Senators Reach for Future in 2019 Draft

One of the most important NHL Entry Drafts in Ottawa Senators history is now complete. General manager Pierre Dorion and company headed into this draft after spending the previous year making moves to acquire assets, including draft picks. While some were used this past weekend, the majority will be over the next two drafts. There are a lot more draft picks to come.

This year’s draft came with a few surprises from the Senators, in nearly every pick. It’s hard not to look at the 2019 draft class for the organization and question some of the choices. However, Dorion has done well in past drafts and there were even questions about drafting Brady Tkachuk over Filip Zadina in 2018. I think most Senators fans are happy with that decision now.

Pierre Dorion Ottawa Senators 2015
Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. (Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

At first glance, it seems that the team reached with a few of their selections, especially the first four. However, Dorion might come out of this looking like a genius in the years to come as the club addressed areas of need with their selections. Or, this could be a draft class to forget, like the 2002 group.

Either way, it will be a couple of years before we know for sure how this crop of prospects will turn out. Let’s take a look at just who the Senators got in the draft and how that impacts the organization moving forward.

Round 1, Pick #19: Lassi Thomson, D

With the Senators first selection of the draft, I expected them to take a defender, as I wrote in the Senators 2019 NHL Draft Guide. However, it wasn’t Thomson that I, or anyone else for that matter, thought they would take.

Thomson was arguably the third-best right-handed defenseman in the draft behind Moritz Seider and Victor Söderström, but was further down the list in comparison to all defenders. The next two defensemen taken, Ville Heinola and Tobias Björnfot, were both ranked higher than Thomson. Many of the forwards taken after were ranked higher as well.

Lassi Thomson Senators Draft
Lassi Thomson, Ottawa Senators, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It looks like the Senators opted to go with positional need here rather than the best player available (BPA) method. Only time will tell if that’s the right choice. They did need a right-handed defender though.

Thomson is a good defender. He’s got great vision, great awareness, is very mobile, and is a solid playmaker. He still has some work to do though. He needs to improve on his shot and make better decisions when deciding to jump into the rush. Like many prospects at this age, he needs to put on some size and strength as well.

Related: Senators Fill Need by Drafting Thomson

On the prospect depth chart, Erik Brännström is still king. Considering Christian Wolanin is now a graduate, as he played 30 NHL games in 2018-19, next on the list would be fellow right-handed defender Jacob Bernard-Docker, who’s coming off of a strong season with the University of North Dakota (UND). Thomson may very well plug in third on the list now, just ahead of Jonny Tychonick who struggled a bit on the same team as Bernard-Docker.

The two right-handed defensemen are great assets for the team though, as they are highly-valued in the league. As mentioned, perhaps this ends up being a great choice for the Senators who have a very good looking crop of defensive prospects now.

Full player profile can be found here

Round 2, Pick #32: Shane Pinto, C

The Senators opted to go with a forward for their second pick in the draft, picking Shane Pinto from the USHL’s Tri-City Storm. Again, this one was kind of a surprise. With forwards like Arthur Kaliyev, Bobby Brink, Raphaël Lavoie, and many others on the board, Pinto seems like a bit of a reach. He was ranked all over the place, with TSN’s Craig Button having him highest at 40th.

Pinto wasn’t ranked very high, but that could very well be due to the league he plays in, where he wasn’t playing against very high-end talent. Perhaps he would have been ranked in this range had he played in a higher-level league.

The centreman had a very good season though. He started the season with the Lincoln Stars and was traded to the Storm, playing a total of 56 games. He had 28 goals and 31 assists for 59 points, which was 13th in the league and led all rookies. He added nine points in six playoff games, second among rookies.

Shane Pinto of the Lincoln Stars
Shane Pinto of the Lincoln Stars (courtesy USHL)

An intriguing part of the Pinto selection is that he’s headed to the UND next season. He’ll spend time with fellow Senators’ prospects Bernard-Docker and Tychonick there.

The Senators are trying to create a tight-knit group moving forward with many prospects knowing each other before they even hit the NHL. Look at how close the St. Louis Blues and Carolina Hurricanes were and their success in the 2019 NHL Playoffs to see why this is important.

Pinto joins a pretty good group of centres for the Senators. Colin White is already an NHLer, past the prospect label, and the team still has Josh Norris, Logan Brown, and Filip Chlapik in the system. I’d place Pinto just after Norris and Brown in terms of ranking for now, but playing next season at UND will give a better understanding of what to expect.

Full player profile can be found here

Senators Trade #44 & #83 for Pick #37: Mads Søgaard, G

Again, not really what anyone expected the Senators to do here. Dorion traded the 44th and 83rd picks in the draft to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for the 37th to select massive goaltender Mads Søgaard. This made Søgaard the third goalie taken in the draft, and second of three taken in the second round.

I had Søgaard ranked third in my article on the top-10 goaltenders in the 2019 draft, and that’s exactly where he went. After Spencer Knight and Pyotr Kochetkov were taken off the board, it seems like Dorion was worried that someone else would take the Danish goalie, so he traded up. That cost them a selection in the third round.

Mads Søgaard Medicine Hat Tigers
Mads Søgaard of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers speaks with media at the 2019 NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo, NY (Photo Credit: Nathaniel A. Oliver).

