Draft Thoughts

In somewhat of a swerve, the Ottawa Senators bypassed a number of available players, who also participated in a private workout in early June, to select Curtis Lazar from the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings with their 17th overall selection.

The 6’0, 190 pound center/right winger tallied 38 goals and 23 assists in 72 games last season and reportedly oozes a blend intangibles and talent that will inevitably make him popular within this fan base.

With names Kerby Rychel, Anthony Mantha and Adam Erne still on the board, reports indicated that prior to making their selection, the Senators were engaged in discussions with the San Jose Sharks (picking 20th) to down in the draft. (Note: The Sharks made a deal with Detroit to move up two spots to the eighteenth spot where they picked defenceman Mirco Mueller.)

“(San Jose) came to us and made a proposal,” Pierre Dorion told Team 1200. “But we just decided to go with Curtis because we felt good about that.”

Eventually with time winding down on the clock, the name Tim Murray called from the podium was Lazar’s.

Sure, the optics of Ottawa’s attempt to move back a few slots and their inability to do so (and secure a second round pick in the process), may not look that great, but it’s not like Lazar was not well-regarded in some circles.

In his pre-draft mock up, Hockey Prospectus’ Corey Pronman incidentally had Lazar going to the Winnipeg Jets with the 13th overall pick.

A few NHL scouts believe Lazar could go in the top 15, and he possesses a lot of the qualities that Winnipeg looks for. He has off-the-charts intangibles and he is a gritty, physical player, with good hockey sense and offensive ability. This seems like a plausible landing spot for him, but Bo Horvat could go here as well.

Similarly, in his mock draft for ESPN Insider (behind a pay wall), Grant Sonier projected Lazar to be taken at a higher ranked slot (12th) than where he was picked by the Senators:

With head coach Dave Tippett signed and some stability (possibly?) coming for the Coyotes, I think they will continue down the same path of adding speed and grit. Lazar has plenty of both and will fit in with the team concept of playing a high-tempo style. Don't discredit Lazar's skill, as over time, I think he will find a way to get into the top six with his scoring touch.

In a post-draft assessment, again behind ESPN Insider’s pay wall, Sonier gave the Senators a B+ grade, explaining:

It's very fitting that the Sens take Curtis Lazar, who spills over with character and speed. The forward, who could see time at either center or right wing, can score, pursue the puck and brings leadership. With no second-round pick they fall short on quanity but in the third round they get my second-rated goaltender in Marcus Hogberg. At 6-4, he has lots of athletic ability and could develop into a big-time surprise.

Explaining the Lazar selection, Pierre Dorion had this to say to the Team 1200’s AJ Jakubec and Lee Versage:

“He was fairly high on our list. We had him obviously, in probably the top 15 and we were excited to take him. I think he’s someone who fills the needs that were, not lacking, but we like in an Ottawa Senator. We’re talking about a high character guy. A guy who is a good skater. A guy who shoots the puck. A guy who goes to the net. A guy who can play, who for Edmonton this year, played the power play and the penalty kill. They’re one of the better teams in the Western (Hockey) League. He had a big role on a good, quality team as a seventeen year old. He comes with a pedigree, being a good player through his life – being a high pick in the Western (Hockey) League. And he was just someone who, obviously we always like the 6’4” guys, but he’s someone who plays big and that’s what we liked about him.”

On the Dustin Brown comparisons…

“Dustin Brown is an outstanding NHL player and I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on the kid. He plays in a similar manner and Dustin Brown was a big part of the LA Kings winning the Cup two years ago, but he’s got some similarities coming out. You just like the character and the drive; the will to want to score goals and the will to compete for pucks. Curtis had a slower start this year, but in the last games that I remember going out west in the last month of the season, he was just a key player for that team. I wouldn’t say he took the team on his shoulders but he was an integral part as a seventeen year old, so that excited us. And you know the character, we all saw how the playoffs were this year – where you really have to fight for goals. And those were attractive traits, if I can say, for us on Curtis Lazar.”

