Senators News & Notes

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While Ottawa added no players to its NHL roster on the first day of free agency, they did add a lot to the AHL lineup, so let’s take a look (I’m ignoring the RFA’s they signed, just the FA’s):
-re-signed Michael Kostka (50-5-24-29); the 30-year old defenseman was serviceable last season (keeping his partner, ECHL defenseman Guillaume Lepine, afloat); he’s not a true #1 or #2 blueliner at this level, but for a team this thin on the blueline he’s a needed asset
-re-signed Phil Varone (65-19-36-55); he’s averaged 0.84 points-per-game over the last three seasons in the AHL, which makes him a top-20/25 scorer in the league, so he fills a definite need
-signed Chad Nehring (76-22-26-48) via Hartford; the 29-year old enjoyed a career year, leading the moribund Wolf Pack in scoring; it’s very strange for a player this old to peak like this; I’m not sure what need is being filled here (the org could have just kept Pat Cannone and had the exact same thing), particularly as he isn’t a big, bruising player (5’11 with minimal PIMs)
-signed Mike Blunden (49-21-17-38) via Syracuse; this is much more the kind of signing I expect from the org; the 6’4 29-year old’s AHL stats are solid and he’s coming off a good year (0.77 vs his career 0.54; I think his three year average of 0.64 is more around what we can expect)

I was asked where Binghamton stands in terms of veteran contracts and for those unfamiliar with the AHL’s rules, let’s take a brief look:

Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season. (source and source)

It’s important to note that ECHL games do not count towards veteran status.  A team can ice at most 6 veteran players, not including goalies, with their status determined by games played (rather than age).  Here’s a look at signed players who fit this definition:
-Zach Stortini (700+ AHL/NHL games)
-Tom Pyatt (600+ AHL/NHL/NLA games)
-Michael Kostka (500+ AHL/NHL games)
-Mike Blunden (500+ AHL/NHL games)
-Phil Varone (370 AHL/NHL games)
This leaves the BSens with one veteran spot left, but it must fit the sub-320 mark (Chad Nehring has only 129 AHL games counting against him, so the rule doesn’t apply)

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Development Camp is not a great place to assess players, particularly when it comes to scrimmages (posted up on the Sens website for those who missed it), but a couple of thoughts:
-watching Matt O’Connor give up a weak goal short side (c.16:50 into the period, or c.8:35 into the video) felt like deja vu for the season that was (the 6’5 ‘tender also was beat high by Nick Paul, but saved by the crossbar, he then gave up a soft 5-hole goal from the blueline); it’s such a sharp contrast to better prospects (I remember the year Brian Elliott didn’t give up a goal in the final day of 3-on-3 competition)
-looking at Marcus Hogberg it’s tough to think we’ll have to wait another season before we see him across the Atlantic (he looked great in the 5-on-5 and fantastic at 3-on-3, maintaining a shutout for himself)
-as you’d expect Francis Perron stood out offensively (Brown and Dahlen as well)
-funny (in a sad way) that Ben Harpur struggled to defend even this level of competition (granted he did make a nice pass to start a tic-tac-toe scoring play for the second white goal)

A bit of a tangential but related note, Chris Carlisle is in camp, but as far as I know has not been re-signed by the Sens.

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Roy MacGregor doesn’t pull any punches:

While there has been much to criticize in HNIC – the panelists playing ministicks far and away the most foolish – the plummeting viewership is not something to be blamed entirely on tight suits. Or, for that matter, adding in the unfortunate happenstance of no Canadian team in this year’s postseason. … The game, as it is played these days, is more often unwatchable than enjoyable. There may be no available statistic for those “hard-core” fans – including those who played the NHL game and covered the NHL – who have tuned out, but they are legion.  Why? Because it’s boring.

His conclusion is that the problem is coaching, but I think that’s far off the mark.  The idea that coaches in the 70s and 80s (when hockey was a growing sport) weren’t coaching to win or teaching systems is ridiculous.  What’s changed primarily is: 1) goalie equipment, 2) permissible interference.  The latter in particular is what gave us the Dead Puck Era, but while it’s been cut back we still suffer from absurd goaltending equipment (we’ve heard promises that it will change in the upcoming season, but I’ll believe it when I see it).

Hockey, like any other sport, is ultimately repetitive–99% of the games you watch unfold in very similar ways.  To draw in fans you need some other layer of excitement and what that used to be when I was growing up were players challenging records or milestones–it’s hard to imagine now, but there were legitimate threats to all the records people care about (goals and points) once upon a time.  Since then offensive numbers have regressed and outside the first few months of the 2005-06 season players haven’t come close to challenging anything.  In that absence, there’s nothing to bring fans in other than winning and very few teams win or win consistently.

