The 2019 NHL Entry Draft is fast approaching and the Ottawa Senators need a big win. The club is entering the second year of their rebuild after finishing arguably the worst season in their history. A solid draft would be exactly what the organization needs as they keep moving forward towards their inevitable “unparalleled success.”
Related: Dorion’s History at the Draft
The Senators currently hold seven picks in the draft, including five in the top 100. They do not, however, hold their own first-round pick which would have been the fourth overall this year. That pick is with the Colorado Avalanche after the (original) Matt Duchene trade. From that trade, the Avalanche also hold the Senators third-round pick (63rd).
They did get a first rounder back though and it just happened to be for the same player: Duchene. He was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Senators received the 19th-overall pick as part of the return.
They hold an extra pick in the second round from the Erik Karlsson trade to the San Jose Sharks, in which the Senators received the 44th pick in the draft (originally the Florida Panthers pick). They also have a third-round pick via the Pittsburgh Penguins (83rd) from the Derick Brassard trade, so they currently have one in that round. Finally, they traded their sixth-round pick (156th) to the Vancouver Canucks as a part of the Anders Nilsson trade.
They hold their own picks in the second (32nd), fourth (94th), fifth (125th) and seventh (187th) rounds. Here’s the full list of the Senators picks in the 2019 NHL Draft:
• 19th (From CBJ)
• 44th (From FLA via SJS)
• 83rd (From PITT)
As the Senators and their fans get ready for draft day, here’s a look at just what to expect from the June 21-22 event.
History of Senators Picks
The majority of the Senators 2019 picks will be the first time that the organization picks there. These include 19, 32, 83 and 187. However, Josh Norris was selected 19th overall in 2017 by the San Jose Sharks.
Three of their picks have been used before by the Senators. In 1998, the Senators had the 44th pick and used it to select Mike Fisher. A great selection, Fisher went on to play 1,104 NHL games and 675 with the Senators. He collected 167 goals and 348 assists for the club.
A year later, the Senators used the 94th pick to draft Chris Kelly. Another great comparison, Kelly played 845 games in the NHL and 545 with Ottawa. He collected 80 goals and 188 points over that time.
Finally, the 125th pick was used in 2002 to draft Johan Bjork. Unlike Fisher and Kelly, Bjork never played in the NHL or even the AHL, playing his career entirely in Europe.
Strategy Heading into the Draft
Most hockey executives will tell you that when heading into the draft, you need to take the “BPA” approach – Best Player Available. The name is pretty self-explanatory, you pick the best player available with your pick. Even if you have an abundance of one position, if that’s the best player, you pick them. Someone may be able to switch positions, or someone may become available in a trade. It makes the most sense for the Senators as they enter the second year of their rebuild.
That being said, in the first round, sometimes you can see teams pick based on position. If the Senators were to go this route, they are currently well stocked with youth at centre (Colin White, Logan Brown, Josh Norris), left-shot defenders (Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom, Maxime Lajoie, Christian Wolanin) and goaltenders (Marcus Hogberg, Filip Gustavsson, Joey Daccord). Granted, you can never have too many prospects at one position.
Even left-wing is looking pretty good with Brady Tkachuk, Alex Formenton and Rudolfs Balcers. The biggest holes are right-wingers (Drake Batherson and Vitaly Abramov) and right-handed defenders (Jacob Bernard-Docker). If they were to go this direction, a right-handed defenseman would be priority number one, followed closely by a right-winger.
Who Will the Senators Take at 19?
Looking at both the BPA and the positional directions, the Senators could come out big here. Looking back at Dorion’s drafts as a general manager, he has picked a forward with all three of his first-round picks (Brown, Shane Bowers, Tkachuk). Last year though, he selected Bernard-Docker with his second pick in the first round. Perhaps this is the year the Senators pick a defender first.
If that’s the case, defenseman Moritz Seider should be a top contender for the Senators. Seider’s name popped up on everyone’s radar near the end of the season after a strong performance at the World Championship, although the rest of his season was impressive as well. Playing in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), the top German league, he was a league champion and was named rookie of the year, despite being held to just 29 games with an injury.
Then, at the U20 World Junior Championship D1A, he won a gold medal and was named the tournament’s best defenseman, while having the most points and best plus/minus. He’s a strong skater and a very smart, mature two-way defender that could compliment a Chabot or Brannstrom extremely well. After a strong NHL Combine though, it seems less likely that the Seider will still be available to the Senators.
There could be another defender here that would also be intriguing though. Speedy defenseman Thomas Harley has been ranked all over the first round, and if he falls to Dorion, that might be a player the team can’t say no to. He’s been the top defender for the Mississauga Steelheads this past season, in just his sophomore campaign.
Harley is one of the best skating defenders in the draft, possibly second only to Bowen Byram. He’s already being referred to as an elite skater and what should entice Senators fans, even more, is that he’s been called the next Thomas Chabot. Could you imagine having a second Chabot?
If the Senators go the forward route, centreman Ryan Suzuki is someone that the Senators will likely have their eye on. He’s definitely known as a playmaker, but he can also score. He’s been described as “borderline elite,” which is proved by his 80 assists and 119 points in 129 games of his two-season OHL career.
