Heading into the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, we knew a few things: a) Ottawa had 12 picks and 6 amongst the first 66 selections. b) the organization had acknowledged that it was willing to pay the price to move up in the draft c) if the opportunity presented itself, the team would be willing to move a draft pick for an NHL-ready player.
Had you told me that the organization would leave Minnesota with three first rounders and another recent lottery pick who bears a striking resemblance to Arya from HBO's Game of Thrones without giving up much of anything, I would have been thrilled. Now toss in the fact that the organization also added a prospect from each of city's respective junior clubs and not even Don Brennan can complain about what the team has done.
Sure, like in any other draft, there are going to be cynics who will look at Nikita Filatov or a Stefan Noeson and lazily throw out words like "bust", "enigma" or "reach" but you can't appease those insufferable know-it-all assholes.
As Gus Katsaros from McKeen's Hockey pointed out on Twitter, "Love all the Filatov is a bust talk without referencing Columbus inability to develop homegrown players" and a "change of scenery to Ottawa - club devoted to developing some talent from within - could be the biggest difference. Just temper expectations."
Bingo. And lest we forget Ken Hitchcock's rapport with young players or his philosophy that young, offensive talent whose defensive aptitude has developed slowly should be resigned to play on the third or fourth line with a bunch of muckers so that they can learn the subtleties of the game from there. To fit into Hitchcock's system, you need one of three things: heart, grit or empty calories.
That's not to say that there isn't any inherent risk in bringing in a player like Filatov. Work ethic and an exodus to the KHL are cause for concern but he was acquired for a third round pick (66th overall). Are either of these concerns more risk-filled than gambling on a prospective third rounder's development? Hells no but as Tim pointed out in a conversation that I had with him, "(Filatov) will be a rock star in Ottawa. Do you think he was rocking in Columbus? No way - it'd be like Eddie Van Halen trying to party in Salt Lake City. Playing in a Canadian market with some attention on him is what this kid wants, he'll excel here but at the same time, the NAC should definitely be wary of any donations."
It's the perfect example of what Jonah Keri stressed in The Extra 2% - buying low on an unbelievably talented player who's only 21 and has 44 career NHL games under his belt. Whether Filatov's game improves to the point that the Senators retain him or flip him for more/better assets than what they originally gave up, it's a win-win situation. And as Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman pointed out, "That 66th pick might have an average value over the pre-UFA years of 1 million. Filatov has a first line ceiling. Do the math on the risk."
But getting back to Noeson, I can understand why people would question the Senators for taking him at 21 when he was projected as a second round guy. For me personally, it indicates that they feared Noeson wouldn't slide and to the organization's credit, I love the fact that they were so aggressive in going after 'their' guys and snatching up forwards who have a blend of size and skill. In some ways, this reminds me of the Karlsson pick that Murray traded up for in the 2008 draft. No one had heard much of him at the time either and now we're making fun of that infamous Don Brennan article because of it.
As we had an opportunity to see in the latter stages of the season and with Binghamton's Calder Cup win, the Senators have an overwhelming abundance of quality defencemen and forwards who project as bottom six guys. It's clear from the first few rounds of the draft that the Senators addressed an organizational need for forwards blessed with offensive upside.
I suppose the one thing that we will have to pay attention to moving forward is the comparisons that will inevitably be drawn between Zibanejad and the passed over Sean Couturier. Judging by Winnipeg's selection of Mark Scheifele, Ottawa wasn't alone in acknowledging some red flags attached to Couturier's game.
More importantly, one can only hope that the Senators don't feel the need to accelerate the process and rush any of these prospects - especially Zibanejad. I realize that "Control+C, Control+V" has an out in his SEL contract that allows him to play this season in the NHL out of camp, but this shouldn't be a race. If the Senators have another poor season, trade off some more veteran assets and take advantage of the draft, then so be it. As the past few two days have shown, it can be worth it.
Draft Grade: A
Here's a look at Ottawa's draft board:
|Rnd||Pick||Overall||Player||Pos||Country||Ht||Wt||Amateur League||Amateur Team|
|1||6||6||MIKA ZIBANEJAD||C||SE||6' 2"||195||SWEDEN||DJURGARDEN|
|1||21||21||STEFAN NOESEN||RW||US||6' 0"||187||OHL||PLYMOUTH|
|1||24||24||MATT PUEMPEL||LW||CA||6' 0"||198||OHL||PETERBOROUGH|
|2||31||61||SHANE PRINCE||C||US||5' 10"||181||OHL||OTTAWA|
|4||5||96||JEAN-GABRIEL PAGEAU||C||CA||5' 9"||163||QMJHL||GATINEAU|
|5||5||126||FREDRIK CLAESSON||D||SE||6' 0"||198||SWEDEN||DJURGARDEN|
|6||5||156||DARREN KRAMER||C||CA||6' 1"||202||WHL||SPOKANE|
|6||20||171||MAX MCCORMICK||LW||US||5' 11"||174||USHL||SIOUX CITY|
|7||5||186||JORDAN FRANSOO||D||CA||6' 2"||178||WHL||BRANDON|
|7||23||204||RYAN DZINGEL||C||US||6' 0"||185||USHL||LINCOLN|
What Others Are Saying...
"I love Zibanejad and it’s really hard to go wrong with a player of his stature. He’ll play on a first line and score at a normal pace there while working his tail off every shift and provide top-end two-way production. Now the Noesen pick I didn’t like just because it was way too safe a pick for a tough, hard-working forward who has ok offensive skills but likely won’t be a top six in the league. Puempel is great goal-scorer and one of the best in the class but his possession skills might barely be average. Overall I like the accumulation that Ottawa got here and they didn’t horribly botch it, but if you told me a team would have three first round picks I would have thought they’d leave day one with just a notch higher talent level in the basket. This is a very safe draft class." ~ Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus