Stepping away from the Senators negative cash flow, let's focus on an area where most people feel the Senators have built up some currency – the prospect pool.
Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman has been posting organization top tens for the past month or so and yesterday was Ottawa's turn to feature.
Thanks to the graduation of Mika Zibanejad, Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch and the loss of prospects Stefan Noesen and Jakob Silfverberg to Anaheim (via the trade for Bobby Ryan), the Senators fell in Pronman's organizational rankings from 5th to 18th.
A year ago Pronman had Zibanejad and Silfverberg as the organization's first and third best prospects last season, so this slide in the rankings shouldn't surprise.
"With Mika Zibanejad and Patrick Wiercioch graduating, and Ottawa trading Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen, the Sens' prospect outlook is quite different from a year ago. They do not have a dominant top prospect (outside of Lehner, who is discounted for position), but they have several toolsy/high-upside prospects to go along with several good safe players in Curtis Lazar, J-G Pageau, and Derek Grant."
While that comment about the lack of highend prospects may ring true, there's something to be said for getting Cody Ceci out of junior hockey. As a player, who Pronman noted, was saddled on a terrible Ottawa 67s team for the bulk of the year, I have some optimism that whatever development may have been stalled last year can be remedied with a full season under Luke Richardson in Bingo. Furthermore, for a player who reportedly had an off-year, Ceci was still voted as an OHL second team All-Star.
Ottawa's top ten according to Pronman:
1. Cody Ceci, Defense
2. Robin Lehner, Goaltender
3. Mark Stone, Right Wing
4. Curtis Lazar, Center
5. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Center
6. Shane Prince, Left Wing
7. Mikael Wikstrand, Defense
8. Matt Puempel, Left Wing
9. Stephane Da Costa, Center
10. Mike Hoffman, Left Wing
The biggest riser on this list is defenceman Mikael Wikstrand, who wasn't even amongst Pronman's top 15 Sens prospects in 2012. After a strong showing with Mora in the Allvenskan (11 goals and 25 points in 45 games) and at the 2013 World Juniors with Sweden (4 points in 6 games), Ottawa's seventh round pick from 2012 garnered attention for his offensive acumen. He finished fifth amongst d-men in scoring in the Allvenskan and his heavy shot became a weapon that teams had to respect. (Note: steffeG has written on Wikstrand a few times for the site, so if you'd like some more information on him, click here
The second biggest jump belonged to Robin Lehner who went from 12th to the 2nd best prospect. Talent has never been an issue for the big Swede, but his maturity and commitment to development had been questioned in the past. After the organization acquired Ben Bishop, an indirect message was sent to Lehner. He rewarded the Senators by: 1) showing up to Binghamton's training camp in exceptional shape; 2) kiboshed the hunting talk (even if that was entertaining as hell); and 3) killing it during the regular season when the NHL lockout finally ended.
Given the attrition rate and the volatility that so frequently accompanies goaltending prospects, it should be noted that Pronman has been rather hard on goaltending prospects in the past (see his 2012 Lehner assessment). So it is more than a little encouraging to see a third party evaluator like Pronman, give Lehner his due.
Not surprisingly, other risers on Ottawa's top ten board included Mark Stone (4th to 3rd), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (13th to 5th) Shane Prince (7th to 6th), Matt Puempel (9th to 8th), Mike Hoffman (11th to 10th), Mark Borowiecki (14th to 12th) and Derek Grant (15th to 13th). With the exception of Pageau, who began the season as a prospect who looked like a candidate to lace em up in Elmira last fall, and finished it with a hat-trick versus the Habs in the playoffs, these improved rankings can be attributable to the absence of guys like Ziba, Silf and etc.
First time appearances on the list belong to 2013 first rounder Curtis Lazar (4th), Jarrod Maidens (11th), Troy Rutkowski (14th) and Freddy Claesson (15th). It's worth noting that Maidens received some love from Pronman, because if healthy, "he probably would slot anywhere from sixth to eighth on these rankings. He has really good hockey sense in both ends, and a solid skill level."
An honorable mention went to Quentin Shore who, "is a good sized-forward with versatility, and his offensive potential is on the uptick."
The Senators only had a few prospects who had their stock fell — Stephane Da Costa (6th to 9th), Andre Petersson (10th to unlisted). Injuries and improved depth at the minor league level effectively helped curb their offensive outputs. It'll be interesting to see what another offseason can do for either player, since it's safe to assume that their time is running short with the organization. Petersson seems about as forgotten as a prospect could be, easy to forget he led the B-Sens in goals as a rookie, in only 60GP.
On Twitter yesterday Corey also addressed this hypothetical:
Seem to remember some talk in wake of the Ryan trade that part of the organization's calculation in giving up Noesen was being impressed with the season Puempel had in Kitchener. Interesting to see the distance Pronman's evaluation would have placed between them.
Although the lack of high-end offensive prospects within Ottawa's system is a little concerning in light of the impending UFA status of players like Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan, Ottawa still boasts one of the youngest rosters in the league with more and more young players at key positions.
Though it's not difficult to see a scenario where the Sens slip again next summer in Pronman's rankings with more graduation and a currently lacking first-round-pick.