Any dreams of the Ottawa Senators landing Rasmus Dahlin were dashed on Saturday night, as the team ended up with the fourth overall pick during the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery. Without a top-three pick, the Sens could go in a number of different directions with their first selection in the draft.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has already made one big decision about this year’s draft, saying that he will keep this year’s selection and instead give up next season’s first-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche. After consensus number one pick Rasmus Dahlin is selected, most scouts have Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina going in the second and third spot. If the draft goes this way, things could get interesting with the fourth pick.
Matthew Tkachuk is one of the top contenders to be selected fourth overall, one of Bob McKenzie’s “Big Four,” but there are notable concerns about his game. Some scouts worry that while Tkachuk is able to contribute in a lot of different ways, he might not have enough offensive ability to be justifiably selected this early in the draft.
Plenty of Defencemen Available
While the Senators could use a boost at every position, they have good reason to select a defenceman in the first round. Dorion has a few options if he decides to go this route, with Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson jumping out as three high-upside blueliners that Ottawa will look at carefully.
With Dahlin likely headed to Buffalo, Boqvist would be a nice consolation prize for a team looking for the next elite puck-moving Swedish D-man. The Brynäs defenceman has become known for his lethal wrist shot, making him a scoring threat everytime he has the puck in the offensive zone.
Boqvist turns 18 in August, and his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame means that while he is not completely undersized, he still likely needs time before making the jump to the NHL. This could be a significant factor in the Senators’ decision-making process, as Dorion has previously expressed interest in having the team’s top pick play in the big league come October.
Bouchard will also be on Ottawa’s radar, as the London Knights captain has made a name for himself with his outstanding two-way game. Bouchard has been praised for his passing and vision in the offensive zone and has all the makings of a first-rate power play quarterback.
Similar to Bouchard, Noah Dobson is another smooth-skating D-man who can play at both ends of the ice. Dobson has first-pairing potential but will also need some more time to develop before he plays at the highest level.
What About Trading Down?
While the assumption is that Zadina and Svechnikov will both be off the board by the time the Senators pick, this isn’t a guarantee. New Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon said earlier this month that he was interested in bringing in tougher players, and Brady Tkachuk certainly fits the bill.
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has recently been emphasizing the importance of having the right culture in the Habs’ locker room, and a gritty, versatile player like Tkachuk might be exactly what he’s looking for with the third overall pick.
No matter what the other teams decide to do, the Senators will have the chance to take a very good player at the fourth spot. However, with the Sens relatively short on draft picks for a supposedly rebuilding team, they may also look at trading down. If the player Dorion has his eyes on is off the board by the time the Senators are on the clock, the team might be best served by moving down a few spots and gaining another pick in the process.
The Red Wings and Rangers hold the most picks in the draft, and one of them might be willing to part with a second rounder to move up a few spots in round one. The Vancouver Canucks only hold six picks, but could be desperate to take one of the “Big Four” prospects after the retirement of Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
Dorion will certainly have lots of options on draft day, and the direction he takes will set the tone for the team’s rebuild.