Saturday, June 26, 2010

Draft Recap

Having slept on the Rundblad situation, I still don't particularly like it. I would love to be proven wrong but at some point you have to draft forwards, especially with Karlsson - Cowen - Wiercioch coming up. I won't deny that adding Rundblad makes that defensive depth even more impressive, but having an Etem or a Tarasenko in the forward ranks would have been much more useful in the long run.

I'm pleased with the picks we made today. I was fairly high on Jakub Culek and may or may not have screamed at my TV in joy when he was drafted. Culek, a 6'4" centre with the Rimouski Oceanic, slides into our prospect pool as arguably our top forward, ahead of guys like O'Brien and Bass. For the first time since drafting Spezza, it appears we finally have a player who can play in the top-6 and put up points. He's a bit of a project in terms of skating ability, but he has several skills you can't teach, including size, hands and hockey instinct.

Markus Sorenson, our fourth-rounder, is a virtual mystery. As the guys at Silver Seven Sens
pointed out in their open thread, he's on Facebook. That's about all we know. He's on the smallish side and plays in Sweden. Oh, and he's a right winger.

Our sixth-round pick, Mark Stone, is a big RW from the Brandon Wheat Kings. He scored 28 points in 39 games this year, but his playoff stats are a bit worrying. Seems to be a safe pick, which is probably a good choice after taking a gamble on Sorenson.

Our last pick, Bryce Aneloski, is a defenceman on a USHL team. He scored about a point per game this year, has a fun name to say (though not as fun as Brock Beukeboom or Calle Jarnkrok) but will most likely be a stretch to ever even play for Binghamton.

And, of course, our defacto first round pick who will forever be known as David "not Etem" Rundblad. By all accounts he's a solid puck moving defenseman. According to Hockey's Future, he "tends to not play it simple enough at times", which will most likely infuriate those who want Spezza gone. Despite being a "potential liability in his own end", Rundblad was selected 17th overall last year, in what is considered to have been a deeper draft than this year's.

To summarize quickly, the Senators got one top-six forward (Culek), one bottom-six forward (Stone), two defensemen (Rundblad and Aneloski) and one wild card (Sorenson). We got one Czech, two Swedes, a Canadian and an American, none of whom are NHL-ready.

But damn, I wish we could have that first rounder back.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Draft Outlook - Part Five (Toffoli)

In the fifth and final segment of this series (parts one, two, three and four here), we'll be taking a look at Ottawa 67s right winger Tyler Toffoli.

If you're in the Ottawa area and have been to at least one 67s game this season, chances are you've heard of Toffoli. Great shot, adequate skating, but doesn't show much enthusiasm or drive. His stats in the OHL are at more than a PPG average in the last two years (125 points in 119 games), which shows that he has finish. What he lacks, though, is basic foot speed. In a few 67s games I watched this year, he seemed to be a half step behind some of the faster guys. His shot though, as mentioned above, is a cannon. He talks briefly about it in the video clip here, although he seems to be pretty humble and kind of downplays it a bit. Make no mistake, though. When he shoots, it's not exactly something you would want to block.

Most mock drafts have him going anywhere
between 25th and 29th, with some even suggesting a fall out of the 1st. Keep in mind that a few of those drafts don't have the right order, but even at that Toffoli's ranking hasn't changed all that much. Although he's a solid shooter, I personally see his upside to be much like Cheechoo's, specifically his 2007-08 season -- a 20 goal, 15 assist power forward whose lack of speed prevents him from taking it up a notch.

Taking Toffoli at 16 would be a huge reach, to be sure. In addition, if Ottawa Senators draft history has told us anything, it's that we don't draft local players just because they're available. Since our inception, we've only ever drafted two 67s players: Will Colbert and Corey Cowick. With more talented forwards hypothetically available at our spot, my money would be on Toffoli joining many of his former teammates in San Jose, who have drafted Lukas Kaspar, Jamie McGinn, Logan Couture, Derek Joslin, Julien Demers and Will Colbert (when his Senators rights expired) in recent memory.

It's definitely possible that the Sens draft exactly as I've written it, swap it up a bit, or go way off the board. It's even possible that we draft one of the skilled Russians like Tarasenko, Burmistrov or Kabanov, though I wouldn't put money on it. Zubov, Kaigorodov and Nikulin have all burnt us recently and I'm not too sure any of us want to head down that road again too quickly. Also, sleeper picks that I wouldn't be surprised to see us pick up include Beau Bennett, Calle Jarnkrok and Riley Sheehan. Players I would like to target in the 3rd round and later include Jakub Culek, Matt McKenzie, Phillip Grubauer and Jared Knight.

Round one of the draft is on Friday at 7pm. Be sure to tune in!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Draft Outlook - Part Four (Watson)

Good morning, ladies and gents. In the fourth segment of this series (parts one, two and three here), we'll be taking a look at Peterborough Petes forward Austin Watson.