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Chris Stewart quietly signed in Minnesota and I bring him up simply because I remember all the hype surrounding him in Sensland not long ago (ahem 2014, February (Ottawa Sun and TSN), May (Travis Yost, thankfully arguing against) July (Senshot), October (6th Sens, arguing against it), November (THW), and December (Hockey Insider)).  These are just some of the pieces that came out–a solid year of the organisation (and some of the fanbase) pinning after the former first-round pick in 2014.  So what happened?  The org certainly didn’t consult the analytics, but it became clear that Stewart‘s offensive production was never going to take another step, but the price for him remained high.  He was supposed to be the power forward the Sens needed to make the next step, but thankfully Murray never pulled the trigger on a deal.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

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Ross A writes a piece asking why the Sens can’t make blockbuster trades (in light of New Jersey stealing Taylor Hall from Edmonton–poor Adam Larsson!).  It’s a somewhat rhetorical question since Bryan Murray has acquired players like Dany HeatleyKyle TurrisBobby Ryan, and Dion Phaneuf, but with the exception of the Turris trade you can make arguments that the Sens did not (or will not) “win” these moves.  So what’s the problem?  To me it remains the organisation’s over (or under) evaluation of its own talent.  How many times did the org resist trading Chris NeilChris PhillipsJared Cowen, etc over the years?  How quickly did Murray pull the trigger to send emerging talents like Jakob Silverberg or Ben Bishop, or picks like the ones that became Kyle Palmieri or Vladimir Tarasenko?  I’ve spent years reading comments by the org about various players and their unending love for older players and grinders has hurt their ability to capitalize on assets over and over again.  We can only hope the Dorion regime can start to reverse the trend, although his frustration about the struggles to move the dead weight that was Alex Chiasson and the devalued Patrick Wiercioch suggests the same blindness.

It’s exactly this kind of thinking that James Mirtle addresses in the wake of the aforementioned trade:

The general manager of a Canadian NHL team, in pursuit of the old-school hockey ideal of grit or size or some other intangible, moving key pieces and/or salary-cap space out in order to change the mix. … The Canadian NHL teams have been, by and large, horribly mismanaged. They are, generally speaking, not progressive organizations, not adept at change and not finding ways to outmanoeuvre their competition. Most are well behind in areas such as analytics.

Oh how true it is.  When Mirtle talks about the Canadian teams that are starting to change for the better, Ottawa is not among them–something for fans to keep in mind.

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Speaking of the aforementioned discarding pieces, Nichols wonders where the Sens go from here:

as much as I like Pageau as a player, he needs help and to be successful, he needs a smart, two-way forward who can help transition the puck and effectively move it from the defensive zone to the opposition’s end where the Senators could sustain pressure. Condra was good at this and so was Mark Stone, without either player, I don’t see someone on the current roster or within the current system who can step in and fill that role.

I agree that Stone isn’t someone whose performance you could duplicate for the benefit of his former linemates, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t another strong puck possession player available in the system.

Similarly, even though prospects like Ryan Dzingel and Nick Paul saw time down the stretch with the big club, neither player was particularly effective with their play down the stretch. There were moments, sure, but, on the whole, both players could afford to spend more time in the AHL developing their game.

I agree with Nichols about Nick Paul, but as someone who saw a lot of Ryan Dzingel at the AHL-level, there’s nothing left for him to learn there.  Along with Tobias Lindberg he was able to drive possession under Luke Richardson’s stifling regime.  Clearly his tools weren’t very apparent at the NHL-level or Nichols’ wouldn’t be so dismissive of him, but 30 games during a terrible season doesn’t dissuade me from liking him.  What I’m not a fan of are the two veterans Nichols proposes fill in for that spot: the antique Chris Kelly (35 with injury problems) and Lee Stempniak (33)–these are Bryan Murray-type signings, and if I had to pick one I’d take the latter, but I’d pass on both.

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Sens prospect Filip Ahl will suit up for the Regina Pats in the WHL during the upcoming season.  It’s a good move for Ahl as he’ll truly be able to showcase himself (Tobias Lindberg made a similar move two seasons ago and that landed him his ELC, a sentiment echoed by the org).

Speaking of prospects, Callum Fraser writes a human-interest piece on Maxime Lajoie that’s worth reading.

