After weeks of speculation at who make steal the first-overall selection, the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery was somewhat anticlimactic. The Buffalo Sabres, who had the highest odds to win the lottery after a dismal season, retained the first-overall pick, while the Seattle Kraken jumped up just one spot from third to second, pushing the Anaheim Ducks down to third overall. Everything else stayed status quo, meaning the Ottawa Senators retain the 10th selection and, barring any trades, will pick at that spot for the first time in the franchise’s history.
10th sometimes can be a strange place to pick. In a weaker draft, such as with the 2021 class, picking outside the top-10 can be wildly unpredictable. That will be especially true this year after a season fraught with delays, quarantines, and shortened schedules that prevented some top prospects from fully showing off their skill to NHL scouts. Historically speaking, the 10th spot is not as promising as one might expect; over the past 30 years, only one player has emerged as an All-Star, that being 2015’s Mikko Rantanen. Michael Frolik, Radek Dvorak, Nikolai Antropov, and Jonas Brodin also were selected 10th overall, but so were a large number of first-round busts, including Slater Koekkoek, Magnus Paajarvi, Dylan McIlrath, and Boris Valabik.
It will be very interesting, then, to see who is available when the Senators step up to the stage to make their selection. Thanks to a wide variety of predictions, no one seems quite sure who will be around at the 10th spot, and beyond the top-6, the skill level is fairly even, so Ottawa may opt to fill a need in their prospect pool. While their farm system is quite well stocked, the right wing and goalie positions could use some high-end talent, although any high-end forward should be considered fair game. The only position that seems unlikely is on defense, as the Senators have selected a defenseman in the first round in the past three drafts, and there aren’t any defenders projected to be available at the 10th spot.
So, without further ado, here are five good players that could be available at 10th overall that the Senators should consider drafting.
Beyond Drake Batherson, the Senators don’t have a lot of high-end options on right wing. The most promising is Egor Sokolov, who had a strong rookie season in the American Hockey League (AHL), scoring 15 goals and 25 points in 35 games, but he currently doesn’t project to be much more than a potential third-line player in the NHL. Jonathan Davidsson is another right-winger who has shown some promise in Europe, but hasn’t had a lot of success in North America yet.
So, if Fabian Lysell is available at the 10th spot, the Senators should jump on the opportunity. He’s one of the best skaters of the entire 2021 draft class, making him a very dangerous player on offense. When he has the puck, there is little he can’t do, playing a heads-up, high-offense game that continually creates great scoring chances. Although primarily a playmaker, his shot is nothing to sniff at, demonstrated by his three goals in seven games at the 2021 U18 World Championships, which tied for second on Team Sweden.
The Senators’ future seems to be built on two things — grit and speed. Players like Brady Tkachuk and Ridly Grieg make up the former category, while Tim Stutzle and Alex Formenton fit more into the latter. Adding another fast, difficult player to play against would fit into Ottawa’s plans perfectly. There have been criticisms regarding his somewhat diminutive 5-foot-10 stature, but the Senators have proven in the past to not be too affected by a player’s size, and Lysell’s speed and skill should mitigate any concern in that area. There also have been some concerns over his attitude, as he requested a trade this season in order to play in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). However, that should be taken as a strong self-advocate, as he proved to be more than capable of handling one of the best leagues in the world at just 18 years old.
Earlier in the year, it didn’t seem very likely Lysell could be available at the 10th spot, but the talented Swede has been dropping in the major scouting publications lately. The Central Scouting Service ranked him ninth among European skaters, and TSN’s Craig Button didn’t place him in his top-15 mock draft. However, with how variable rankings have been this season, the Senators should definitely grab Lysell if he’s around, as he’s likely one of the best fits to their current team at the top half of the draft.
A few weeks ago, Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk made headlines with his candid comments on his team’s short-term plans on the Bob McCown podcast. There were lots of takes from the owner, but one thing that the media latched onto was his opinion that Ottawa needs a top veteran center this offseason. Unlike the right wing, the Senators have a plethora of high-skill center prospects, like Josh Norris, Logan Brown, and Shane Pinto, and adding another could crowd things in the future. However, they don’t have an abundance of pure goal scorers, meaning Chaz Lucius should be another target for the Senators.
There is likely no better goal scorer among draft-eligible Americans than Lucius. In 12 games with the United States National Team Development Program, he scored an incredible 13 times and ranked fourth in team goals despite playing less than half of the games of those ahead of him. He was similarly dominant with the U18 National Team, scoring 13 goals in 13 games. Had he not missed the first part of the season with a lower-body injury, he could have led both teams in goals as well as points.
There is a strong possibility that Lucius will be available at the 10th spot, as he’s been ranked in that range or a little lower for most of the 2020-21 season. It’s also the player Ian Mendes, the Senators’ columnist over at The Athletic, predicts the team will select. His high hockey IQ and blistering shot make a lot of sense for Ottawa, and given their current depth, the Senators can afford to wait for Lucius to develop at the University of Minnesota over the next few seasons, where he’ll hopefully refine his skating, speed, and his defensive awareness.
