After a season in which general manager Pierre Dorion traded off several beloved core roster players, many Ottawa Senators fans were looking to the 2019 NHL Entry Draft for some optimism. It wasn’t a day without controversy, as many of their early picks were considered a reach at their selected position. However, if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that the Senators under Dorion and Trent Mann have been very good at evaluating talent, especially in the later rounds of the draft.
Dorion made a trade at the draft that caused some confusion. In the early stage of the second round, he traded Ottawa’s 44th and 83rd selections to the Carolina Hurricanes for the 37th overall selection. With that pick the Senators drafted goaltender, Mads Søgaard.
Senators fans immediately called into question the choice of drafting another goalie. The Senators currently have goaltenders Anders Nilsson, Craig Anderson, Mike Condon, Marcus Högberg, Filip Gustavsson, and Joey Daccord all under contract. Beyond that, they also own the rights to goaltender Kevin Mandolese who is playing for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the QMJHL.
Senators’ Lack High-End Depth
When it comes to high-end goaltending prospects, the Senators lack depth. Good NHL teams all have one thing in common, a goaltender who provides a stable and confident presence in net. While Gustavsson is a promising prospect, the Senators needed to add another higher-end goaltender to their prospect pool.
At 24, Högberg still has lots of room to grow. Despite his great season in Belleville, his ceiling seems to be as a backup goaltender rather than a sure-fire starter. Joey Daccord had a great season last year with the Arizona Sun Devils, and his start to the Sens development camp has apparently been solid, but his potential ceiling remains unknown.
Mandolese improved his goals-against average (GAA) during his time in the QMJHL this season, but his save percentage (SV%) was still sub-.900. He will need to make noticeable improvement if he wants to earn an NHL contract with the Senators. Gustavsson came to the Senators in the Derrick Brassard trade, and was seen as one of the top goaltending prospects in the league at the time. However, he’s struggled with Belleville, and will need to continue to grow his game there before he gets a chance with the NHL club. That being said, he has immense upside.
Other than Gustavsson, the Senators have a lack of high potential goaltending prospects. Even then, not all high projected goaltending prospects pan out. The Senators trading up in the second round to draft Søgaard shows that Mann and Dorion recognize the potential future problems of their goaltending depth, and are actively trying to fix it.
Søgaard is highly touted
Officially measured at the NHL combine as 6-foot-7.5, Søgaard is a monster in net. Playing as a rookie in 37 games for the Medicine Hat Tigersof the WHL last season, he had a record of 19-8-2, a GAA of 2.64, and a SV% of .921. In six playoff games, he posted a 3.16 GAA and a SV% of .919. As my colleague Josh Bell noted in his scouting report of Søgaard, these numbers were impressive considering the Tigers barely squeaked into the WHL playoffs.
“A spotlight has been placed on Danish goaltending since the rise of Frederik Andersen in Toronto. Nobody has been able to take Andersen’s crown yet, but the next wave could provide a few challengers. MadsFrom: ‘EliteProspects’ Top 10 Goalies for the NHL Entry Draft, ‘6/19/2019
Søgaard is one of those goalies.” – Gregory Balloch
Scouting reports prior to the draft noted that Søgaard is able to cover most of the net. In the butterfly position, he has good lateral movement and is able to follow the puck well, has good rebound control for his age, and is great at stopping the initial shot. Reports also mentioned his effective puck handling, which can be seen when he cuts off dump-ins and makes passes out to his defencemen.
He’s described as keeping a level head when under pressure, and stays calm even after allowing a goal. His weaknesses are reported as being his tendency to over slide at times, and leaving his five-hole open as he moves laterally. However, Søgaard will have plenty of time to work on these faults.
Strong Development Camp
In the Senators’ June 27 Red vs. White development camp scrimmage, Søgaard had a strong showing. Other than letting in a spectacular shot from Drake Batherson, and a nice passing play goal by Jonathan Aspirot, Søgaard looked right at home in the blue paint.
He looks patient and calm while in the crease, even when under pressure. Part way through the second period, Søgaard found himself facing down Rudolfs Balcers on a partial breakaway, but foiled the opportunity with a quick glove save. While he is usually in good position to make the save, Søgaard can sometimes over-commit to the puck carrier, leaving the far side of his net wide open. However, he has a great glove and his blocker side is quite solid as well. In the shootout, he stopped both Balcers’ and Batherson’s shots as Team Red won 3-2.
The Senators needed to add another high calibre goaltender to their prospect list. As promising a prospect as Gustavsson is, having a contingency plan in Søgaard was a must for the organization. Prior to his disappointing showing for Denmark at the World Juniors, he was expected by some scouts to be a first-round pick. It’s not often that a team has the chance to draft a sizable and athletic goaltender with high upside in the second round. The Senators needed to strengthen their high-end talent in the blue paint, and by trading up to snag Søgaard, they did just that.