The Senators aren’t making the playoffs – that much is obvious by now. You shouldn’t need proof, but if you do (talkin’ to you, Don Brennan) last night’s 6-0 loss to Boston dropped their playoff odds from 0.2% to 0.1%. Desperate men, now’s the time to place those bets.
But at least we can get excited about the team’s first top-five draft pick since 2001, when they selected Jason Spezza 2nd overall (the Islanders’ pick, which came over in the Yashin trade, thank you Mike Milbury, who now gets paid to provide clarity via analaysis what the fuck). It’s that time of year, when the fans of mediocre teams look at the online profiles of sixteen year old boys and get excited. (Eeeeeeesh *tugs collar*)
It’s still extremely early, which means that projections are all over the map. (Here’s a few sites to start your reading: NHL central scouting, MyNhlDraft, and The Scouting Report.) And you can ask Cam Fowler how reliable these predictions are. But taking a consensus top five pick for discussion’s sake, look at these insane numbers:
That’s defenseman Ryan Murphy’s stat line. He’s predicted by some to go fifth overall – the Sens’ pick – and it’s not hard to see how almost 2 points per-game from even an OHL d-man is why teams are deciding to build through the draft rather than spend on UFAs. (Though he’s only 160 lbs, and will probably be murdered in his first game, just like Karlsson was.) Other intriguing prospects include Adam Larsson (a Victor Hedman-like player, likely to go top three), who would meet the Sens’ preference for building a Swedish Elite League team. Larsson is larger, and I have it on good information that he can, in fact, speak Swedish. And Gabriel Landeskog, a high-value prospect for the scarcity of left wingers in this (and really any) draft. Even if Larsson, Landeskog, and Couturier go in the top three, the Sens have a chance at a wide field of quality players, and can address any one of their horrible, gaping shortcomings.
With the Senators already having some depth on the backend, should they draft to their needs – meaning someone, anyone, who can put the puck in the goddamn net, maybe one of the many quality centers available – or just go with the best player available, regardless of position? A top five-pick defencemen along with Karlsson, Rundblad, Cowen and Wiercioch (and possibly Gryba, or other role players like Hale, and one assumes Carkner as Cranky Uncle Shoe Shines and Gonchar playing out his lifetime deal) is pretty sweet to envision. On the other hand, it’s been a long time since this team has had an offensive prospect to get excited about, and there’s not a lot of depth on the left side. Hard to espouse leaving the beaten path with such a sure-thing as a top five pick, but they could draft a player projected to go lower in an attempt to meet a current need. Though there’s always the chance that the flavor-of-the month forward, that kid that everyone predicts will turn into Steve Stamkos three seasons from now, will turn into Angelo Esposito, who was considered a possible 1st overall pick, slipped to twentieth, was traded, and has never made the big dance.
(Aside: I’m smarting at the notion that the Sens left Ottawa 67s scorer Tyler Toffoli on the table last year to trade for yet another defenceman, and Toffoli’s tearing it up. He’s going to look great in LA.)
If it’s me – and I see no reason why it won’t be, as I’d make an excellent GM, and come cheap – I break the Sens’ trend of drafting defencemen and inject a little bit of talent up front. If they can’t snag Nugent-Hopkins, then perhaps Finnish right winger Joel Armia.