Watson, 18, is the prototype of a forward who does everything well, but nothing spectacularly. This year, he tallied 20 goals and 34 assists in 52 games, 42 of which were with the Windosr Spitfires, and the other 10 with the Peterborough Petes. Interestingly enough, he scored at a 2PPG pace in Peterborough following a trade on January 11th. This would seem to label him as a purely offensive forward, but don't let the numbers fool you.

Although I haven't seen too much of the other prospects I've touched on, I had the opportunity to see Watson play a few times this year, and one moment that stuck with me was the CHL Top Prospects Game. He is definitely a warrior. He blocked shots, stopped odd-man rushes and had an excellent defensive game, despite breaking his ankle after stopping a shot with it.

Peterborough Petes' GM, Jeff Twohey, is unsurprisingly pretty high on Watson. After the trade with the Spitfires to acquire the 6'3" winger from Michigan, Twohey was quoted as saying that Watson delivers "
assets that are priceless down the road" and that he is a "solid all-around player". The best comparable I can think of off the top of my head is an offensively inclined Chris Kelly.

Certainly, there are better options available for us. Granlund, Etem and even Tarasenko would be worth pursuing over Watson, in my opinion, even though Watson better fits Murray's style of player. But what do you think? Would a left-winger be preferable over a center at this point? And if Watson is the best player available, do you take him regardless of position?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Odds and ends

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for their Cup-clinching win in overtime last night (on a TERRIBLE goal by Kane...) If it couldn't be the Sens, I'm glad the Blackhawks were the ones to win it. Toews had a paltry series, but I guess his accomplishments in the other three rounds got him the Conn Smythe, not that I'm complaining.

Extra congratulations are in order to Marian Hossa, the first Sens draftee to win the Cup legitimately. No, I don't count Neckar's two games in the ECF with the Lightning as a legitimate win.


Unless you've been living under a rock, you know there's buzz around the NHL that Spezza may or may not be traded. You also more than likely already have your opinion made, but my viewpoint is this: I don't want Spezza gone. He's a good player, and definitely the best we have at this point, glaring back-passes aside. But why not listen to offers? For all we know, a team like Columbus could be offering Filatov, Brassard, Voracek and the 4th overall. Longshot? Sure. But why not listen to offers? The team might be better for it.

I'm not the first person to say this, and I won't be the last, it October yet? The Calder Cup Finals are still going on (tied 2-2 between Hershey [WSH] and Texas [DAL]), but I have no vested interest in that series, or much of the AHL in general. I need the Sens back. At least the summer is good for speculation, I guess?

Draft Outlook should be back some time this weekend with a look at Austin Watson.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Draft Outlook - Part Three (Etem)

Good day to y'all. In today's third prospect watch, we'll be looking at centre Emerson Etem from Medicine Hat in the WHL.

The two players mentioned previously would be 'fallers' in the draft -- that is to say, they're ranked considerably higher on most other teams' lists, and we'd be lucky to have them fall to us. Etem is a more reasonable player to hope for, even though suggests that he may go earlier than believed. He definitely won't be winning any height competitions at 6' exactly, but the way he plays almost seems to add a couple of inches to his frame. Don't let his stats fool you: Etem's game is more power-forward than sniper.

Think a combination of Vermette and Jordan Staal, only considerably less talented. In his rookie year at Medicine Hat last year, Etem put up 37 goals and 28 assists in 72 games, pretty impressive considering that the WHL isn't known for goal-scorers. Even ISS' 9th ranked skater, Nino Niederreiter, had one goal and 4 assists less than Etem playing with the Portland Winter Hawks in the WHL, albeit in 7 less games. By comparison, Vermette had 27 goals and 38 assists in 82 games with the Blue Jackets this year. If Etem can put up similar numbers in the NHL, he may be worth grabbing with our first-rounder.

Before going to Medicine Hat, Etem played pivot at Shattuck-St Mary's high school, a boarding school in Minnesota that has produced NHLers like Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews and Jack Johnson, among others. And while Etem will never be confused for any of the above, the fact that S-SM has consistently developed good players indicates that, at the very least, he's receiving good training. He also played for the USA in the U18 league, where he scored solid, but unspectacular numbers.

The Hockey News Draft Preview and the Medicine Hat Tigers website disagree, with the former claiming Etem shoots left, and the latter suggesting he's
a right shot. At this point, I don't think handedness will matter all that much, considering the team we have now may not be the one we have in a few years. Etem is the kind of player you try and build around, not the kind you select because of which side he shoots from. Point is, Etem seems to be a dynamic player, albeit one who "doesn't give you a good feel away from the puck". Still, seems like a solid choice if no one we're particularly high on is available at #16.