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I’ve been writing this blog for five years now and I’ve seen the landscape of the Sens blogosphere go through a lot of changes in that time.  As I’ve said before, my favourite bloggers are Nichols and Travis Yost, but I had no idea either read my stuff until this summer (for the former) and just the other day (for the latter).  It’s flattering to know.  Both are better writers than I am and both use analytics more adroitly, so they are delight to read (whether I agree with their specific opinions or not).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

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Thankfully the Alex Chiasson era is over in Ottawa, as he was shipped off to Calgary in exchange for underwhelming defensive prospect Patrick Sieloff.  The latter, a former second-round pick by Calgary (2-42/12), never had impressive numbers either when he was drafted or since (reading the scouting reports on him everything praises his strength and competitiveness rather than his skill).  He’s signed for the upcoming season, so it looks like B-Sens fans can look forward to his 10-15 points playing the left side.  That said, the fact that the Sens got anything for Chiasson is something.

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I posted my review of draft prognostication (mein gott in himmel! Nichols RT’d it), as well as my thoughts on Ottawa’s draft, so those of you interested you can check them out via the links.

Speaking of the draft, both The Silver Seven and The 6th Sens have weighed in on the Sens performance.  Nichols’ piece leans heavily on Corey Pronman (because reasons) and McKeen‘s (a little quid pro quo for Grant McCagg’s appearance on his podcast) when it comes to analysis.  I’m not a big fan of either (I have more time for the latter), and Nichol’s piece would benefit from the inclusion of multiple scouting profiles on each prospect, but he does cite an SBNation profile I missed that I’ll quote about Todd Burgess:

There are a couple factors working against Burgess’ impressive point total. First, he’s already two years past his initial draft year, so he’s an older player, dominating a league where it’s traditionally tougher for a player to be drafted from. Second, he played a softer schedule even by NAHL standards. Due to travel/cost considerations, the Ice Dogs play an unbalanced schedule with 16 games against fellow Alaska team Kenai River, who only won four games this season. Burgess scored 32 of his 95 points in those 16 games. He averaged about 1.4 points per game against everybody else, so the extra Kenai games added about an extra ten points to his total

For those of you who math this would take his totals down to 47 points in 34 games, which would still lead the league in points-per-game, but not by as wide a margin.  This isn’t to say he’s a bad pick or poor prospect, but to temper expectations (perhaps he’ll be another fourth-round dud ala Ben Blood (a Pronman favourite) or Timothy Boyle), or perhaps not–we’ll have four years in the NCAA before we’ll know for sure.

Moving along Nichols echoes a point about the Sens blueline depth that I share:

the Senators don’t have a lot of good puck-moving defencemen within their system – whether it’s at the AHL level, the junior ranks or in Europe. It seems like the bulk of their defensive prospects are blue collar types who play the prototypical defensive style that is becoming more and more outmoded as the years pass

The aforementioned Sieloff certainly fits that outmoded category.

Nichols posted a piece in the midst of writing all this that I’ll shoehorn here because it’s draft-related and the thing that struck me is very short: Pierre Dorion gave us the “they have size” comment for Burgess and Markus Nurmi–yay?

As for Trevor Shackles writing for The Silver Seven, his piece is more about the depth in the organisation, noting the disappointing 2012 draft and middling 2013 effort (now that Tobias Lindberg is gone).  I’m less enthused with Andreas Englund than most of the fanbase (until I see signs that he can move the puck he’s just another 7th defenseman), but I do like Francis Perron.  I don’t think this draft (2016) will match the twosome from 2015 (Thomas Chabot and Colin White), but it’s a solid haul.

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Sens development camp is underway as of today and I like to see who they invite as sometimes we later see these players signed by the organisation later for the AHL or ECHL:
Michael Babcock (RW) – son of the NHL coach, he’s in his first year at Merrimack (so yet another teammate of Chris Leblanc); an unimpressive USHL player, his rookie year in the NCAA was no different (38-3-4-7); at only 5’9 he’s an oddity at a Sens camp
Vito Bavaro (RW) – just graduated from high school on his way to Sacred Heart in the NCAA (28-17-20-37)
Domenic Commisso (C) – an OHLer I expected to be drafted this year (#152), he’ll be eligible next year (at 5’9 he’s not someone I’d expect the Sens to take); 66-18-24-42
Hampus Gustafsson (LW) – Chris Leblanc’s teammate from Merrimack, the 6’4 Swede is coming off another solid season in the NCAA (39-8-18-26); he’s entering his senior year
Hunter Miska (G) – after an impressive year in the BCHL he put up a middling season in the USHL (2.46 .913, tied for 11th in the league in save percentage), prior to his attending Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA
Brady Reagan (DR) – 6’3 WHLer will go through the draft again next year (71-6-14-20)
Eric Robinson (LW) – Buddy’s brother has been a pretty unremarkable NCAA player at Princeton (31-7-4-11)
Zach Saar (RW) – he’s 6’5 and that appears to be the only reason the Penn State player is in camp (25-6-3-9)

