With the 2016 NHL Entry Draft quickly approaching, teams are identifying needs for next season and beyond. A late-round gem or first-round bust can turn the fortunes of a franchise quickly. With cap restrictions and the looming possibility of an expansion draft on the horizon, this year’s draft is not only full of talent, but could shift the balance of power in the league in the coming years.
Sens fans know the importance of the draft, for both great and not so great reasons. With the 12th selection in the first round, and four picks in the top 80 Ottawa could add depth to the prospect pool in Binghamton on draft day. Who they select depends on what they have in the pipeline, so without further adieu, let’s take a look at what’s on the shelf.
In his fourth season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies Francis Perron took the reins of the team and led them to the Memorial Cup Final. Captaining the group in a breakthrough year, Perron notched 41 goals and 108 points in 62 regular season games. Adding another 14 goals and 41 points in 23 games during the QMJHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup, Perron capped off a memorable season, his team coming up just short against the red-hot London Knights.
Perron approached Gilles Bouchard, the head coach of the Huskies, before the season started. Bouchard has been the coach in Rouyn-Noranda since coming in for the 2013-14 season, Perron’s second year with the team.
“As soon as he arrived at the camp I met him and he told me, ‘I’m ready to be the captain of this team, I’m ready for the challenge. The guys are confident with me, so coach you will decide, but I just want to tell you I’m ready to take the lead of the team this season.’”
After meeting with the other coaches the players anointed Perron their leader, and what was to be a breakthrough season started. In addition to representing the QMJHL at the Memorial Cup, Perron won both the regular season and postseason MVP awards, a reflection of both his ability on the ice and his mind for the game.
Bouchard lauds his strong hockey sense and his willingness to learn. He still has things to build on, which will come with consistent hard work. “He has to improve his game physically,” said Bouchard. “He is only 168lbs, and he has to work very hard next summer to improve his game physically.”
Perron stands at 6’0. If he follows Bouchard’s advice he could fill out and become quite a hand full in the corners or in front of the net. After this year, his stick handling and shooting abilities are not in question.
Making the transition to the American Hockey League can be treacherous for young players, but Bouchard thinks he is up to the challenge. “He will be ready for the American Hockey League next year. He has to work hard this summer, but he has the skills to play in the AHL next year, in my opinion.”
Ottawa drafted Perron in the seventh-round, 190th overall. That is later than all their picks this year but maybe Perron is making them think about trading down for a seventh-rounder this year.
The 19-year-old centre playing in the NCAA for Boston College has ascended the prospect hierarchy in Ottawa after a great year for the Eagles. The 21st-overall selection scored 19 goals and 43 points for BC in 37 games. He was also an alternate on Team USA’s roster at the World Junior Championships in Finland, finishing with three goals and seven points in seven games.In White, the Senators have a versatile pivot that can play at both ends of the ice, as well as provide a scoring threat. Standing at 6’0 and weighing 183 lbs., White still has a couple of years in Boston to hone his skills and grow both physically and as a player.
White’s (#27) release on this shot at the U18 World Junior Championships in 2015 probably helped Ottawa’s scouts make their decision. In that game Canada found out how dangerous he can be in front of the net.
One of the most highly touted prospects in the system, Thomas Chabot had another season adding to his reputation as a dependable two-way defenseman. The 6’2, 190 lbs. blue liner scored 11 goals and 45 points in 47 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL this year. Entering his fourth season with the Sea Dogs, Chabot will be looking to build on his great play at both ends of the ice.
Chabot has great speed and puck skills, and in a few years he may be reminding some people of a certain defenseman on the Sens blueline, especially with rushes like this. Though comparisons to Karlsson are still far off, Chabot is an imposing physical presence as evidenced here. Ottawa fans should be excited to see what playing with the likes of Karlsson does for Chabot’s all-around game.
A physical, European blue liner is another of the team’s top prospects. The 6’3, 190 lbs. Swede was the 40th-overall pick in the 2014 draft and has represented Sweden’s U16, U17, U18, and U20 teams during his career, and captained the Swedish World Junior team this year. He spent the past season with Djurgardens of the Swedish Hockey League, displaying his defensive abilities finishing the season +5.
He can handle the puck in his own end, but don’t expect many dangles when Andreas Englund is on the ice. Either from him, or the other team.
Another late-round pick of the Senators, Christian Jaros was drafted 139th overall in 2015. Jaros split time last year between Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League, and Asploven of the second tier Allsvensken. He also represented Slovakia at the World Juniors and will wear his national jersey in September when the World Cup of Hockey comes to Toronto.
At 6’3, 200 lbs. Jaros’ play is understandably physical , which should make for an easy transition to the North American game. He is currently under contract with Lulea next season, but has made it known he would welcome a trip across the pond. A physical defenseman, responsible in his own zone and a shot that, if worked on, could become a deadly part of the Sens’ future powerplay.
Where do they go from here?
The Sens’ blue line looks to be secure for years to come with the likes of Karlsson and Dion Phaneuf under club control for the foreseeable future. As well, the bevy of up-and-comers mentioned above bodes well for Ottawa’s future. Apart from Perron and White however, Ottawa looks thin on the forward lines.
Matt Puempel and Ryan Dzingel both had extended looks in the NHL and failed to impress. That doesn’t mean Ottawa won’t re-sign these players, but both are getting old for the term prospect and need to establish themselves. Many of the forwards in the Sens’ system are already playing in the professional leagues and haven’t been able to crack the Ottawa lineup, that isn’t a promising sign. The good thing for the Senators is this is a deep draft and the team has two of the top 50 picks.
With the 12th selection Ottawa will likely be choosing between a number of centres and wingers depending on their availability. Michael McLeod, Tyson Jost, Clayton Keller and Logan Brown are all centres that would add skill to the system. McLeod scored 21 goals and 61 points in 57 games for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, this beauty was just a notch on the belt this season.
Tyson Jost became more of a household name with his performance at the 2016 World Juniors. His all-around play impacts the game at both ends. The 6’0, 194 lbs. centre has a scorer’s touch, sniping 42 goals and 104 points in 48 games for Junior A Penticton.
Logan Brown scored 21 goals and 74 points in 59 games this year with the Windsor Spitfires and represented the U18 USA team at the World Juniors this past season. At 6’6, weighing 218 lbs., Brown is a physical force with exceptional play-making skills.
Clayton Keller spent the 2015-16 season with the US National Team Development Program scoring 37 goals and 107 points in 62 games. Keller’s small stature has raised questions about his ability to transition to the professional game, but in the salary cap era of the NHL, speed, and not size is the most important intangible.