A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
Despite a lowly ranking of 29th overall, the Senator’s dubious position is largely mitigated by the NHL production of 25 and unders Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Curtis Lazar and Cody Ceci. The problem is simply that, of the guys who haven’t risen to the top, progress has been limited. A promising and deep draft class bode well for Ottawa in future versions of this list, but for now, they will have to bide their time.
- Thomas Chabot, D, Saint John (QMJHL) 6-2”, 181. 18th overall, 2015
- Matt Puempel, LW, Binghampton (AHL) 6-0”, 205. 24th overall, 2011
- Nick Paul, C, North Bay (OHL) 6-2”, 202. Trade: Jul. 1, 2014. (Originally: 101st overall, 2013, Dallas)
- Colin White, RW, U.S.N.T.D.P. (USHL) 6-0”, 183. 21st overall, 2015
- Tobias Lindberg, RW, Oshawa (OHL) 6-3”, 200. 102nd overall, 2013
- Matt O’Connor, G, Boston University (Hockey East) 6-5”, 186. UFA, signed May 9, 2015
- Shane Prince, C, Binghampton (AHL) 5-11”, 190. 61st overall, 2011
- Marcus Hogberg, G, Linkoping (SHL) 6-4”, 205 78th overall, 2013
- Andreas Englund, D, Djurgarden (SHL) 6-3”, 189. 40th overall, 2014
- Filip Chlapik, C, Charlottetown (QMJHL) 6-1”, 196. 48th overall, 2015
Players likely to lose eligibility
- Chris Wideman, D, Binghampton (AHL) 5-10”, 170. 100th overall, 2009
- Fredrik Claesson, D, Binghampton (AHL) 6-0”, 198. 126th overall, 2011
- Ben Harpur, D, Barrie (OHL) 6-6”, 210. 108th overall, 2013
- Filip Ahl, LW, HV71 J20 (SuperLiga) 6-4”,212. 109th overall, 2015
- Mikael Wikstrand, D, Frolunda (SHL) 6-1”, 183. 196th overall, 2012
For years, the Ottawa Senators have excelled at finding and then developing goaltenders. While they have not always leveraged that skill to the utmost (see the meagre returns in trade for the likes of Brian Elliott and Ben Bishop), they at least have always had another young up-and-comer waiting in the wings and forcing their hands. This year, it was the signing of highly sought after college free agent Matt O’Connor from Boston University, along with the pleasing developmental steps taken by 2013 third rounder Marcus Hogberg in his first prolonged stint in the SHL, that allowed Bryan Murray to deal former stud prospect Robin Lehner to Buffalo along with the contract anchored to David Legwand for the draft pick that was used on the organization’s new number four prospect. O’Connor gained negative press for a high profile gaffe in the NCAA title game, but the body of evidence far outweighed that one ill-timed play. Hogberg was one of only two goalies under 25 to finish in the top ten in save percentage in the SHL. Both large netminders could eventually push incumbents Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond for NHL roster spots within two years.
Despite the presence of only two blueliners on the top ten, one is the Senators top prospect in 2015 first rounder Thomas Chabot, while many of the players just outside the top ten are also defenders. The latter include a few players on the cusp of the NHL in Chris Wideman and Frederik Claesson as well as potential sleepers Ben Harpur and Mikael Wikstrand. Wideman and Claesson are depth types, although the Swedish Claesson may be able build to a solid career out of strong, responsible play in his own zone coupled with exceptional leadership abilities. Should Harpur take well to his first taste of the AHL this year, he could rocket up prospect lists as his physical gifts are immense but he is currently held back by inconsistent decision making.
As for the two defenders on the list, Chabot is an electric skater who loves to join and even lead the rush but is more than capable in his own end as well. He could stand to improve his decision making (couldn’t we all?) and will continue to do so for another two seasons in the QMJHL. He also has a good chance to represent Canada at this year’s World Juniors. Andreas Englund is another good skater, with size, but who plays a quieter game. The former second rounder can begin the transition game well and held his own as a 19 year old playing against men in the SHL.
Ottawa has a solid collection of forwards in the pipeline in terms of depth, but lack any single prospect who can be labelled as a dynamic, game changing player. Even those towards the top of the list, Matt Puempel, Nick Paul and Colin White, look like solid third liners, at best. No shame there, but it would be hard for any organization to rank much higher than this without a single prospect who projects as a 20 goal scorer at the highest level. Puempel in particular is a strange case as a player who has seemingly found his stride immediately at every new level he has taken on, only to stagnate at that range. He is probably ready to take on a fourth line role right now. Paul, a supporting player on Canada’s gold medal winning WJC squad, will also get there in one or two seasons, while Colin White will need at least two seasons at Boston College before bringing his 200 foot game to the professional level. All three will eventually feature on penalty kills and bring moderate production from the depth lines.
If there are any 20 goal scorers here (and the previous remark should make clear that I don’t see anyone who will produce that much with consistency), Tobias Lindberg and Shane Prince have reasonable chances to peak at that level. Lindberg acclimated immediately to the North American game, playing a critical role for the Memorial Cup winning Oshawa Generals, finishing third in team scoring and demonstrating tantalizing offensive instincts. The question with him is whether his east-west style will translate to the pros. Prince took a step forward in his third AHL season, finishing sixth in league scoring, and second among players 24 and under. The downside to his prospect stick is the feeling that, if he does not make it in a top six role, he lacks the strength and physicality to play a bottom six role. In a league that is moving farther and farther away from goonery, that mindset needs to be put to rest.
In the beefy middle of this year’s draft, Ottawa drafted two Europeans named Filip who, while both several years away from contributing, still maintain all of the hope and potential inherent in players who have yet to fail. Chlapik, a Czech import to the QMJHL, took to the North American game nicely as a rookie demonstrating strong hands and hockey IQ. The Swedish Ahl is a cruder player with greater physical tools but he has yet to put them all together. He could end up a steal as a fourth round pick.
Had the Senators not traded for Bobby Ryan, they would have picked tenth during last year’s draft, a pick which the Anaheim Ducks used to draft beastly power forward Nick Ritchie. Add Ritchie to the Ottawa list and the organization would jump 5-7 spots in the rankings. But on the other hand, they would not have Bobby Ryan. Historically a good drafting team, their ranking is also hurt by the realities of being a budget team. Not able to spend to the cap, Ottawa has been forced to play youngsters earlier than other teams might. For the most part, the strategy has worked, with the above-mentioned young players all contributing above and beyond their wages. It is a trade-off, but one most well run organizations would gladly make.