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In somewhat tangential news Sportsnet shook up their hockey coverage as attempts to appeal to a younger audience with George Stroumboulopoulos were thought to have failed (the overall audience has dropped by 30% in just two years), so Ron MacLean has replaced him as a sop to older fans.  I was less interested in the host change than in the firing of the insufferable Glenn Healy along with P. J. Stock (Damien Cox was shuffled to PTS which services an even older demographic).  I won’t miss either Healy or Cox, while I’m indifferent to Stock (a feeling apparently in common with the audience).  For those who missed it, I wrote a piece back in March discussing the struggles of traditional sports in appealing to a younger demographic–the very conservative hockey powers are certainly not in a good position to stop the trend.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing the 2016 NHL Draft

It’s time to look back over the draft and assess my prognostication as well as that of the draft guides I used (I’m not interested in the declared intentions of the guides, but rather how they function as predictors).  Without further ado, here are the numbers (this isn’t about Player X at position X, so what’s below is simply the correct player by round).  Acronyms: EOTS (Eye on the Sens), FC (Future Considerations), HP (Hockey Prospects), RLR (Red Line Report), and ISS (International Scouting Service).

First Round
HP: 26/30
EOTS/ISS: 25/30
FC/RLR: 22/30
The easiest round to pick (Bob McKenzie was 27/30), it went fairly well for me.  Of the five players picked that I missed three (CholowskiJohansen, and Steel) were slotted in the first-half of the second round, so only Borgstrom and Frederic were true surprises (I had them in the third; no one had anyone other than Cholowski slotted in the first).

Second Round
EOTS/HP: 18/31
FC: 17/31
RLR/ISS: 15/31
Virtually identical numbers across the board (the third straight year of such consistency).

Third Round
HP: 8/30
EOTS/FC: 7/30
RLR/ISS: 5/30
Here’s where publication consensus starts to diverge with individual team scouting.  The first players not from my list were taken here (Peeters, Ingram, and Nassen).

Fourth Round
FC: 8/30
HP: 7/30
EOTS: 4/30
RLR/ 2/30
ISS: 1/30
The first unranked players (those appearing in no publication) were taken in this round (Golyshev, Aktell, Noel, Dostie, and Ryan Jones–the middle three were listed by CS, but not highly; three are overage).

Fifth Round
FC: 6/30
HP: 3/30
EOTS/ISS: 2/30
RLR: 0/30
Six more unranked players were taken here, including four overagers.

Sixth Round
HP: 4/30
EOTS/RLR/FC:2/30
ISS: 1/30
Ten unranked players were selected (with four overage).

Seventh Round
EOTS: 4/30
FC/HP: 2/30
RLR/ISS: 1/30
Eleven unranked players were drafted (six overagers).

Total (changes from last year noted)
HP: 68/211 (32.2%) (-1)
FC: 64/211 (30.3%) (+11)
EOTS: 62/211 (29.3%) (-4)
ISS: 50/200* (25%) (-7)
RLR: 47/211 (22.2%) (-10)
* because ISS doesn’t designate goaltenders by round they’re excluded

For the third year in a row HP was the most accurate (by round) of all the sources, although it’s worth noting if you eliminate the first round it’s still less than a quarter of all the players picked.  The more important number is how many players selected were actually taken in the draft, and here’s how we all did (with variance from last year noted):

HP: 158/211 (74.8%) (even)
EOTS: 153/211 (72.5%) (-5.5%)
FC: 148/211 (70.1%) (+1%)
RLR: 141/211 (66.8%) (-5.5%)
ISS: 140/220* (63.6%) (-4.5%)
* because of ISS’ weird goaltending listing they’re compared to a larger number

I slipped back to my average pick percentage for this draft (regressing to the mean–neither Travis Yost or Dmitri Filipovic read this blog, so that reference is wasted).  HP had their third strong year of predictions, just ever so slightly lower than last year (160 in 2015).  The other three publications are all near their usual batting average.