On underrated offensive upside with 30 goals in his last 45 games played…

“I think there’s a lot of offence there. I think, a lot of times when kids are in their draft year, there is so much pressure; especially a guy who was going to be a high pick like him. You know he was going to be a first rounder. I think he put a lot of pressure on himself early in the year, but I think he’s going to be a guy who provides goals for us amongst other things. Yes, there’s a certain kind of pressure. If he can be half-as-good as far as production as Crosby and Stamkos, we know we’re going to get a real good player, so we’re excited.”

Later Round Picks

Without any second round selections and a bevy of prospects littered at every position and level within its system, it was not surprising to read that Pierre Dorion and the organization were willing to go for high-righ/high-upside guys in this draft. 

In the third round, the organization added another goaltender with Marcus Hogberg (78th overall). The 6'4" Swedish product was the fourth-highest ranked European goaltender in Central Scouting's final rankings. 

Although the Senators already have Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard within its ranks, adding another big and toolsy goaltender can never hurt. Thanks to the attrition rates that usually accompany this position, goaltenders are like baseball pitchers in the sense that you can never have too many.

In the fourth round, the Senators selected right winger Tobias Lindberg with the 102nd overall pick. With two Swedes in the third and fourth rounds, it means @steffeG is going to have some work to do for the site explaining what each prospect brings to the table. 

With their second pick in the fourth round (108th overall), the Senators picked the Guelph Storm's Ben Harpur. There's no word on whether or not he can play some acoustic ballads on a guitar, but you can't teach big. The 6'5", 210 lb  defenceman has some nice physical tools, but projecting his OHL numbers, he is never going to have an offensive impact in the NHL; assuming he makes it there at all. For what it's worth, Pronman did not have Harpur listed as one of his top 250 draft eligible prospects. Mind you, Lindberg was not on his list either, so there's that. 

Another player who was on Pronman's top 250 prospect list was Val-d'Or center Vincent Dunn. The Gatineau native was ranked 94th on Pronman's list but slid to the Senators in the 5th round (138th overall). 

Dunn had a productive season from a statistical standpoint, although it must be noted that he played on a loaded offensive squad in Val-d'Or. He is a multi-dimensional player, and he can play center or wing effectively. He also has defensive value, and although he is a little small, he will show a good physical game, with offensive abilities. Dunn has above-average hands, as well as a good offensive hockey sense. He tends to set up his teammates well. He is a solid skater as well. He may not have a powerful stride, but he does have a good first few steps, and he moves his feet quickly. Dunn has a lot of energy to his game. He will drive the net, make quick decisions, and engage when he needs to. Despite these positive qualities, it is questionable what his role projects to be in the NHL. His offensive skill is not overwhelming enough to project as a scorer, and due to his size, he will carry questions about his defensive projection. Despite this, he possesses good qualities, and if his development goes well, he will provide value for an NHL team.

Chris Leblanc (161 overall) and Quentin Shore (168th overall) were Ottawa's two sixth round selections. Leblanc is an overage draftee who, even if he can't crack the NHL, should fast-track and replace some of the lost depth created by the graduation of some of the organization's other prospects. 
 
Shore was Pronman's 179th ranked prospect and he'll spend the next few seasons at the University of Denver. Thanks to how the new CBA handles NCAA prospects — created in response to how poorly the Justin Schultz scenario unfolded last summer — the Senators will retain Shore's rights for longer. 
 
As Thomas Drance wrote for the Canucks website, under the rules pertaining to the entry draft in the 2013 NHL CBA, teams will still retain exclusive negotiating rights to NCAA (or NCAA bound) players aged 18 or 19 for four years, so long as that player remains a “bona fide student.”
 
Essentially it means that Ottawa's afforded more time and flexibility for Shore to develop as a prospect without having to make a decision on whether it wants to offer him a contract and burn one of its fifty NHL allotted contract slots. 
 
Interestingly, Shore was ranked 80th in Central Scoutings North Americans rankings in 2012, but he was never selected. 
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