It’s safe to say that the 2013-14 NHL season did not turn out how the Ottawa Senators had envisioned. Finishing the campaign with a 37-31-14 record, good for 88 points; the Senators were 5 points short of the post-season, missing the playoffs for the first time in the past three seasons and the first under current head coach Paul MacLean.
Fortunately for the Senators, the future is bright with star prospects; the majority of which will likely make significant contributions at the NHL level in the near future. These top prospects will join an increasingly youthful Senators roster which already boasts highly skilled forwards such as Kyle Turris, Mark Stone and Mika Zabanejad, as well as strong defenders Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen and Cody Ceci who are all under the age of 25.
The Next Generation:
5. Shane Prince
The subject of trade rumors during this off season, Prince is considered to be one of the most highly skilled players in the Senators organization. Following a successful Ontario Hockey League career with the Ottawa 67’s, Prince has spent the past two seasons with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL. In his most recent campaign, Prince notched the first 20-goal season of his professional career, setting an AHL career high in points with 48 over 69 games.
Prince’s major drawback comes with his size. At 5-foot 10, 175 pounds, Shane is a small forward who can be easily over powered in puck battles. One other aspect is his maturity, at 21 years of age, Prince’s competitiveness has often been questioned, with scouts and management indicating that Prince must compete consistently game in and game out if he is to further develop as a top player.
Future Outlook: Top-9 forward potential; needs to iron out inconsistencies.
4. Andreas Englund
Drafted 40th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Andreas Englund is a towering defenseman out of Sweden. At 6-foot 3, 190 pounds, Englund is an intimidating physical player, reminiscent of a young Anton Volchenkov. Englund split his playing time this past season between the Djurgarden Junior team and the Djurgarden Men`s Division 1 team which plays in the Swedish Hockey League. In his brief time with the Men`s team, Englund posted 1 goal and 1 assist in 19 games.
Andreas is characterized as a defensive-defenseman who plays a solid stay at home style. He is responsible defensively in his own end largely in part due to his strong positional play and self-awareness. He isn’t likely to join a rush or make significant offensive contributions, however his first pass is hard and accurate, allowing his teammates to develop quality rushes and scoring chances.
Englund’s mediocre offense is the only major drawback in his game, however he makes up for it with his solid defensive play, as offense is not a large issue for the Ottawa Senators defense, who currently boast offensive minded defenseman such as Erik Karlsson and up and comer Cody Ceci.
Future Outlook: Top-4 shutdown defensive specialist; needs to improve offensively.
3. Matt Puempel
Drafted 24th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Puempel possesses the skill set to become a prolific goal scorer in the NHL. After finishing a 4 year OHL career with the Peterborough Petes and Kitchener Rangers, Puempel recently finished his first season of professional hockey with the Binghamton Senators.
Puempel was a star in the AHL last season, posting an impressive 30 goals in his rookie season. At 6-foot 1, 200 pounds, Puempel loves to drive the net and engage in battles, using his powerful frame to win puck battles and make openings in front of the net.
Together with his physical play, Puempel is highly skilled with the puck, possessing an accurate and powerful shot which often fools goaltenders. Like many star players, Puempel makes those around him better, making crisp passes through traffic to create scoring opportunities. As Chris Edwards of NHL.com put rather simply, Puempel’s “goals are skilled goals”, making him an attractive prospect of the Senators.
Future Outlook: Top-6 forward with elite scoring ability.
2. Mark Stone
An absolute steal of a draft pick, Stone was selected 178th overall, 6th round in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Mark had a very successful WHL career to say the least, posting 296 points over 232 careers games while amassing 106 and 123 points in his final two seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
For a player of such skill, Stone’s development has been a somewhat slow process, however he took significant strides this past season, enjoying success at both the AHL and NHL levels. 41 points in 37 games with Binghamton was followed by success with Ottawa, as Stone posted 8 points over a brief 19 game stint.
Similar to Englund and Puempel, Stone is a big bodied forward at 6-foot 2, 205 pounds. His willingness to go to the dirty areas of the ice and to work the boards pair well with a good shot an impressive passing skills. Most impressive of all is his hockey IQ, as his anticipation allows him to envision the play before it develops, allowing him to be sound positionally in both ends of the rink.
The one drawback in Stone`s game is his skating ability. He isn’t the fastest skater due to his average skating skills, an aspect of his game which he has been working on diligently during the off-season. If Mark can further develop his skating abilities to match the other elite skills of his game, Stone has the talent, intensity and work ethic to become a reliable NHL forward with massive upside.
Future Outlook: Top-6 forward with a strong all-around game; needs to improve skating and mobility.
1. Curtis Lazar
There should be no surprise to see Curtis Lazar ranked as the top prospect of the Ottawa Senators. Selected 17th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Lazar recently completed the third year of his WHL career with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
This past campaign saw Lazar post career highs in goals with 41, as well as points with 76. On top of his offensive production, Lazar was considered on of the most important leaders on his team, acting as an alternate captain for a second year since being appointed the role following his rookie season.
At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Lazar continues the Senators pipeline of strong, skilled forwards. Similar to Mark Stone, Lazar is strong on the puck, especially down low and is hard to knock out of a play. With this, Lazar is able to play a gritty style of hockey, willing to drive the net or drop the gloves to stand up for a teammate.
In terms of his skills, Lazar is lauded for his exceptional puck handling abilities, ability to distribute the puck and his quick release which often fools goalies with its power. Curtis is also very intelligent both with and without the puck. Without, Lazar is responsible defensively, playing a strong two-way game. With the puck, Lazar uses a great hockey IQ and vision to move the puck, creating scoring chances for his teammates. Unlike Stone, Lazar is known for his strong skating abilities, possessing the speed to beat defenders wide and the stability to protect the puck.
Lazar has all the tools to become a star in the NHL, a strong offensive and defensive game, exceptional leadership qualities and the drive and desire for success for both himself and his teammates. Don`t be surprised if you see Lazar in contention for the Calder Trophy, as he is poised to showcase his tremendous skills in the NHL in the near future, possibly this season.
Future Outlook: Top-3 forward who plays a strong, complete game; potential Senators team captain of the future.