The highest ranked player left hanging was Maxime Fortier (#83 for me)–he was listed by all sources, but perhaps his size (5’10) played against him.  Other players universally slotted who were left out: Vladimir Kuznetsov (#93–listed as a 3rd or 4th rounder in all sources, but perhaps the Russian factor kept him out), Simon Stransky (#94), defenseman Benjamin Gleason (#96), William Knierim (#100; a second-round pick for one publication), undersized Brayden Burke (#140), Patrick Bajkov (#154), Ondrej Vala (#161), and Alan Lyszczarczyk (#165).  This tally of 9 players is slightly lower than last year (where 11 weren’t picked).  As for the publications themselves two players listed as second-rounders were left on the outside (the aforementioned Knierim as well as Russian defenseman Ilya Karpukhin).

A couple of highly ranked players passed over in the 2015 draft were taken this year (Soy and Noel), while others (like Salituro) remained on the outside looking in.  Speaking of highly ranked, Central Scouting’s Europeans were again largely ignored (of those not appearing in the aforementioned publications only Oleg Sosunov (#25) and goaltender Filip Larsson (#8) were taken among the top selections (leaving players like #35 Artur Shepelkov and #3 Veini Vehvilainen on the shelf, among others)).  Conversely the highest NA player left out from CS’ rankings were Brogan O’Brien (#97) and Zach Sawchenko (#6)–perhaps we can say their goaltending picks are as ignored as their European selections.

Of the 32 players picked that weren’t on any list (a slight increase from 29 last year), 15 were from Europe (8 from Sweden, 5 from Russia, 1 from Finland and 1 from the Czech Republic), 8 are from the various US systems (3 from the NCAA), and the remaining 9 from Canadian leagues (1 from tier-2).  This group includes 15 defensemen and 4 goalies.  There are also 24 players from just one publication: 7 from Europe (4 from Sweden and 1 each from Russia, Switzerland, and Denmark), 8 from US systems (5 NCAA), and the remaining 9 from the CHL (1 from tier-2); with 8 defenseman and 2 goalies in the group.  Combined the 56 players are heavily composed of Europeans and prospects from the US (38, or 67% of the total), with a heavy emphasis on position players (23 D and 6 G, more than half the total).  There are also a lot of older players (21), most (18) from the unranked group.

Conclusions from the draft remain much as they’ve been since I’ve started doing this: there’s a very broad consensus on the top-90 or so players, with growing eccentricity the later the draft gets.  Scouting in Europe continues to lag behind (thus the wider variety of rankings and greater number of off-the-board picks).  There’s clear uncertainty behind what makes for a good goaltender, creating a lot of eccentricity in the selections; the draft also indicates a difference of opinion between NHL teams and scouting publications over what makes for an NHL blueliner once you get beyond the top-30 prospects (a lot of the late pick defenseman were big men, so taking risks on size continues to be a factor rather than skill).  As for the predictions themselves, I’m content with how this year went, although the goal remains beating the publications consistently.

[One correction from my big analysis article prior to the draft, I missed mentioning one player from two sources–as Patrick Harper–who ultimately wasn’t drafted.]

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing Ottawa’s 2016 Draft

The 2016 NHL Draft is in the books so we can take a look at how the Senators did at this year’s draft.  My predictions for who they would pick went down in flames (expectedly, although I hoped to get one or two).  Pierre Dorion’s first draft featured just one trade, sending the Sens first round pick (#12, Michael McLeod) and a third round pick (#80, Brandon Gignac), for the #11 pick.  Otherwise we saw most of the usual Bryan Murray drafting trends continue (preference for size, a player from Sweden, a player from the US junior systems, no Russians, and a (pseudo) local boy in Brown).  Things that changed from the norm include drafting a player from Finland (the first since 2005), not drafting a player from the QMJHL (the first time since 2007, but Lajoie if from Quebec so….), and drafting a player under 6’0 (first time since 2011, although 5’11 is not much of a reach).  Without further ado, here are the players (I reference my master list for when I say where they were slotted):

1-11 Logan Brown (C 6’6 OHL 59-21-53-74); Rankings 7-13; slotted #9

I expected the son of former NHLer Jeff to be gone earlier, but Clayton Keller and Olli Juolevi went early leaving him available; Dorion made a trade to move up to get the 6’6 forward which echoes the trade for Gabriel Gagne last year (also with New Jersey where they sent a 2nd and 4th to get the pick).  I echoed Trevor Shackles’ sentiment about the trade, but it will be several years before we can truly assess the move.  Brown finished second in scoring for Windsor (well behind Christian Fischer and, by points-per-game, Brendan Lemieux; both older players and both 2nd round picks).

