I'm late getting to this but yesterday afternoon, Ottawa's director of player personnel, Pierre Dorion, made an appearance on the Team 1200's Healthy Scratches. With the NHL Entry Draft less than two months away, Dorion shared his thoughts on the draft and a variety of Ottawa's prospects and players.
The following is a transcript of some of the memorable topics, as always my thoughts are in bold.
Q: How close are you to getting your final (scouting) list finalized?
A: Pretty close. Actually, today I printed all of our scouts’ lists. All the guys are coming in Thursday night and we’re going to start our scouting meetings on Friday, so I just wanted to have a brief look at what every one of our scouts seemed to think about the possible draftable prospects this year, and I think it looks pretty good.
I hope it looks good.
Q: For this Friday meeting, is this the first of many war room mentality meetings?
A: Yes, this is probably the final meeting or this is probably the most important meeting of the year. We do meet again at the draft; a few days before the draft but it’s more of a review. This meeting is where we really hash out our list. We don’t really go through the processes of what teams will take what players, we just let the players fall and just go by what we do with our lists. If we spend too much time thinking about whatever everyone else does, I don’t think that we do a good job of doing what we need to do?
No word from the organization yet whether we're going to be treated to more Senate Reform videos this offseason.
Q: Does management and the scouting staff try and strictly select the best available player or do you emphasize drafting for need?
A:What we try and do is obviously try and take the best available player. Last year, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that maybe we passed on a defenceman that we thought in the overall scheme of things, might be better. But with the depth on defence that we thought we had before we made the Rundblad for Turris trade, it changes things in perspective. Maybe it was a lesson learned but I still think we’re very happy with who we took with our first three rounders. But at times, most of the time I’ll say 99-percent of the time, it’s always best player available.
It's easy to infer that Ottawa likely had Dougie Hamilton, the next defenceman who was selected after Zibanejad, Mark Scheifele and Sean Couturier, rated more highly. While we should give Dorion some points for being truthful, this kind of honesty is the stuff that the revisionist 'what have you done for me lately?' crowd will eat up - forgetting the context of the how the events unfolded.
Q: When choosing between two players that you’re having internal discussions about and there isn’t much to differentiate the players, is it safe to say that organizational positional need will be the tiebreaker?
A: Without a doubt and that’s what I think we did at last year’s draft. I think one of the reasons why we’ve had so much success here is both Bryan and Tim have success in the past in drafting and they have emphasized that ‘we’re going to build from within’. What they did in Anaheim and Florida, I think was pretty special – valuing the importance of amateur scouting. I think it makes our guys feel important and I think we’re well treated by both Bryan and Tim. The guys know when they go out and they scout, they know that their opinions matter at the end of the day.
Q: How many young guys are encouraged and will be spending a big part of the time here this summer, working out and preparing for the next season?
A: I think there will be quite a few. The exact number is a bit difficult to say. A lot of our entry level players that we drafted in the past few years will definitely be coming in for our development camp but a lot of them have taken the initiative to stay a bit longer or come back a few times during the summer – as what Mark Stone did last summer. Working and being around Chris Schwartz and being around Randy Lee and being around Mark Power helped a player like Mark Stone develop into one of the better junior hockey players in Canada. I think a lot of our players see the competition from within and that’s what we want to try and create to better ourselves.
Q: How close do you think Stone is to being a NHL player?
A: I think he’s very close to being a NHL player. I think the way he dominated junior this year and the way he dominated the highest level of junior -- at the World Juniors – which is the highest competition that they play in. I think he’s very close to being a NHL player. Whether he makes our team out of training camp will be another obstacle for him but I think the kid has character and this quiet confidence about himself. He surprised us. He surprised us this year out of camp, earning a NHL game. If he progresses as much this summer as he did last summer, I think he’s going to have a fair chance of making our team. But, I think a lot of things will decide where he’s at compared to a lot of our other prospects when training camp comes around.
After listening to Dorion, I immediately went to the YouTube and found video of Stone's pass to Spezza in game five. If Stone keeps threading things at a Chinese sweatshop-like rate, the sky is the limit.
Q: Was the Regin deal a tough deal to do?
A: I think it was a win-win situation for both sides. I think Peter obviously wanted to stay in Ottawa. With the injuries that he has had in the past few years, they’ve been unfortunate injuries. They are not like recurring injuries, so I think it was more unlucky than anything. I think at the start of the year, Peter showed that he was one of our better players and I think we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to Peter (to bring him back). There’s another guy who is staying around most of the summer to get stronger and make sure that his shoulder is alright. But I think he’ll be someone that will contribute to our success next season.
In the 10 games that Regin played before getting shut down for the rest of the season, he was putting up a very respectable 2.04 points/60 min at a time when the rest of his teammates were struggling. Amongst Ottawa forwards, he trailed only Spezza, Foligno, Milo, and Alfie in that metric.
As an effective puck possession forward and skater, I believe his two-way ability could flourish under the right circumstances. Amazingly, despite a relatively modest offensive zone start rate of 52.0%, Regin finished with the second best Shots Allowed On-Ice per 60 minutes of 21.9. (In other words, if Regin were to play a full 60 minute game, the opposition would average 21.9 shots.) He finished only behind Stephane Da Costa in this regard, but Da Costa benefitted from an insulated o-zone start rate of almost 70.0%.
