scouts because he’d sailed through one draft already and it was a strong second half that put him on the radar (there’s only so many times he’s going to be seen by scouts–HP seems to get more reps than most, which is why they almost always have scouting feedback on prospects who are drafted or otherwise).
Needless to say his final junior year was a monster one where he dominated (fourth highest points-per-game in the league, which dropped somewhat when he was traded mid-season). How do we project him? His background puts him in Tanner Pearson-territory–maybe a poor man’s Pearson (Pearson was another player skipped over in his initial draft year who put up monster numbers subsequently and enjoyed a strong WJC). I expect him to be a productive AHL-player and the question is simply how far beyond that he can go.

5. Gabriel Gagne 2-36/15
2016-17 AHL/ECHL 41-2-4-6 (0.14)/19-6-5-11 (0.58)
2017-18 AHL 68-20-5-25 (0.36)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: FC put his potential as a top-six scoring winger, with their major concern being him filling out his lanky frame; ISS saw his potential as a scoring third or fourth-line winger, questioning his desire/competitiveness; HP said he needed more consistency and ‘jam’ in his game, but that the tools were all there; RLR didn’t like his character or work ethic, making him highly overrated (the character issues seem tied him being benched by his coach (Bruce Richardson) for a January, 2015 game). CP’s comments (“He gets a lot of goals hanging around the net”) are another indication he simply wasn’t able to see him play much, as Gagne is not a crash & bang rebound guy–he generally just beats goaltenders with his shot.
It was a strange sophomore campaign for Gagne, but one thing he established is that he can score at the AHL-level. He’s young, still hasn’t filled out, and the BSens were awful offensively, which makes judging his performance difficult (he spent much of the season playing with other shooters, meaning the usual formula of pairing a playmaker with a shooter wasn’t happening). He was horrifically bad his rookie season, but made a big jump from that last year, so it’s within reason that he could take another big step forward this year–it’s all very much in flux (he is a great example of a boom or bust prospect).

Top-Nine
6. Colin White 1-21/15
2016-17 NCAA 35-16-17-33 (0.94)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 47-11-16-27 (0.57)/21-2-4-6 (0.28)
2018-19 NHL/AHL
Draft: FC projected him as a top-nine, two-way forward, whose only weakness was his offensive upside; RLR saw him as a third-line character center with concerns about his size; ISS was effusive, but noted a lack of offensive consistency; HP’s sentiments are very similar (third liner with offensive limitations). CP offers “his puck skills for me are very average. I’ve come down a bit on his offensive expectations as he seems to project out now as more of a good third-line forward.”
I agree wholeheartedly about White’s offensive potential, which is echoed by B_T‘s breakdown of his NHL numbers. White was better in the AHL, but his production is still lower than it should be (and, unlike Chlapik, he wasn’t jerked around as much in terms of TOI/usage). Don’t take his ranking here as me being down on White, he’s a very good player, but until we see otherwise it doesn’t appear he has the offensive chops to contribute any better than at a third-line level.

7. Alex Formenton 2-47/17
2016-17 OHL 65-16-18-34 (0.52)
2017-18 OHL 48-29-19-48 (1.00)
2018-19 OHL
Draft: RLR didn’t think he could score, projecting him as a third-line checker; ISS saw him as a bottom-six energy forward with upside whose weakness was puck skills; FC saw him as a third-line winger with questions about his shot and creativity; HP had him within the third/second line category. CP’s analysis also slots him as a third-line checker.
So why hasn’t Formenton’s jump in scoring impressed the inestimable Pronman? For the draft guides he was buried on a talented London team, but not last year. Certainly older players in the CHL see their numbers boosted (he finished fourth on his team in points-per-game), but the knock is his creativity. We won’t know how well that will translate until he turns pro, but his post-draft season was excellent and everything remains on track for him to at least meet projections (I haven’t linked his brief AHL foray last year because he was hurt early in his second game, so there just wasn’t enough to glean from it).