The scouting assessments of Brown are all very similar, agreeing on the following: he’s not a physical player, has a good shot but doesn’t shoot enough, is a great passer, has a good hockey IQ, protects the puck down low and is good on the cycle, and he’s TALL.  Disagreements: one (of four) didn’t think he was very good off the rush and the same thought he needed to improve defensively; opinions on his skating are mixed.

2-42 Jonathan Dahlen (C/LW 5’11 Allsvenskan 51-15-14-29); Rankings 24-149; slotted #41

Son of former NHLer Ulf, he’s another player I expected to be gone before this pick, although it’s not like he tumbled down the draft very far.  The Sens always pick a Swede and Dahlen is the first under 6’0 player they’ve taken since 2011.  It’s worth noting that Dahlen spent the year in the tier-2 men’s league, not Swedish junior, so his numbers are quite good (he lead the lackluster Timra roster in scoring–in points-per-game he’s just ahead of Victor Ejdsell and Johan Persson, both older, undrafted players).

Scouting opinions on him are very similar: a natural goal-scorer who is very good around the net; a good forechecker; good skater (some debate about his acceleration); very competitive, but not very physical.  The only real disagreement is about his defensive abilities, which range from average to good.

4-103 Todd Burgess (C/RW 6’2 NAHL 60-38-57-95); Rankings 94-145; slotted #135

Not ranked by a couple of publications, the overage American is set to play for RPI in the NCAA next season.  Because he’s overage his numbers aren’t quite as impressive as they would be otherwise, but he lead the entire league in scoring (something that clearly caught many scouts by surprise)–Michaela Schreiter notes his totals are the highest since Pat Maroon a long time ago.

There was only one scouting profile of him and it indicated he was a good playmaker with good vision and hockey IQ; a puck-battler and decent stickhandler, but his puck skills are average for the NHL level; solid on the forecheck; he needs to improve his skating and defensive skills.

5-133 Max Lajoie (DL 6’0 WHL 62-8-29-37); Rankings 52-102; slotted #72

Tumbled considerably in the draft, perhaps because of his stature (small for a blueliner; although I have seen him listed at 6’1); he was the top scoring defenseman for Swift Current (the alma mater of Zack Smith).

Scouts largely agree on him: a good skater with above average hockey IQ, solid offensively with good puck distribution and a sneaky wrist shot; a good first pass and very calm.  There are disagreements on his defensive play (average to good) and one said he was a bit too passive.

6-163 Markus Nurmi (RW/LW 6’4 Finnish Jr 49-19-17-36); Rankings 69-185; slotted #128

Another player who fell from where I slotted him; the big Finn finished third in scoring on TPS (just behind Juho Virtanen, but well behind Matias Lehtonen in points-per-game; both slightly older, undrafted players).  I’m curious what prompted the Sens to finally draft from Finland, since they haven’t done so in over a decade (Janne Kolehmainen in 2005).  His size is obviously appealing, but there have been plenty of big Finns available over the intervening period, so clearly something changed–maybe they finally had bus fare for scout Mikko Ruutu to tour in his own country (jk).

There were only two scouting reports on him and they are pretty harmonious: he’s a straight-line player, a good forechecker who is very competitive; one said he had good hockey IQ; he’s very raw and there are some differences over where he tops out (either as a depth checker or a more productive two-way forward).

Overall I’m pretty happy with the picks.  In studying the draft we can expect at least one of these picks to pan out, but we can hope for two.  From an AHL-perspective the hope is higher as it’s likely most or all of these players will eventually suit up.  It’s a much better draft for the Sens than 2014, but not with the top-end of 2015–likely similar in value to 2013.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ottawa Senators Draft Preview

One of the fun things about the draft is making predictions.  Despite the Ottawa organisation having many of the same pieces since Bryan Murray became GM (back in 2007), deciding on who they will pick is a devilish task.  Due to various constraints on my time I didn’t make predictions for last year’s draft, but I’ve managed to squeeze it in this time around.

The framework of how I’ll do this is: 1) look at Ottawa’s trends, 2) use my master list to determine who will be available, 3) provide potential options for each pick and predict which is the best.

History

Craig Smith quite rightly looks at picks after Tim Murray left for Buffalo (although since that was mid-season his fingerprints remain on the 2014 draft; I made a comparison between Tim’s drafts and Ottawa’s not long ago).  With that said there are older trends that indicate the preferences of the Sens since Bryan Murray was hired as GM.  Without further ado, and skipping over the 2007 draft as that’s John Muckler’s draft in all but name, here’s what we have:
2008: Sweden 3, WHL 2, BCHL/CCHL 2
2009: USHL/USHS 3, Sweden 2, WHL 1, QMJHL 1, OHL 1, NCAA 1
2010: QMJHL 1, WHL 1, USHL 1, Sweden 1
2011: OHL 3, Sweden 2, WHL 2, USHL 2, QMJHL 1
2012: OHL 2, USHL/USHS 2, QMJHL 1, WHL 1, Sweden 1
2013: Sweden 2, WHL 1, OHL 1, QMJHL 1, NCAA 1, EJHL 1
2014: USHL/USHS 2, QMJHL 1, Sweden 1, CCHL 1
2015: QMJHL 3, USHL/USHS 3, Sweden 2

Totals
NCAA/USHL/USHS/EJHL 16 (0-4-1-2-2-2-2-3)
Sweden 14 (3-2-1-2-1-2-1-2)
QMJHL 9 (0-1-1-1-1-1-1-3)
WHL 8 (2-1-1-2-1-1-0-0)
OHL 7 (0-1-0-3-2-1-0-0)
BCHL/CCHL 3 (2-0-0-0-0-0-1-0)

Note: Ottawa has not drafted a player under 6’0 since 2011

Notable organisation changes:
-Pierre Dorion was added after the 2007 draft as head scout (arriving from the Rangers)
-Tim Murray left mid-season in 2014, having come to Ottawa at the same time as Dorion (and also from the Rangers)
-Swedish scout Anders Forsberg (now with Buffalo) was with the org for the 08-10 drafts

Trends

In terms of CHL activity the QMJHL has remained steady while both the WHL and OHL have fallen off–I think some of this (particularly the WHL) is purely coincidence as head scout Bob Lowes is a western guy; there’s been a consistent emphasis on American leagues; the org always picks at least one player from Sweden, but no players from any other European league outside of Sweden and no Russians in any context (for example, the Sens gave up the chance to draft Vladimir Tarasenko to acquire David Rundblad in 2010).

What can we expect?  We’re guaranteed at least one QMJHL player, one Swede (what other option do the European scouts have?), and one player from the various US systems.  With that said, here are my predictions:

1-12 – the rankings puts Clayton Keller here, but given his size (5’10) either defenseman Dante Fabbro or Jake Bean (Smith’s choice above) are strong possibilities (despite being on the short side for defensemen, both around 6’0)–both are western players (BCHL and WHL) and I’m inclined to agree with Smith’s pick
2-42 – rankings have WHL defenseman Lucas Johansen here, but I don’t see back-to-back WHL blueliners (or blueliners in general) being selected, so Taylor Raddysh (the OHL rightwinger) is my guess
3-80 – I have another defenseman here (OHLer Sean Day), but I think QMJHL center/RW Maxime Fortier (who isn’t much further down) is more likely despite his size (at 5’10 he would break the 6’0 obsession)
4-103 – WHL center Beck Malenstyn slots here, although I think 6’5 WHLer Hudson Elynuik is more likely (Swedish forward Jesper Bratt is a possibility, but at 5’10 this is a bit of a stretch)
5-133 – 6’7 OHL Belarussian overage defenseman Stepan Falkovksy slots here, but I don’t see him being taken (he’s almost Russian and his numbers aren’t that impressive); USHL defenseman Samuel Rossini is next up, but USDP RW William Lockwood looks more likely to me (the former has traditional size, but his numbers aren’t remarkable)
6-163 – USHS forward Michael Graham slots here, but we’re due for at least one Swede so I like 6’3 overage defenseman Filip Berglund

This leaves me with:
Jake Bean (WHL)
Taylor Raddysh (OHL)
Maxime Fortier (QMJHL)
Hudson Elynuik (WHL)
William Lockwood (USDP)
Filip Berglund (Sweden)

This is a bit light on the US-system side of things and includes two players below the Sens usual height-minimum (Fortier and Lockwood), but it’s close enough to organisational trends to be reasonable.  Ottawa is notorious for taking players who aren’t well known or regarded however, so at least one pick is likely to be a player no one expects.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

