With the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery coming to a close last night, the Ottawa Senators are locked into the seventh overall pick, barring any trades. Sadly, although they had a chance to move up to select higher in the draft, they remain at their original seventh overall position.
However, there will be many enticing options at that spot. While top-end players like Shane Wright, Logan Cooley, and Juraj Slafkovsky will be selected before the Senators step up to the podium, there’s still enough talent in the top 10 to draft an impactful player. Let’s try to project who will be picked in the top six, and assess the best available options for the Senators at seventh.
Top 6 Picks
By most, if not all draft rankings, Wright is going first overall to the Montreal Canadiens. He has the demeanor and characteristics of Patrice Bergeron, and any team with the chance to draft that kind of player is going to take it.
After that, the New Jersey Devils will most likely pick University of Minnesota commit Cooley. Cooley has the speed and puck skills to dazzle the league in the same way that Trevor Zegras did last season.
At third, based on the Arizona Coyotes’ needs, they’re going to want a forward. Whether they pick 6-foot-4 beast Slafkovsky, or 5-foot-9 dynamo Matthew Savoie is up for debate, but in the end they likely take Slafkovsky. He’s the type of player that will thrive in the playoffs due to his size and skill.
At fourth overall, the Seattle Kraken will likely pick a defenseman. They selected forward Matthew Beniers in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, and he already looks like a great selection. Now, with a chance to pick a future top-pairing defenseman, they have to jump at the chance to select David Jiricek, who has a game comparable to Moritz Seider.
The Philadelphia Flyers, on the other hand, will be looking to replace some of the skill that they lost in the Claude Giroux trade. The most obvious choice at 5th overall is Savoie, who is lighting up the Western Hockey League (WHL), and has all the skills to be a top-line forward in the NHL.
At 6th overall, Columbus has to be looking to draft a forward. Their biggest needs are scoring and goaltending, and they already have a wealth of young talent on the blue line, and no top-end goalies at this year’s draft. They should look to select Joakim Kemell, a winger with a howitzer of a shot.
Through a revolving door of defensemen last season, the Senators finished the year with 2,740 shots against, landing them with the sixth-worst total league-wide. While Anton Forsberg did his best to keep the team afloat, there’s no denying that the Senators’ biggest need is some stability on the back-end. The likes of Josh Brown and Victor Mete, among others, isn’t going to cut it for a team trying to contend for a playoff spot in the near future.
In addition to their desperate need of a top-pairing, right-handed defenseman, they could absolutely use another centerman. While Josh Norris and Tim Stützle are locked into the top-six, center depth is one of the biggest keys to a lengthy cup run. In addition, with the uncertainty surrounding Norris’ contract, there’s no reason not to get some insurance at the draft.
Lastly, if they don’t need a centerman, then they could use a goal-scoring winger. They might feel secure with their top-line of Brady Tkachuk, Norris, and surprise star Drake Batherson, but scoring talent on their second line is slightly scarce. They would do well to find Stützle a reliable scoring winger.
With their needs in mind, and a plethora of expert rankings to filter through, here’s my assessment of the best options for the Senators at 7th overall.
The second-best defenseman in the draft would be an absolute gift to the Senators. The right-handed Nemec plays an elite, two-way, puck distribution game, and possesses the poise and confidence that is coveted in top-pairing defensemen. He was the tournament MVP at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, and is as sure of a bet there is to reach the NHL.
Continuing with the need at defense, the Senators could potentially reach on Mintyukov and his elite puck skills. At 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds, he already has the size to be effective in the NHL, but will likely take an extra year or two to reach the league. He’s a sure bet to play in the top-four someday, and if Nemec and Jiricek are gone by pick seven, the Senators might still want to fill their defensive need.
Originally projected in the top five, Geekie has seen his draft stock rise and fall all season long, partially due to inconsistent play, and partially due to the meteoric rise of his teammate Matthew Savoie. At 6-foot-3, the hulking center has skill, and power to go along with his size, but some scouts are unsure if he can put it all together at the next level. He might be a bit of a project, but if the Senators are looking for another centreman, this is their guy.
Cutter, son of former NHL goalie Sean Gauthier, has the bloodlines and the scoring ability to complete the Senators’ top-six. Standing 6-foot-3, he uses his body to drive the net and has a powerful shot and a soft touch in tight. His attitude of, “I do whatever I can to help the team,” is exactly what a team looking to push for the playoffs needs.
Lekkerimäki is another goal-focused winger that could help the Senators’ top-six. At 5-foot-11, he is slightly undersized, but that hasn’t stopped other small-ish forwards from scoring in the past. He has incredible patience with the puck, and when you add his lighting fast release, it’s easy to see why he will end up as a reliable goal scorer.
Given their options and needs, I think the Senators will jump at the chance to draft Simon Nemec. His skillset, coupled with his poise, will almost certainly propel him to become a top-four defenseman, if not a top-two. If he ends up unavailable at 7th overall, I think the Senators will take Cutter Gauthier. With his size and scoring, and the Senators’ need at wing, he would be a nice fit with Tim Stützle.
Whichever direction the Senators choose to go, they have a great opportunity to pick up another building block this summer and would be smart to pick one of these two guys.
For all your draft needs, keep up to date with THW’s 2022 NHL Draft Guide.
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.