3 Senators’ Draft Picks That Didn’t Work Out in Ottawa

This version of the Ottawa Senators is relatively young in comparison to other NHL franchises. The Senators’ first existence was one of the founding clubs of the NHL where they won 11 Stanley Cups. However, once the NHL began to expand in the United States, the Senators had trouble making money and were forced to sell the team to St. Louis, where they became known as the Eagles.

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Sadly, it was only a year later that the team had folded. It wasn’t until 1992 where the Senators came back into the NHL along with the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the league expansion.

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Since its reincarnation, the Senators have managed to get to just one Stanley Cup Final and have moderate success in the league. The team finished last in three out of its first four seasons and were able to secure several high draft picks with hopes of becoming a solid team in the future. With the exception of Alexandre Daigle in 1993, a few draft picks in their tenure became solid NHL players — just not for Ottawa. Here’s a glimpse at some of Ottawa’s picks over their history that ended up having success elsewhere.

Pavol Demitra

Selected with the 227th pick in the ninth round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Pavol Demitra was an exceptionally fast skater and terrific passer and when you look at how his playing career panned out, you wonder how he went so far down in the draft. Other than Daigle and Radim Bicanek (selected 27th overall), Demitra was the only other player to play in the NHL that the Senators selected that year.

His time in Ottawa had only lasted three seasons that spanned from 1993-1996 where he played just 59 games and recorded 12 goals and 26 points. In the 1995-96 season, Demitra had played more games in the American Hockey League (AHL) than he did in the NHL. He dominated in the AHL that year recording 81 points in 48 games, but it wasn’t enough for the Senators to keep him on board. In November of ’96, he was traded to the Blues for Christer Olsson, a player who only ended up playing 56 games in total at the NHL level.

Pavol Demitra St. Luois Blues
Pavol Demitra, St. Louis Blues (THW Archives)

Demitra went on to start in the International Hockey League that season, splitting time between the Las Vegas Thunder and the Grand Rapids Griffins before getting the call back up to the NHL for Blues. He played just eight games with the Blues for the rest of the 1996-97 season, but after that, there was no looking back. From 1997 on, he proceeded to have an amazing NHL career. He spent the next 13 seasons with the Blues, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks.

Away from Ottawa, he played in 788 games between the four teams and recorded 292 goals, 450 assists for 742 points, and won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in the 1999-2000 season. Once Demitra left the NHL in 2010, he went on to play for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the Kontinental Hockey League. On Sept. 7, 2011, Demitra was tragically killed in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of several other members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl KHL team.

Marian Hossa

In 1997, the Senators selected Marian Hossa with the 12th pick of the draft from the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. Born and raised in Stara Lubovna, Slovakia, Hossa played the first seven years of his NHL career in the nation’s capital. He was easily one of their best players and fan favourite at the time, averaging 26.8 goals per season while playing for the Senators.

When it came time for Marian to re-sign in Ottawa, things took a complete turn. The Senators had avoided salary arbitration by signing him to a three-year, $18 million deal. However, moments after the deal was signed, he was traded as part of a deal with the Atlanta Thrashers that sent Dany Heatley going the other way.

Marian Hossa with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008. (kaatiya/Flickr)

Hossa had spent three seasons in Atlanta from 2005-2008 and while there, he reached what ended up being his career-high total in points for a season with 100 in 2006-07. The season before he had hit 92 points, which is the second-highest season of his career. Towards the end of the 2007-08 season, Hossa was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins along with Pascal Dupuis in a blockbuster deal. It was obvious from that point on that the Penguins were now a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

What took place over the course of the next three seasons was unprecedented. Hossa — like most NHL players end up doing — started chasing the Cup. In 2008, he went to the Stanley Cup Final with the Penguins, ultimately losing to the Detroit Red Wings. That summer, he then signed with the Red Wings hoping they would repeat as Cup champions. They got close, going to the Cup Final against the Penguins. However, this time the shoe was on the other foot and Hossa was on the losing end, again.

Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks
Marian Hossa with the Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He only spent one season in Detroit and went on to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer of 2009. Hossa went on to spend his final eight seasons in the NHL with the Blackhawks where he won three Stanley Cups over a six-year span. His best playing days were behind him while he was in Chicago and he was ultimately forced to retire in 2018 after he missed the entire 2017-18 season due to a progressive skin disorder. Hossa was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2020 and finished his career having played a total of 1,309 games with 525 goals and 609 assists to go with his three Stanley Cups.

Sami Salo

Sandwiched right in between Hossa and Demitra was Sami Salo. Selected in the ninth round at 239th overall of the 1996 Draft, Salo continued to play in the SM-liiga based in Finland before coming over to Canada for the 1998-99 season. He hit the ground running with the Senators, playing in 61 games in his first season at the NHL level. The next two seasons, however, he played about half the games, but managed to come close to his first season points total. It was starting to look like Salo was going to be a nice piece for Ottawa on the back end for years to come.

Sami Salo
Sami Salo with the Vancouver Canucks (THW Archives)

In September of 2002, the Senators had dealt Salo to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Peter Schaefer. He went on to spend the next nine seasons of his 15-year career as a Canuck and become a staple on their back end. Of his 878 career NHL games, Salo played 566 in Vancouver, roughly 65% of his career.

While Salo never won any major awards — team or individual — playing 15 years in the NHL is quite the accomplishment. Injuries played a factor during his NHL tenure, but he was a solid two-way defenceman, especially in his own end. There were a couple of other players to choose from Ottawa’s list of draftees, but I thought Salo was the most stable in comparison considering he played almost 900 career NHL games.

Honorable Mentions

It wasn’t the easiest of tasks to choose which players should get the main mentions because Ottawa has moved on from a lot of their original draft picks. Some of them are still playing in the NHL to this day and have yet to set their careers in stone. However, here is a list of some of the other players I considered for the top three.

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