ElliotteFriedman

The 6th Sens’ latest podcast was posted a few days ago and had Elliotte Friedman on and he had a number of things to say of which the following interested me:
-he admitted his inclusion of Ottawa as a possible target to move to Quebec was simply speculation (he apparently doesn’t like to use that word to describe it, but that’s what it is)
-he indicated that he believed Bryan Murray did not want to leave his position, implying he was pushed out internally
-he talked about how he thinks getting a coach like Guy Boucher after his first stint in the NHL is a good thing–he’s learned what works and what doesn’t–and as vague as this is it does fit the limited analysis of coaching success that I’ve seen (as I mentioned when Boucher was hired)
-when asked if he thought Ottawa’s talent was too middling to succeed (so they should rebuild), Friedman countered that he thought given the team-friendly contracts the core players were signed on the organisation has to go for it–push for success–which is certainly the sentiment that management has shared; Friedman thinks the Sens have the talent to win, but thinks their style of play has been the problem (which basically boils down to coaching, although that’s not how he framed it)
-on Mike Hoffman: suggested there’s something we can’t see on the ice that’s caused him to get pushed to the fourth line–my guess is friction with his coaches, assuming that’s true, because as Friedman points out Hoffman has incredibly rare skills in today’s NHL; he also added he thought that Boucher’s prior relationship with Hoffman was part of the reason why he was hired
-he said many NHL teams are reluctant to depend on analytics when it comes to big decisions (he said he didn’t think they paid attention to Corsi, but used other metrics to measure the same thing); he echoed a Tweet from Nate Silver that said “I’m not sure that hockey is that much different than random,” which I think is way too flippant and vague to take seriously

Sens logo

A few other Sens items of note:
-Tim Pattyson was moved from his position as the video coach to oversee analytics for the team; it’s an interesting move about which I have mixed feelings: 1) as a trusted voice in the organisation whatever information he brings to the staff should be respected, but 2) as part of the group-think in Ottawa that’s rejected analytics, what will he bring?  (You can read Nichols thoughts on the move here)
-For the first time in a long time the Sens choose not to bring any top picks to the city (I like the move–don’t create room for disappointment in the fanbase)
-Pierre Dorion seems to have moved away (at least publically) from Bryan Murray’s never ending search for a top-six forward, expressing the belief that the team has nine players who could potentially score 20-goals–unless he has a time machine that takes him back to the 1980s I agree with Nichols that this is a pure flight of fancy, but I do like that he’s pulling back from echoing Murray’s unending desire
-Dorion confirmed that Clarke MacArthur is 100% healthy
-Like Nichols I’m puzzled that the Sens are (publically at least) expressing an interest in bringing back Alex Chiasson

2016_NHL_Entry_Draft_logo

Nichols invited Craig Smith to predict who the Sens might pick at the draft this year (as Smith did for Senschirp last year).  Smith does the right thing by looking at the team’s picks since Tim Murray left and noting the Sens interest in size (something I mentioned not long ago), as well as the limitations in where they draft from (nowhere in Europe outside of Sweden, always someone from the Q, etc).  Unfortunately Smith mentions a pretty terrible piece written by his colleague Ryan Wagman (which Craig must not have re-read as it includes an erroneous contradiction to his own thoughts (on size); as for why I have issues with Wagman I’ll refer you here and here; Ryan tends to Google his own name, so hello Ryan).  After various first round profiles (which seem pointless in context, but without them the piece would be extremely short), he eventually concludes the Sens will pick defenseman Jake Bean (no relation to Sean Bean).  He then suggests four potential players as second-round selections (defenseman Cam Dineen, defenseman Adam Fox, winger Cameron Morrison, and forward Jordan Kyrou).

What do I think about the predictions?  I posted my ultimate 2016 draft list yesterday and certainly all the players should be an option at that time, so they’re reasonable suggestions.  I’ll post a brief Sens draft preview to offer my predictions separately.

EK

Erik Karlsson lost the Norris vote and while I think the decision was wrong I don’t really care–I’m not attached to awards–but for those who want some sympathetic outrage Ross A breaks it all down.

matt o'connor

Nick Valentino argues that Sens fans should be patient with Matt O’Connor and not give up after his atrocious rookie season.  He makes the argument his struggles were largely a product of the team in front of him and while he has a point I do think more of an explanation should be offered over why he had so many more problems than the other goaltenders who played in Binghamton (rookie nerves is a possibility).

darrenkramer

Former Sens prospect Darren Kramer was tasered and arrested recently.  The story (via the link) is a fascinating display of Kramer‘s apparent lack of common sense, although until the case goes to court (I imagine it will be settled before that) nothing has been proven.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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