With the addition of Turris to the roster, I'm skeptical that Regin's future lies down the middle, he could be an intriguing compliment to either of the team's top two lines. In fact, I think he (or more likely, some other offseason acquisition) could help take the pressure off of Jason Spezza on the team's first line. As the playoffs demonstrated, Ottawa's first line struggled to generate offence within the Rangers' zone because it was too dependent on Spezza to create chances and drive play. With all respect to Michalek and whomever Paul MacLean stuck on the other side, neither winger was able to create much for themselves or their linemates.
Whether it's an opportunity created off of the rush (like the goal that Matt Carkner set him up for) or a deflection/jam play at the front of the net, Michalek's skill set cannot carry the first line if Spezza isn't going. Perhaps Regin's playmaking ability and vision could help in that regard.
Q: You were scouting in London recently at the OHL Finals and now you’re heading off to (watch) the Q(JMHL)?
A: Yes, I’m just going to go off and see one of our prospects, Jakub Culek.
Culek was Ottawa's third round pick (76th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Since posting 13 goals and 47 points in his rookie season in the QJMHL, the 6'3", 186 lb. Czech product has struggled through some injuries and inconsistent offensive play throughout the past two seasons. Despite his lack of offensive production, Culek's value lies in his two-way play and hockey IQ.
Q: And he’s a player that you would have to sign before this draft or you would lose him?
A: Yes, we have to sign him before June 1st. What we’ve done in the past here is that we’ve drafted a lot of good prospects, so Jakub maybe hasn’t developed at the pace that we would like him to develop. But he has shown definitely this year and in the playoffs, that he’s a prospects who has a chance to be signed and be a NHL player down the road.
With Jakub, he’s matching up against the other team’s top lines most nights, either first or second line. So they’re giving him a big role and maybe the points don’t indicate what he hopefully will become one day in the NHL but he has shown that he can play both sides of the puck.
As the past season and a half has shown, it's always important for an organization to be able to cultivate and develop inexpensive bottom six forwards. If the Senators can continue do this, it puts less pressure on management to retain and likely overpay their third and fourth line talent. Maybe Culek can develop into a responsible third line type.
Q: In terms of new blood in Binghamton for next season, what new faces can we expect?
A: Well, since you’re talking about new blood, there’s obviously Ben Blood that will be coming in. He had a really good career at North Dakota. Another defenceman is Chris Wideman, who we signed out of Miami University. He’s more offensively gifted (than Blood). Up front, I know Tim (Murray) has been doing contracts for the past week. Hopefully we can get something done with Shane Prince and Jean Gabriel Pageau; to start their pro careers and see where they’re at to start their pro careers. And there are a few other guys who I know we’re in discussions depending if they come out of college or if we take them out of here.
Good to hear. After Binghamton's roster was gutted following their Calder Cup championship season, it will be nice to see a roster that will hopefully feature a number of well-regarded CHL and collegiate graduates. It's interesting to note that the organization is looking at other possibilities still as well.
Q: What did you think of Stephane Da Costa’s development this year?
A: Well, I thought he was very good and deserved to be on our team at the start of the year. Obviously, as our whole was struggling at the beginning of the year, he kind of fell into that pattern. He went down to Binghamton and was a point-per-game player until real late in the season, where I think he just hit the wall. With Stephane, he has the tremendous playmaking ability and puck skills, and that offensive talent that you wish for in a lot of players. He just has to get stronger and be more consistent. I think that’s just a learning process of coming from France, playing in the USHL, playing in college where they don’t have that (many) number of games. Once he gets that strength factor up, I think he’ll be alright.
Q: Is there an appetite to bring Nikita Filatov back? Are you going to qualify an offer to retain his rights?
A: It’s something that we’ve discussed internally. It depends on the circumstances that Nikita would have to come over and not having probably a spot on our team, would not make sense for him. I’m not saying that he would have to play in the minors but it’s something that we would have to look at the whole big picture with Nikita, and then make a decision from there.
Pretty sure Nikita Filatov is more concerned with his Facebook status than in his future as a professional hockey player in North America.
Q: Is there a need to grab a goaltender or a young guy to start developing?
A: I think there is always a need for every organization to draft a goalie. Sometimes it’s the price that you have to pay. With the draft this year, if we feel that there’s a top six forward or a top four defenceman or a top two defenceman that is still there at pick fifteen, do we take a goalie? If the goalie we feel is a legitimate number one starter, I think we have to ponder that decision. But if we don’t feel that that goaltender is a number one goalie, I think you just go with who you think is the best player available. Now if that goaltender is the player who you think is going to be the player that allows you to win the most, I think you look at it. But I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea for us to have another young goalie in the organization.
In light of how much extensive research has been done to illustrate the risks in drafting a goaltender in the first round -- read here, here, here and here -- I'd prefer it if the organization opts to draft a blueliner who profiles as a top four guy.
Q: You’re picking fifteen, how confident are you that you can get a really good prospect? In your top fifteen, what do you like?
A: I like it a lot. I think we have about that number of guys that we like. I think at fifteen, I feel very confident. If we were picking 20th or 25th, there’s a certain drop off, but in the top 20, I feel very confident that we’re going to get, I would not say an impact player, but a very good player.