8. Andrew Sturtz NCAA FA 18
2017-18 NCAA 37-22-15-37 (1.00)
2017-18 NCAA 37-14-26-40 (1.08)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: He was never ranked or discussed while draft-eligible (playing in the GOJHL and CCHL at the time). He attended Pittsburgh’s development camp in 2017 and there’s a profile of him as a free agent from Ben Kerr that describes him as aggressive and having discipline problems–otherwise there’s not much material on him.
The org, after years of drafting NCAA free agents (Bryan Murray’s notion I’d wager), has started to shy away from them as they’ve had virtually no success (one good year out of Andrew Hammond being the exception). This makes Sturtz signing somewhat unusual (as does his size for the org–he’s listed at 5’8). Good numbers in college (far and away the leader his final year at Penn State) tend to translate to good numbers at the AHL-level, but what about beyond that? As a smaller player it’s possible he was overlooked based on size and that has to be what the org hopes for–his offensive production has always been good, so there’s no question about where his talent lies. I didn’t see enough of him last year to make much of an assessment. Usually what keeps high scoring players out of the NHL (besides size) is speed, so that’s something to keep an eye on, but like Luchuk below his potential has to be as a scoring player (he earns the nod over the OHL star because of his more consistent production over his career and because I didn’t find the same level of criticism about his skating).

9. Aaron Luchuk CHL FA 18
2017-18 OHL 68-50-65-115 (1.69)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: While never ranked, HP profiled him in 2015 along with a vague game report in 2016–in the former they felt like his offensive potential was being stymied by the bodies ahead of him.
As a smaller player prejudice against size still exists (despite undrafted examples like Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Marchessault). With that said, big numbers in the CHL don’t always equate to success (Tyler Donati is a favourite example of this). CP indicates his issue is a lack of speed (echoed here, although I suspect CP is the source of that comment) and that indeed can kill a smaller player’s chances (since they can’t make up for slowness with strong board work or overpowering checkers). His production didn’t slip when traded mid-season, but the offensive explosion was in his final year of junior which rings the Tyler Donati warning bell. I’m not sure what to expect from him, but he wasn’t signed to check so the expectation is that he projects as someone who can chip in.

10. Francis Perron 7-190/14
2016-17 68-6-20-26 (0.38)
2017-18 44-4-11-15 (0.34)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: RLR projected him as a third-line winger with a good head for the game; ISS didn’t like his compete-level and saw him as a top-six or bust; HP liked his skill set but questioned his strength; FC had his potential as a top-nine forward, but shared the concerns about his strength.
The clock is definitely ticking for Perron who struggled last season (above and beyond Kleinendorst’s erratic coaching). He’s still very young and in neither season given the kind of opportunity he needs, so hope remains he can translate his talent to meet projections. He’s a smart player, but (judging from this past season) can’t translate that into PK-acumen–he needs to start putting up points this year or his time with the org will be over (how he’ll do that in an overcrowded lineup I have no idea).

11. Todd Burgess 4-103/16
2016-17 Injured
2017-18 NCAA 34-1-11-12 (0.35)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: HP didn’t think his scoring would translate at the NHL-level, but that his playmaking could; they also thought his skating and defensive consistency needed work; RLR listed him as a sleeper; ISS/FC didn’t rank him.
He’s hard to assess because injury lost him an entire season (when the Sens drafted him he was the NAHL’s top scorer and put up a ton of penalty minutes). When he returned he put up solid numbers (only one player younger than him had better points-per-game, Jacob Hayhurst). His totals aren’t earth shattering, but for a team that didn’t score much they are fine for a guy who missed an entire year. It will be interesting to see what he’s able to do this upcoming season. Since no one projected him out I’d say that he tops out as a scoring third-liner (he certainly wasn’t drafted to check).

Bottom-Six
12. Markus Nurmi 6-163/16
2016-17 Finn Jr/Mestis 27-12-16-28 (1.03)/11-0-2-2 (0.18)
2017-18 Liiga 51-10-11-21 (0.41)
2018-19 Liiga
Draft: FC saw him as a top-nine two-way player; HP thought he topped out as a checker; RLR didn’t like his skating; he wasn’t ranked high enough for ISS to profile him.
He finished tenth in scoring for players 20 and under this past season, which is impressive given that he spent more than half the season on the bottom six. Projected as a checker (almost a default for bigger players who don’t put up monster numbers), it’ll be interesting to see how he does as he gets more opportunities to score in Finland. As it stands he continues to progress and remains on target to achieve his potential (he showed soft hands at the development camp, but that’s a poor place to judge anything).

13. Parker Kelly CHL FA 17
2016-17 WHL 72-21-22-43 (0.59)
2017-18 WHL/AHL 69-29-30-59 (0.85)/5-1-0-1 (0.20)
2018-19 WHL
Draft: HP liked his all-around game and while they weren’t sure his offensive skills would translate they thought he had enough intangibles to make him worth drafting; ISS/RLR/FC didn’t rank him.
He has good speed, but the question about his hands remain. His numbers don’t blow you away so he seems to slot into the bottom-six as a checker (barring some change). If he puts up even bigger numbers this season it could mean revising expectations for him.

