With of the threat of a lockout casting a Jay Feaster-sized shadow over the start of the NHL season, finding some silver linings during these August days has been trying.
Fortunately with Hockey Prospectus’ Corey Pronman revealing his list of the Ottawa Senators’ top 10 prospects today, prospect porn indulging Sens fans have some beacon of light to divert their attention.
Here is his summation of the system that he ranks as being the fifth best in the NHL:
This is a ridiculously deep system. Players like Jarrod Maidens, Ben Blood, and Fredrik Claesson, who would all be in just about any team's top 15 prospects, end up off Ottawa's top 15. They lack the multiple star prospects outside of Mika Zibanejad, but there are still so many quality youngsters in this organization.
For what it is worth, here is the list:
1. Mika Zibanejad, Center
2. Cody Ceci, Defense
3. Jakob Silfverberg, Right Wing
4. Mark Stone, Right Wing
5. Shane Prince, Left Wing
6. Stephane Da Costa, Center
7. Stefan Noesen, Right Wing
8. Patrick Wiercioch, Defense
9. Matt Puempel, Left Wing
10.Andre Petersson, Right Wing
Pronman also included the next five prospects who fell short of making the cut and one sleeper. They were:
11. Mike Hoffman, Left Wing
12. Robin Lehner, Goaltender
13. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Center
14. Mark Borowiecki, Defense
15. Derek Grant, Center
Sleeper: Robbie Baillargeon, Center
A few followers on Twitter questioned why a highly regarded goaltending prospect like Robin Lehner didn’t crack the list and the answer is simple: Corey’s consistently been bullish on every goaltending prospect.
In the past, he has alluded to the position’s volatility and the high attrition rate for goalies, so it’s not particularly surprising to see Lehner slip in his rankings. Keep in mind, this isn’t some condemnation of Lehner’s ability or indicative of his future, but in a tweet to one Sens fan who questioned his omission, Pronman preferred to credit the strength of Ottawa’s system and the positional prospects that ranked ahead of the Swedish goaltender as the basis for his decision.
From a personal standpoint, I found a few things to be particularly surprising:
Cody Ceci being second on the list - Considering how close a few of Ottawa’s other highly regarded prospects like Silfverberg and Stone are to being NHL-ready (if they’re not already), his place seems high. But it is certainly reassuring to see a defensive propect that high on the list as the organizations depth at that position needs work.
Shane Prince being placed fifth ahead of his fellow 2011 draft class members Stefan Noesen and Matt Puempel was also noteworthy.
Despite his inconsistencies at the professional level and the throat injury that he suffered this past season, I fully expected to see Patrick Wiercioch slide out of the team’s top ten rankings.
Finally, I was surprised to see Pronman list Zibanejad as a center. Even in his individual write up for Mika, Corey acknowledges that he probably profiles more as a winger at the NHL-level:
Zibanejad is a prototypical do-everything forward with above-average or better tools across the board, and he is one of the more complete prospects in hockey. He's an above-average skater who has shown some improvement in that area and generates good power from his stride. Zibanejad is a high-end puck-handler who can dazzle with his hands. He also is a good passer who will flash plus ability in that area. He has a bullet shot and can score from mid-distance. Zibanejad is a tremendous on-ice worker who barrels through each check and gives it his all every shift. He's also a pretty effective defensive player who can play center or wing, although I see him as the latter down the line. He's NHL-ready.
Although this third party ballyhooing of Ottawa’s system is a nice feather in the cap for the management team and the scouting staff, it’s not raining gum drops and the Rideau Canal isn’t made of chocolate. In the greater scheme of things, the rankings while nice, mean nothing until these prospects actually pan out – they’re still just prospects.
Keeping that in mind, many will not fulfill the lofty expectations that so frequently come with the territory, however, the fact that Ottawa has seemingly accumulated so many since the John Muckler era ended hopefully means that the odds are stacked in Ottawa’s favor that at least a few will pan. At the very least, with prospects and draft picks being the currency of the NHL, this stockpiling of young prospects provides the organization the flexibility to flip this quantity for better quality.
Man, Pronman really has a hard-on for Z-BAD. Not only does he rank him higher than any other Sens prospect, he even ranks him higher than Jared Cowen on his Ottawa Senators Organizational Top 10 Players 22 or under (as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect).
1. Erik Karlsson, Defense
2. Mika Zibanejad, Center
3. Cody Ceci, Defense
4. Jakob Silfverberg, Right Wing
5. Jared Cowen, Defense
Granted, Pronman also ranks Ceci and Silfverberg ahead of a player who has played a full NHL season and played an important role on the team, but his love for Z-Bad only rivals Craig Button who can't wait to yell out "Persian Prince!!" with any mention of Mika.
While other prospect websites and reports have cooled on Mika, Pronman continues to build him up. Is there something that everybody else is missing? Is Mika our answer to our vacant first line right winger role? Can he live up to his draft status and show all the "we should have picked Couturier" bandwagon fans that the Sens drating department knows a little more than we do about evaluating talent and long-term success?
I sure hope so. I think the only go thing about a lockout this season is that Mika, Stone and Silfverberg will start the year off in Bingo and will not have to deal with the pressure everybody will put on them once they are in Ottawa.
Add to Ceci's #2 ranking that Pronman favours forwards over defensemen where skill and upside are otherwise comparable. Looks like the distinction is Ceci has possible first pairing upside where all forwards below are projected to have second line ceilings.
My surprise was having DaCosta ranked so high. I thought his size, speed and physical game were huge red flags that would allow other second line prospects to leap frog him.
Also re-assuring to hear an independent voice validate Sens assessment of Noesen - that he has made improvments to skating and overall game - to the point where he could be viewed as a top 6 winger. Puempel is not shit on for his skating or down season - everything I've heard about him has sounded like Dany Heatley.
@sensuries Interestingly, Pronman talked up Puempel's skating a bit in the write up. Perhaps more than any other junior aged prospect, I'm looking forward to keeping close tabs on him in Kitchener; hopefully he responds positively and has himself a bounce back year.