Søgaard surprised many this year, stealing the starting job from former Senators pick Jordan Hollett with the Medicine Hat Tigers. While there are times where he’s caught out of position, his 6-foot-7 frame allows him to still make the save. That’s something not every goalie can do. He also moves extremely well for such a big player, especially in his lateral movement.

The Senators now have a very deep (and crowded) goaltender pool. Craig Anderson and Anders Nilsson are simply placeholders at this point for whichever young prospects take over in the coming years. Marcus Hogberg seems to currently lead the pack, with Filip Gustavsson and Joey Daccord right on his tail. Søgaard should slot in under these two and ahead of Kevin Mandolese, but goaltenders are so hard to predict.

The future in net for the Senators is looking very promising though, and will be watched very closely in the coming years.

Full player profile can be found here

Round 4, Pick #94: Viktor Lodin, C

This pick might be the most controversial of the Senators 2019 picks. Silver Seven Sens’ writer Colin Cudmore compiled a list of draft-eligible prospects for the draft from 60 different sources – Lodin wasn’t on any.

With very little information on the centreman, it’s hard to give a definitive analysis though. Perhaps he’s a very strong prospect who just flew under the radar. But at 20-years-old already, that seems unlikely. He just completed his first season in the SHL, playing 41 games and collecting five points.

Scout Mikko Ruutu gave a good synopsis on the newly-drafted player, “He’s a late bloomer and we’ve been watching him for a couple of years, and he took a big step forward this year. He got stronger and faster, so that’s the reason. You saw the talent there, but you weren’t sure how far it would go, but now it looks like he’s going to be a pretty good player one day. He’s a mix of skill and a power forward. He’s a really speedy winger. He’s strong at the pro level.” (From: “WHO THEY GOT: A look at the players selected by the Senators in the NHL draft” – Ottawa Sun – June 23, 2019).

It’s hard to place Lodin without knowing a bit more about the overage draftee, but another season with a close eye on his play should give a better understanding of where his ceiling is.

Round 5, Pick #125: Mark Kastelic, C

The third and final player drafted from the WHL, the Senators drafted another overage centreman, Mark Kastelic. This was their first pick of the draft that could be argued it wasn’t a reach as he was projected between 104 and 189 according to Cudmore’s list.

Kastelic captained the Calgary Hitmen this past season, leading them in points as well with 77 in 66 games. That was a big increase over his 45 points in 71 games in 2017-18. He also had 47 goals and 122 penalty minutes.

Out of all the current Senators prospects, Kastelic had the most points in 2018-19 and the second-best points-per-game at 1.17, just behind college free agent signee Max Veronneau with 1.19.

Again, with picks this late it’s hard to tell exactly where they slot in. He’d be after Pinto and Chlapik, as well as Parker Kelly who just had a big season with the Prince Albert Raiders. That would place him possibly just above Aaron Luchuk for now.

If his 2018-19 season is any indication of what’s to come, he could quickly become a steal at this point in the draft. Kastelic could make the jump to the Belleville Senators next season, and the organization hopes he continues trending up.

Round 7, Pick #187: Maxence Guenette

With their last pick in the draft, the Senators went back to a right-handed defenseman in Maxence Guenette. The Val-d’Or Foreurs defender is possibly the one steal that Dorion selected, as he was ranked 108th by, 150th by Future Considerations and 57th among North Amerian skaters by NHL Scouting Central.

He had a good season, picking up eight goals and 32 points in 68 games. He also participated in the Hlinka Gretzky Memorial Cup, helping Team Canada to a gold medal with two points in five games.

Guenette could end up surprising, and the Senators seem to really like him already. As scout Christian De Blois told the Ottawa Sun, “He’s a tall defenceman who can move the puck very well and he’s a good skater for his size. We just thought he had a lot of offensive upside as a late-round pick at that point. Basically, I think he has a good chance of being a good hockey player down the road. He’s one of the best Quebec-born defencemen in his age group. That’s a plus for him. We really liked him at that point.”

You can never have too many defensive prospects, and right-handed ones especially. This is a very good pick for the team and he could end up being a big steal at 187. In terms of ranking him on the prospect depth chart, he’ll be below Tychonick but could fit right there as the fifth or sixth-best defensive prospect in the system under-25. That’s not including Thomas Chabot, Wolanin, Christian Jaros and Maxime Lajoie though, as NHLers now.

Could The Senators 2019 Draft Surprise?

While the picks might not seem like they are in the right spots, they are solid selections overall. It seems like the Senators went with positional drafting rather than selecting BPA, but they likely see the players they chose as the best available.

As I mentioned, only time will tell how these players will pan out. But looking at the Senators prospect pool as a whole, there are some very promising players moving forward into the second year of the rebuild.

Dorion and the Senators will now turn their attention to free agency, including their own restricted free agents Cody Ceci, White and Wolanin. Dorion has said he’d like to add a few veterans, which I have already given some options. (From: “Dorion ready to make changes as Senators head to NHL draft” – Ottawa Sun – June 15, 2019).

The important thing for Senators fans to remember after the draft and with the looming free agency is that this is still a fresh rebuild and rebuilds take time. It does seem like pieces are coming together though.

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