14. Jakov Novak 7-188/18
2017-18 NAHL 56-32-41-73 (1.30)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: No one ranked him, but HP does have a profile, calling him a power forward with good offensive tools who struggles with discipline.
There are a lot of similarities between the Novak pick and Burgess above–both are from the little regarded/scouted NAHL, both led the league in scoring and put up a ton of penalty minutes. He’s the epitome of a boom or bust player, even if we’re unsure of his range. He was drafted for his offense so that’s what he needs to produce.

Marginal Pro/AHLer
15. Nick Paul 4-101/13 Dal
2016-17 AHL 72-15-22-37 (0.51)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 54-14-13-27 (0.50)/11-1-0-1 (0.09)
2017-18 AHL
Draft: HP said he was physical with good hands, but a poor skater; ISS called him a shutdown forward with poor skating; RLR liked his skating; FC thought he was an inconsistent producer; McKeen’s didn’t rank him.
There’s little evidence to support those early ideas of him being a shutdown forward (often a default option for bigger players), but offensively he isn’t as the org hyped him to be either. Despite a wealth of opportunity he remains a very average producer at the AHL level who doesn’t particularly effect his team one way or another. He has decent hands, but every season he’s had enormous slumps and at this stage that lack of consistency seems systemic. I think we’ve hit the point where he’s simply a marginal pro, although he’s still young enough to have faint hope for more (at this stage he needs a monster season to shake off doubts).

16. Adam Tambellini 3-65/13 NYR
2016-17 AHL 68-13-22-35 0.51
2017-18 AHL 69-16-16-32 0.46
2018-19 AHL
Draft: HP great speed, not physical, questionable work ethic; ISS liked his overall game; RLR projected him as a second-line forward, but didn’t like his work ethic defensively; McKeen’s echoes these sentiments; FC noted he needs the puck distributed to him to be effective and that has been the case in his pro career.
Going through his numbers he’s reliant on teammates to produce and his usage doesn’t impact production much regardless (I compared him to Jim O’Brien in that respect and it continues to seem apt). This is not someone who is NHL-bound and is simply a regular, if unspectacular, AHLer.

17. Johnny Gruden 4-95/18
2017-18 USHL 61-28-32-60 (0.98)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: ISS projects him as a third/fourth-liner with concerns over his defensive play; FC is effusive with their only concern being that he overhandles the puck sometimes; RLR calls him an intelligent, complimentary player; HP’s concern is whether his game translates at the next level; CP says his skill level isn’t that high.
That’s a lot of conflicting scouting opinion, something not uncommon with obscure players, but Gruden actually had a great deal of exposure because he played for the US development team, so it suggests true uncertainty. How he projects out isn’t that exciting, but Colin Cudmore slightly mollified my fears by citing positive underlying offensive numbers (although no one can say how dependent he was on talented teammates). My question is: do you need to roll the dice on a guy who projects this low?

18. Angus Crookshank 5-126/18
2017-18 BCHL 42-22-23-45 (1.07)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: RLR calls him a great skating energy winger; FC is effusive, but questions his strength and defensive play; ISS ranks him, but doesn’t offer a profile; HP didn’t rank him or profile him, but have a few game logs that simply echo similar sentiments.
His BCHL totals were good for his team (2nd), and I like his speed, but we’re at a deficit of information so we’ll have to wait and see what he is. It’s a little unfair to him to place him so low, but with so little to work with it’s a safe estimation.

19. Filip Ahl 4-109/15
2016-17 WHL 54-28-20-48 (0.88)
2017-18 Allsvenskan/SHL 29-11-4-15 (0.51)/15-0-1-1 (0.06)
2018-19 Allsvenskan/SHL
Draft: FC put his potential as a top-nine power winger, but questioned his consistency; RLR questioned his character and work-ethic, despite liking his tools; ISS put his potential as a top-six power forward with concerns about his defensive play and agility; HP had worries about his conditioning and agility.
While he had an adequate season in the WHL after being drafted (7th in scoring), things came back to earth in Sweden where he was unable to stick in the SHL and wasn’t that great in the Allsvenskan (tier-2) either. Despite the tools he possesses you really have to wonder if he can put it altogether at the pro level (the upcoming season is his last chance for Ottawa and he’ll need strong numbers to intrigue them).

