Plain and simple, the Sens made out like bandits at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Selecting three forwards in the first round, plus Shane Prince in the second and trading for Nikita Filatov quickly restocked their prospect pool. There are no guarantees any (or all) of those players will make the Sens a top team down the road, but it certainly increases the odds that this draft will be considered a success.
Drafting at the six spot, Ottawa made an effort to move up and select Gabriel Landeskog. When he went second overall, it became a foregone conclusion the Sens would keep their original spot. The Senators then selected Mika Zibanejad, a skilled and physical centre from Sweden. He will be in camp come September but will most likely return to Djurgardens for the 2011/2012 year.
Stefan Noesen and Matt Puempel were taken in the last third of the first round. Puempel is a pure goal scorer coming off of hip surgery. Over the last two years in the OHL he scored 67 goals in 114 games. He might have a shot at 50 goals next season in Peterborough. Noesen improved his draft stock with a strong second half and playoff. He is the first player born in Texas selected by the Senators. His game translates at the next level as a strong two way winger.
Shane Prince is an intriguing prospect. Playing junior with the 67’s here in Ottawa, the winger put up good numbers. Considered by some to be smaller in stature, Prince plays bigger than his listed 5’11”. Spend enough time around NHLers, and you see pretty quickly that many players make a living by playing up a weight class or two. Prince will be one of those guys.
On the second day, GM Bryan Murray moved his third round pick to Columbus for Filatov. Selected sixth overall in 2008, he never lived up to his promise with the Blue Jackets, a consistent problem in Columbus. This is a great trade as it is low risk high reward on the Senators part. Filatov heard the news on the Internet as he was vacationing with his family and was in Ottawa less than 48 hours later. He seems to have a renewed attitude and could make his mark playing with Jason Spezza.
As they have over the last few years, Ottawa is running it’s prospect development over the Canada Day weekend. Randy Lee, the Senators Director of Player Development and Hockey Administration, has improved the quality of this camp to the point many consider it one of the best in the NHL. Ottawa has 35 of it’s prospects here. All 10 from this years draft are on the ice, as well as a couple expected to have a shot at making the top team this fall.
For many, a pro career awaits them down the road. However, based on the quality of the players here this week, many will have an uphill battle making it to the NHL on a consistent basis. Which is a good thing for the Senators; in years past, the level of play was nowhere near where it needed to be.
After a few days, a couple players are emerging as the “better prospects.” Often too much is read into a couple days of drills and skating. But after a scrimmage or two, the Senators management have to be pleased.
Two players came into this camp with a spotlight on them. David Rundblad was traded for at the 2010 draft, and is making his first appearance with the Senators. He had an exceptional season in Sweden last year and has as good a chance as any to make the parent team. He is showcasing his skills at both ends of the ice.
The other, Zibanejad, has shown he can play gritty as well as providing offense. His play is at the same level as other top prospects in camp. Translating that into an NHL position would take a real leap of faith. He is 18 and will be better served staying in the SEL for another year.
Perhaps the most dominant player so far has been Jakob Silfverberg. During the scrimmage Thursday evening he was the best player on the ice. He turns 21 this fall and the Sens are hoping he comes over from, you guessed it, Sweden. He has said he would like to spend one more year in his homeland. He is a winger that is showing he has scoring ability.
Others having a good camp so far are Prince, 2009 first rounder Jared Cowen, 2011 third round pick Jean Gabriel Pageau, and Ben Blood, a massive defenseman who will return to the NCAA. His size and physical play will certainly be welcomed when he turns pro.
Murray, his staff and his scouts have done an incredible job of adding depth to the prospect pool. Never in the history of this club has there been this much talent in the system. It is only a matter of time before they start making their mark in the NHL.