Drafting another centre into an already deep pool would just be ensuring that the team has depth at the position in the future and there’s always the option to flip someone to the wing. If Suzuki is available, he could be a great addition to a young core. It wouldn’t be long before he’d be setting up guys like Batherson and Tkachuk to put the puck in the net.
Who Will the Senators Take at 32?
The Senators’ two second-round picks could be very interesting this year. Especially with the 32nd pick, this player could easily be a first rounder as the first pick of the second round. The Senators pick here will be BPA, but it wouldn’t be surprising to be an alternate position from the team’s first rounder.
A very intriguing option could be goaltender Spencer Knight. Many rankings have him going in the first round, but not many goalies go that quick in the draft. If he’s available at 32, he might be a steal for the Senators. Adding him could also make one or two of Hogberg, Gustavsson and Daccord trade bait, adding more talent to the prospect pool. Knight is the undisputed best goaltender in the draft and has the potential to be a franchise player in the position.
If the Senators take a defender with the 19th pick, it would be reasonable for them to take a forward with the 32nd. There are a couple of potential gems at the spot too. One of whom could be Samuel Poulin, who is ranked from the mid-first round to the mid-second round.
Poulin fully encompasses the term “power forward.” He’s 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, and dominates physically. Yet he can still handle the puck, shoot and set up plays. He’s just under a point-per-game through two seasons in the QMJHL with the Sherbrooke Phoenix, including a 76-point campaign this season. He’s also a right winger, which would help the depth down that side.
Finally, if the Senators take a defender, there will be lots still available. One that stands out is Matthew Robertson. Robertson, like Poulin, is ranked all over but could slide to the 32nd selection. He’s a strong, mobile two-way defender who has proven that he can play big minutes.
He’s nearly impossible to beat one-on-one and the long reach with his stick makes sure of that. He’s shown great passing and can surprise teams with coast-to-coast plays. Just like Seider, he’s not an elite offensive defender but would provide a solid complement to those already in the system.
Who Will the Senators Take at 44?
The Senators will get another shot at a draft pick in the top-50 at the 44th spot. At this point, it’s BPA all the way. With the first two picks, the team would be able to address some positional needs while still taking a player that could be regarded as the best available. From this pick on, the position doesn’t matter as much as the player themselves.
The second round is never a perfect art, but there’s lots of talent to be taken midway through the round. For the Senators, they could target USNTDP centreman, John Beecher. At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, you wouldn’t expect speed from this centreman. That’s where you’d be wrong. He can surprise defenders with his skating and his reach makes him hard to beat defensively.
Another option could be left winger Jakob Pelletier. He had a great sophomore season in the QMJHL, putting up 89 points in 65 games. He has great hockey sense, vision and playmaking skills that he matches up with a compete level that’s not easy to find.
The Senators Remaining Picks
The rest of the draft should continue as the 44th pick – BPA. With their third-round pick at 83rd, the Senators could opt for a goaltender here in Dustin Wolf or Pyotr Kochetkov, both solid options to add to the Senators depth. Or they could take a forward in Swedish centreman Karl Henriksson, a small, fearless player who stood out at the U18s.
With the 94th pick, Samuel Bolduc is a name to keep an eye on. The prospect was the top defender for Blainville-Boisbriand in the QMJHL, and he has shown flashes of being a pick in the top two rounds. His decision-making has kept him lower in the rankings, but his speed and cannon of a shot should garner some attention. Another option is James Malm from the WHL, who is a highly-skilled forward who has dazzled with some of his plays. He has been passed over twice now, so this could be his year.
In the fifth round, the Senators could use the 125th pick on forward Graeme Clarke, from the Ottawa 67s. Some have him much higher, but he’s slid in many rankings. He’s not a great skater but has shown that he can rack up the points and has great offensive instincts. Or, they could look to a goalie (if they haven’t taken one already) in Hugo Alnefelt, who has good size to go along with great vision and reaction.
With their final pick in the draft, there are still good options and the Senators have a history of good deep picks. Right wing Judd Caulfield could be an intriguing pick, as he has good instincts and is a great penalty killer. He needs to work on consistency, but instinct is half the battle. Or, the team could take overage defender Mattias Norlinder. He’s an offensive defender who worked his way to the top pairing in the Allsvenskan.
Could Dorion and the Senators Make Another Draft Day Move?
All of the above is of course based on the draft picks as the Senators currently hold them. But, Dorion has shown before that he’s willing to move both up and down the draft if he sees fit. The two times he’s pulled the trigger were even in the first round, so there’s definitely potential for it to happen this year with three picks in the first two rounds.
However, don’t count on the Senators moving up. If anything, Dorion would be willing to move down in the draft, in order to gain more picks. It is feasible that he would move the 19th overall pick, but it would need to be only a couple of spots down, and another high pick coming with it.
More likely, one of the second-round picks could be moved. The 32nd would be the best option for them, as they would get a bigger return than they would with the 44th. Dorion could even get a lower second-round pick and an additional later round pick.
Whether the Senators move picks around or not, the 2019 NHL Entry Draft is a can’t-miss for Dorion and the Senators. This year’s draft has the potential to fast track or slow down the team’s rebuild but is a great chance for them to continue to stock the prospect cupboard.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.