The Ottawa Senators have perhaps their biggest draft ahead of them in years, coming up on July 7-8. By all accounts, this team is primed to contend for a playoff spot next year, and perhaps make a run at the Stanley Cup in a couple more after that. The players they draft this offseason could be key cogs in their roster for years to come.
With that being said, there’s one player flying under the radar that they should be targeting with one of their second-round picks: Ivan Miroshnichenko. While he was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he is a strong candidate for recovery and intends to return to hockey in the near future. There are plenty of reasons why the Senators should draft him.
One thing the Senators don’t need is a top-line centreman. They have seemingly locked up their centremen for the foreseeable future, with Tim Stützle and Josh Norris securing either of the spots in the top-six, and Shane Pinto or Colin White holding down the third-line centre position. Whether Senators’ management sees it this way is up for discussion, but I believe there are more pressing needs in other areas.
On the flip-side, they desperately need a top right-handed defenseman. They have their one-two punch on the left side in Thomas Chabot and Jake Sanderson, but Artem Zub, Travis Hamonic, and one of Nikita Zaitsev, Jacob Bernard-Docker or Lassi Thomson is not a championship-calibre right side. Furthermore, Nikita Zaitsev’s days in Ottawa are likely numbered, as he has not lived up to his contract, which could end up handcuffing the team down the road.
In addition, the Senators’ long-term goaltending situation has not been sorted out yet. While Anton Forsberg has been great this season, he’s unlikely to continue his current run of form year after year, as he was inconsistent at best before this season. One of Filip Gustavsson or Mads Søgaard could end up being franchise goaltenders, but it’s hard to tell at the moment. Gustavsson has the pedigree but has yet to put it together in the NHL, and Søgaard has the size at 6-foot-7, and the potential, but is still just a potential option.
While the Nick Paul/Mathieu Joseph trade has paid dividends so far, the Senators could still use some winger depth. Alex Formenton has shown flashes of speed and scoring, and Connor Brown has brought his typical, relentless and smart play this season, but one or both of them would likely be better suited to a third-line role on a championship calibre team. That way, they could also get better matchups against other teams’ third and fourth lines, improving the team’s chances as a whole. If they select a top-six winger in this year’s draft, they could have one of the league’s best offenses in a couple of years.
Senators’ First Round Strategy
With the Senators in line to snag the 7th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, they have a number of enticing targets. As stated earlier, they should be content with their centremen, so they should instead target a right-handed defenseman, winger, or goaltender.
Goalies are rarely picked in the top-10, and there are no goalies projected to land in the first round whatsoever. Their best options on that front would be Topias Leinonen or Tyler Brennan, who are likely to fall somewhere in the second or third round.
There are also some enticing wingers ranked within that range, but I believe that the Sens will jump on one of Simon Nemec or David Jiricek. It’s extremely hard to trade or sign top-two right-handed defensemen, so the chance to draft one will be hard to turn down.
Senators Should Draft Miroshnichenko
With a right-handed defenseman taken early in round one, and goalies still within reach with their later picks, the Senators should jump at the chance to pick winger Ivan Miroshnichenko with their earliest second-round pick. He fills their biggest need and is a first-round talent.
The Senators need scoring badly. They sit just outside the bottom five in the NHL in goals-for this season, with just 200 in 74 games, good for 2.70 goals-per-game. That simply isn’t going to be enough goals to win hockey games regularly.
Miroshnichenko’s calling card is his shot. He shoots lethal wristers off the rush and has a powerful one-timer that he uses often on the power play. As a right-handed shot, he could end up sitting on the opposite side to Norris, giving the Senators a ridiculous duo on the power play for years. He’s also a powerful and shifty skater, with a projectable frame that could be a nuisance for opposing teams once he fills out.
While he seems like the perfect scoring winger, there is certainly some risk involved with picking him. Firstly and most obviously, his diagnosis this year will make it hard for teams to commit to him. Secondly, it’s difficult to shy away from the ‘Russian factor’, as many teams are still hesitant to draft Russians due to their preference to play in their home country rather than come to North America. Thirdly, he has a tendency to disappear for some shifts, giving mediocre efforts on defense.
Related: THW’s 2022 NHL Draft Guide
While the Senators might hesitate due to his diagnosis or the ‘Russian factor’, they shouldn’t have any issues with his effort level. There are numerous examples of players whose pre-draft scouting reports cited their lack of effort defensively and they turned out alright.
Two great examples are Valeri Nichushkin and Alexander Radulov. Both were highly touted offensively, but lacklustre defensive players before the draft. Nichushkin was taken 10th overall in 2013 by the Dallas Stars and has found a home playing for the Colorado Avalanche, with 44 points in 55 games this season and no issues on defence. Radulov was selected 15th overall in 2004 by the Nashville Predators and has scored 367 points in 519 career games, with a solid all-around game.
While those numbers don’t scream ‘superstar scorer’, if the Senators are able to get that sort of output from a second-round pick, they would be extremely happy. That’s why he’s still worth the early second-round draft pick. He is a bona fide top-10 talent. He was projected in the top-five before the season started, but his draft stock has taken a bit of a tumble. There are plenty of other examples of this, and many of them turned out to outperform their draft position. Players like Jakob Chychrun and Alex Debrincat were both highly touted and dropped lower in the draft for one reason or another. But the best example is Mathew Barzal, who was injured for most of his draft year, but was considered a top-five talent. The Islanders ended up picking him 16th overall, and it has paid dividends for years.
Like Barzal, Miroshnichenko is an undeniable talent who is likely to fall in the draft. In most seasons, he would fall somewhere in the first round. But with his especially tough year, he could fall further than usual for someone of his pedigree. If a top-end talent like him is available in the second round, the Senators should absolutely take a chance on him.
Writer and hockey addict from the GTA, covering the Ottawa Senators. Leafs fan from birth, moved to BC to explore the mountains and find the strength to keep cheering. Love talking prospects, potential, and coaching strategies.