With the draft lottery just passing and the 2023 Draft on its way, fans are already making their picks and predictions for their teams. But for the Ottawa Senators, the story is different this time around. For the first time in their history, they don’t own a single draft pick in the first, second, or third round.
While there isn’t as much draft content to produce this year, the Senators have made their fair share of good – and bad – picks in recent years. It may always be easier to point out the negatives, but it’s nice to note some of the good things management has done for the team. In this article, I will discuss a few players that, given their position in the draft, turned out to be great picks by the Senators since the team last made its appearance in the playoffs in 2016-17.
You’re probably reading this and wondering why such a high draft pick is included on this list. Well, the Senators made the best of their opportunity with the San Jose Sharks’ third overall pick in 2020, which they received as part of a package deal – that also included Josh Norris – in return for franchise defenseman Erik Karlsson. Although they knew they were getting a solid player in Tim Stutzle, he is truly one of their best-value picks considering he may possibly be the best player of his draft class (from ‘How Senators’ Tim Stützle has become ‘a superstar in the making’ this season’, The Athletic, 1/13/23).
The consensus first-overall pick that year was Alexis Lafreniere, who still has potential even though he has struggled with the New York Rangers. The Los Angeles Kings had a big decision to make with the second-overall pick, which was debated to be either Stutzle or Sudbury Wolves power forward Quinton Byfield. The Kings ultimately used the pick on the latter, which meant the former Mannheim Eagles player fell to the Senators. Surely, those two teams wish they had Stutzle, who now leads his young draft class in points with 177 – a whole 75 points more than Detroit Red Wings’ Lucas Raymond, who is second.
Stutzle began in the NHL right after his draft year, amassing 12 goals and 29 points in 53 games. He has been improving ever since. In only his third year in the league, he led the team in goals with 39, assists with 51, and points with 90 in 78 games. This is very impressive for anyone, especially a 21-year-old, who signed a reasonable contract extension back in September.
The fan favorite, also nicknamed ‘Jimmy Stu,’ is now considered to be a franchise-altering player that can lead the Senators back to the playoffs.
The second name on this list was selected much further down in his draft year. With the 121st pick in 2017, the Senators selected Drake Batherson, who played for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) at the time.
The 2018 World Junior Championship (WJC) was one of the first times fans witnessed the 6-foot-3 winger’s offensive talents. Batherson went on to score a team-leading seven goals in just as many games to help Canada win the gold medal against Sweden.
Related: 2023 NHL Draft Guide
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Similarly to Stutzle, Batherson set career highs in goals with 22, assists with 40, and points with 62, having played in all 82 games this season. This is great value for someone who was drafted in the fourth round. On the other hand, he set a career low with his plus/minus, which was the fifth lowest in the league. While his defensive game needs some work after this season, he has proven to be a valuable player on a great contract, which sees him make just under $5 million until the end of the 2026-27 season.
A Solid Second Round
The next two members on the list show how a good round of draft picks can help a rebuilding team. These two players, who are both set to make an impact in upcoming years, were both selected in the second round just five picks apart in 2019.
With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Senators selected Shane Pinto, who at the time was playing for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League (USHL) and who was committed to the University of North Dakota the following season. A hyped-up prospect since his draft year, Pinto finally showed fans what he was capable of in his rookie season. He scored 20 goals and 35 points, while at times filling in for Josh Norris in the top-six while he was out with an injury. He could be a solid middle-six player in the years to come.
Five picks later in the same round, the Senators selected goalie Mads Sogaard. The imposing 6-foot-7 Danish goalie was playing with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League (WHL) at the time. He was the third goalie to be selected in the draft, with the Florida Panthers drafting Spencer Knight at 13th overall, and the Carolina Hurricanes selecting Pyotr Kochetkov at 36th overall, the pick right before Sogaard. Although goalies take much longer to develop, he already has a bit of NHL experience, notably by stepping up this season with injuries – until he was a victim as well. Look at him playing a bigger role and potentially being a starter in seasons to come.
Alongside the other names on this list, the Senators have made some good picks that could turn out to be better value than the position they were picked in the draft.
Jake Sanderson and Brady Tkachuk are two more solid picks for the Sens. Both are already top players on the team and are great to have. But given they were selected fourth and fifth overall in the 2018 and 2020 Drafts respectively, this is closer to the impact they were expected to have.
Ridly Greig and Tyler Kleven could also be good value picks for the Senators. They were placed in the honorable mention section because they have a smaller sample size to show so far. Although Sogaard was on this list, he was asked to fill a bigger role in a position that takes longer to develop. Expect both Greig and Klevin to make a push for the opening night roster next season.
The New Era
Fans have long awaited for the Senators to be back in playoff contention. They’re close to doing so, as long as the team performs and management makes the right moves. Regardless, the new era of Senators hockey is on its way. In 20 years, current Senators fans will hopefully not only reminisce about the Daniel Alfredsson or Karlsson era but also the Tkachuk and Stutzle era as well.