The Senators have become an incredibly annoying team to play against. Led by Brady Tkachuk, the team has forged an identity as gritty and pesky, which has resulted in them stealing more than a few wins this season. They also have a good number of agitators coming up through the pipeline, most notably in their 2020 first-round selection of Greig. If Ottawa wants to continue adding difficult players to play against, then they should seriously consider Mason McTavish if he’s still around at the 10th spot.
McTavish has rocketed up the draft rankings lately thanks to a very strong U18 tournament, where he captained the Canadians to a gold-medal finish and sat third in scoring with five goals and 11 points. But he also got a boost from deciding to spend this season playing in a professional league in Switzerland while the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) was on hiatus, which improved his defensive awareness and cleaned up his skating. All of a sudden, people are calling him Ryan O’Reilly 2.0, and while that may be a bit of an overstatement, the playstyles are definitely comparable.
However. it looks like he may not be available at the 10th spot thanks to a meteoric rise in his rankings. Dobber Prospect’s scout Cam Robinson dropped a teaser of his upcoming list, which revealed McTavish was all the way up to second. That follows the Central Scouting Service, which ranked him second among North American skaters. That’s a massive shift from even just a few months ago when some considered him a late first-round pick at best. If he’s still available at the 10th spot, then he’d be another great option for the Senators. Better yet, he apparently is friends with Colin White and Thomas Chabot, which really builds to the culture this team is creating.
If the Senators want to continue to add grit and feistiness, but McTavish is not an option, they could reach for Matthew Coronato, who checks a lot of boxes for the organization. Another smaller player at 5-foot-10, he’s a very competitive, in-your-face player who isn’t afraid to go into corners and battle for a puck. Some have gone as far to compare him to Brad Marchand in his style of play, which may make Senators’ fans giddy with the possibility of having Tkachuk paired with a Marchand-type player.
But Coronato is far more than just an abrasive player. He has a great shot, which he used liberally throughout the season, wracking up a league-leading 48 goals — 16 more than the second-place finisher. His passing is equally as good and he added 37 assists to give him a total of 85 points, which placed him second in the United States Hockey League (USHL) scoring race. To top it all off, he possesses a strong two-way element to his game thanks to his never-quit attitude. The left-winger quite literally could do everything asked of him this season, making him a very attractive option for a first-round pick.
For the Senators, Coronato adds high-end goal scoring, top-six potential, aggressiveness, and a strong two-way game — all things they have previously looked for in their first-round picks. His skating needs some work, but that likely will improve over his time at Harvard University. Some also may look at his draft ranking, which has usually placed him near the end of the first round or as an early second-round pick, as a reason not to select him, but the Senators have never been afraid to reach for a pick they want, and will already have a strong roster filled with young talent — they could wait on Coronato to develop.
Goaltending was an early problem for Ottawa this season after Matt Murray faltered and backup Marcus Hogberg proved unprepared for a starting role. Since then, Joey Daccord, Filip Gustavsson, and even Mads Sogaard have emerged as potential starters of the future, but should the Senators look to give themselves a more sure-fire option? If so, Jesper Wallstedt is a clear choice, and many scouts see him going within the top-15. He’s dominated in Sweden for several seasons already and could be the best goalie prospect since Yaroslav Askarov, and could even be better than the Russian phenom.
There is a lot for the Senators to like in Wallstedt. He’s drawn comparisons to Carey Price due to his calm presence in the net and incredible technical skills. At just 18 years old, he took over the starting position for an SHL team, a feat that is practically unheard of in Sweden. He’s confident despite his young age, and although he’ll likely stay in his home country next season, he’s likely not far away from making his NHL debut, much like Carter Hart did at just 20 years old. Yes, this draft class is comparatively weaker to those that came before and will come after, but Wallstedt screams franchise goalie, which the Senators haven’t had since Patrick Lalime.
There is a chance that Wallstedt could go earlier than 10th, despite the precedent for teams to pass on goalies in the top-10, and if that’s the case this year, the Senators may be tempted by 6-foot-6 Sebastien Cossa, who has also earned some attention as a top-15 pick after some incredible Western Hockey League (WHL) numbers this season. However, he’s more often ranked as a later first-round pick, and taking him so early would be an unnecessary risk, especially with the forwards who will likely still be around. They also already have the 6-foot-7 Sogaard performing well in the AHL, and Cossa likely doesn’t offer too much more than what the Senators already have.
A Draft Full of Mystery
The NHL Draft is always full of surprises; the Columbus Blue Jackets blew everyone away when they took Yegor Chinakov in the first round last year. But 2021 will be full of even more surprises thanks to the pandemic-shortened seasons, quarantines, and lack of international tournaments. Everyone has a different opinion on who should go first, who their team should take, and who will fall in the first round, and there will undoubtedly be several selections that no one saw coming. But despite the mystery, the Senators will have several good options to select at the 10th-overall pick, and even if they go off the board on a riskier pick, they have the pieces in place to emerge as a top team in the future.