20. Jack Rodewald AHL FA 17
2016-17 AHL 66-18-9-27 (0.41)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 62-14-11-25 (0.40)/4-0-0-0 (0.00)
2017-18 AHL
Draft: While never ranked for the draft HP had a profile on him in 2012 where they praised his hustle and aggression, but didn’t think his offensive skills would translate at any level.
The Leafs signed him to an AHL-deal and then lumped him into the Dion Phaneuf trade. He pushed his way onto a very bad Binghamton team and that earned him another AHL-deal. A hot start this last season excited Randy Lee and he was signed to an ELC which resulted in absolutely no change in his performance. Despite being given every opportunity (with favourable usage) he produced at the exact same rate as the year before. He’s an incredibly inconsistent producer, which is something I suspect the org has finally realized (given the myriad of free agent forwards they’ve signed). At this stage whatever faint NHL hopes the org are gone–he’s just an okay AHLer (big, fast, but not much else).

21. Luke Loheit 7-194/18
2017-18 USHS 40-15-22-37 (0.92)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: Only HP ranked him, calling him a two-way player, but one of the scouts they quote didn’t care for his hockey sense. There’s very little written about him and what I have seen bends over backwards to try to find something that suggests pro potential. He’s going to have to show a lot more for me to think he’s anything other than yet another Vincent Dunn/Shane Eiserman (a modestly productive pest who is useless at the pro level).

This is a large group of forwards, but none of them project as first-liners and that’s very concerning. The org has struggled immensely to draft elite forwards with top picks and the best they’ve produced have been traded away (Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad). What the Sens do consistently is target character players–hard-nosed guys you need to win (not that any actually help them win)–the Curtis Lazar’s of the world. While the team stills struggles to draft skill they’ve started signing skill, as most of their free agents are players known for scoring rather than punching. Despite that I’ve had to slot guys like Sturtz/Luchuk in the top-nine category due to lack of information that suggests otherwise.

What the org has had is good luck with is late picks–skilled guys who fell through the cracks (Mike Hoffman, Ryan Dzingel, etc). There’s not much of that represented here, although Perron is a similar sort of hail mary. Despite that, there is talent–guys who might push beyond expectations–but the team needs a good success rate (both hitting targets and exceeding them) to fill out the org’s future in the years ahead.

Summary

What should our reasonable expectations be in terms of how many players turn out to be NHL regulars? My research (which needs updating) has an average of 1.5 players per draft playing at least 200 games, so between 6 and 9 should make it (I’m smooshing the 2013-14 drafts together since only a few prospects from those years remain). As for free agents, the Sens have never had much success on that end (with apologies to Jesse Winchester and Andrew Hammond), so if even one turns out that’s fantastic.

Clearly some of the players above (regardless of rank) are greater certainties than others. I have no doubt that Colin White will be a regular NHLer regardless of his numbers, but he’s a complimentary player not a dominant one–he is, in many ways, the defining characteristic of the prospect pool–a lot of solid pieces missing the high end parts they are meant to compliment.

There are many interesting storylines to watch for this season–how do Gustavsson and Hogberg perform in Belleville? What’s a full season of Wolanin like? Do we see growth from Jaros/Lajoie? Is Logan Brown the real deal? What’s Batherson like as a pro? Where does Chlapik wind up? Does Gagne take another step forward? How do the FA’s perform in the AHL? There’s a lot to watch for and without a doubt some of the estimations above (pro or con) will turn out to be incorrect. What I think this exercise accomplishes is placing each prospect in their proper context with the best comparable information available (avoiding, as much as possible, personal bias).

List Format

Goaltenders
1. Filip Gustavsson
2. Marcus Hogberg
3. Kevin Mandolese
4. Jordan Hollett
5. Joel Daccord

Defense
1. Jonny Tychonick
2. Christian Wolanin
3. Christian Jaros
4. Jacob Bernard-Docker
5. Maxime Lajoie
6. Julius Bergman
7. Andreas Englund
8. Macoy Erkamps

Forwards
1. Logan Brown
2. Brady Tkachuk
3. Filip Chlapik
4. Drake Batherson
5. Gabriel Gagne
6. Colin White
7. Alex Formenton
8. Andrew Sturtz
9. Aaron Luchuk
10. Francis Perron
11. Todd Burgess
12. Markus Nurmi
13. Parker Kelly
14. Jakov Novak
15. Nick Paul
16. Adam Tambellini
17. Johnny Gruden
18. Angus Crookshank
19. Filip Ahl
20. Jack Rodewald
21. Luke Loheit

All mistakes and errors are mine (please let me know and I will correct them) and if anyone out there has additional scouting information or data to share that will help revise these opinions I will happily incorporate them.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens