Thursday, September 27, 2007

Heatley's Contract Negotiations

As everyone in Ottawa knows, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk will be joining GM Bryan Murray at Scotiabank Place today, in order to officially set out contract negotiations prior to Heatley's impending free agency in the summer of 2008. While it likely isn't their first meeting (Murray has mentioned casual talks with Heatley's agent J. P. Barrie over the summer), it is certainly an indication that the negotiation is far more than casual at this point. What makes today's meeting particularly intruiging is Heatley's refusal to discuss his contract during the season, preferring the business-side not interfere with the chemistry in the dressing room or the performances on the ice. Heatley has set a deadline of the start of the season, October 3, after which point he will not negotiate until the end of the season. Should a contract not be hammered out in the next week, there will only be a three-week window for negotiating with Heatley before he hits the open market, should the Senators go as deep in the playoffs as they are expected.

Heatley, one of the games premier forwards and almost without doubt the best goalscorer in the game, is negotiating from a position of strength whether he wants to talk contract today, in December, or on June 30th. His back-to-back 50-goal, 100-goal seasons put him in a category with the likes of Pavel Bure and Mario Lemieux historically. He has yet to miss a game in a Senators uniform, lead the playoffs in points (alongside linemates Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson), and was named to the first all-star team as a right wing (and very nearly made it as a left wing), in addition to receiving Hart, Selke, Pearson and perhaps even Conn Smythe consideration. In just two seasons as a Senator, he holds more Senators records than anybody but Alfredsson. The statistics are all very impressive, no doubt. While they're amusing to disport in defending Heatley's elite status, they almost become troubling when it comes time for contract discussion.

The simple fact is, whatever Heatley wants, he will get. If he wants league maximum or very close to it, there are teams across the continent who will make room for him. Vancouver, Phoenix, Florida, perhaps even his childhood favourite team St. Louis - all could become instant playoff contenders (if not Stanley Cup victors, in the case of Vancouver) with the simple addition of Heatley. While he doesn't have the game-changing ability of a Sidney Crosby, he far eclipses the likes of this year's free agent crop, who earned as much or more money as the elite players of the game on the open market, even if their play on ice will be leave much to be desired when their overbloated, overlong salaries are considered. When a 13-goal scorer makes $7 million, Heatley will be given league max without the blink of an eye.

If Heatley wants to stay in Ottawa, he need only name the price, and Eugene Melnyk will ensure it happens. If Heatley wants to leave, there is not a team in the league that won't be looking over their rosters and seeing if they can't make room for him.

The question then becomes, what does Heatley want to do? This is the most intruiging part of the whole negotiating process from my perspective. The numbers have meaning from a cap perspective, of course, but it is Heatley's intentions and desires that reveal the stature of the Ottawa Senators franchise among the elite players of the hockey world.

Heatley's acquisition by the Senators came under atypical circumstances, to say the least. Without regugitating a story everyone knows, it was pure coincidence that the Senators' troubles in negotiating a cap-favourable contract with Marian Hossa occurred coincidingly with a troubled young star's request for a change of scenery from a city that had treated him with nothing but forgiveness and charity, but a city nonetheless in which Heatley seemed incapable of returning to form as both a hockey player and person. In a way, the trade fell into former Senators GM John Muckler's lap, but the consequences remained all the same. The Senators signed Hossa to a 3-year $6 million deal in the morning just minutes prior to a scheduled arbitration hearing; by afternoon, Hossa was a Thrasher and Heatley was a Senator.

Some make an argument that Heatley was "rescued" or "resurrected" by Ottawa, and as such owes the team and city something of a discount, or favour. Others argue that it was Heatley (or Waddell) who rescued the Senators - they were in a difficult financial situation, and Heatley's trade request fixed a problem. Either way, whatever the team or the player "owed" each other (as if such a system of imbalance could exist), it's been more than paid back in spades at this point. Ottawa provided Heatley with an exciting, fresh and young Stanley Cup contending team. They gave him one of the league's premier playmakers to centre him and one of the league's best two-way players and captains to anchor the other wing. They gave him a city that breathes hockey and idolises its players, but respects their privacy all the same and, aside from a few quack reporters, lets the issues of Heatley's past be simply that, issues of the past. At the same time, Heatley provided the team and the city with excitement, and probably the biggest star this city has ever seen. He burst out of the gate in the pre-season in 2005 and never looked back. He set Senators records for point streaks, goals in a season, points in a season, points in a playoff run. He represented Canada at the Olympics. He achieved the highest individual honours in Senators history, being named to the first and second all-star teams. He has brought us 8-0 victories against the Maple Leafs and hat tricks against the Buffalo Sabres and 26.3 seconds remaining goal-tying goals in the playoffs. He finished 4th in league scoring two seasons in a row. Including the playoffs, he is behind only Joe Thornton in points since the lockout. No one has more goals than him in the last two seasons. He made the pizza goal six instead of five. Even if Heatley walks away after this season, there can be no hard feelings about the entertainment he brought to this city; about the memories he provided us and the joy we experienced every time he stepped on the ice.

Heatley owes nothing to Ottawa. He is a player whose promising career very well could have been over at 23, and no one would have been surprised. Some would say that, since Ottawa was the city and team where he experienced his playing rebirth, he should show some loyalty. But can't the argument be made that he knows the fragility of a player's career? That if it wasn't the emotional scars left by the crash, that it could have been the knee injury sustained in the accident that ended his career? Or the near-blinding eye damage he suffered during the lockout? A player cannot and should not be vilified for looking out for his best interests.

At the same time, there is something to be said for happiness. If an extra million or two playing in a market where they don't care quite as much about you or your team, where your name doesn't get so elatedly cheered at the home arena or so viciously booed on the road, where a playoff series victory is paragraph at the back of the sports section and a regular season loss is never mentioned at all, if that would leave Heatley equally satisfied, then what can be done. If taking an extra million more than "necessary" in Ottawa equals the loss of Chris Kelly, or Patrick Eaves, or even Jason Spezza, and possibly precipitates the decline of the Senators from Stanley Cup Finalists to April-golfers, then that's unfortunate for us.

The realistic "right thing" in the eyes of a Senators fan, is a contract in the $7-8 million range, for a term of 4-6 years (the unrealistic "right thing" being that he plays for us for free out of the goodness of his heart, for ever and ever and ever). According to various reports from the likes of Darren Dreger and Bruce Garrioch, the expected starting demand from Heatley's camp is an $8.5 million offer, presumably over a six year period or more. It would be a shock if his demands did not also include a no trade or no movement clause. According to Garrioch, the Senators' expectations rest in the $7 million, 6 year range. The two sides are really not far apart, and if Heatley is really interested in staying in Ottawa, there is no reason something can't get done before Wednesday's debut against the Maple Leafs.

Still the question remains: not can the Senators afford it, not can Heatley get more elsewhere, but does Heatley want to be in Ottawa, and how much of the Senators competitiveness is he willing to sacrifice to make it happen?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Word on the Fisher Resigning

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but I thought it an appropriate time to offer my opinion on Fisher's new long-term contract.

To preface, it is difficult not be a huge fan of Fisher and what he brings on the ice, in the dressing room, and to the city. Many make the argument that he's the best third liner in the league, and I have trouble disagreeing. Though he has struggled with injuries for the entirety of his NHL career, never playing a full season, there is never a question that he gives every ounce of effort when on the ice, and plays through pain as much as any player in the league when the situation requires it. Were the salary cap not a consideration, were I in Bryan Murray's position I'd give the 27-year old a blank check and ask only that he do us the favour of making the contract life-long. I won't for a second pretend that I am anything but enthused at the prospect of seeing Fisher in a Senators jersey for the next five years, and I am equally happy to see such a selfless player rewarded both financially and temporally for his sacrifice over the past eight years.

However, the Senators operate in a league which has a mandatory budget in place. In such a league, the salaries allotted to the role players need to be as carefully considered as those allotted to the stars. It is excessively easy to point to the struggles of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the difficulty they have encountered in having a significant portion of their cap wrapped up in three star players, providing little room for satisfactory depth players (and the above-league-minimum contracts they require).

Still, there is an equal risk in overpaying for these vaunted role players, Mike Fisher among them, whose overinflated salaries can cause the loss of difference makers like Dany Heatley. It should be noted that Fisher's $4.2 million contract alone, will not mean the difference between keeping or losing Heatley, nor, certainly, will it mean the difference between the Senators being or not being competitive. However, it can become an awfully slippery slope. First Fisher makes $4.2 million because he has plenty of heart, and is loved in the city, and makes every night difficult for the opposition; next, Sami Pahlsson becomes the highest paid player on the Anaheim Ducks because he brings the same qualities and then some? Chris Kelly makes the same as Fisher because, despite his relative lack of physicality, he has a superior mental knack for the game to Fisher, and brings the consistency in conditioning lack Fisher lacks? Cody Bass gets a Dustin Penner-level offer sheet in three years time? You keep rewarding the thankless role players, and eventually there is no room for them in a salary cap world, nor the star players.

Fisher will be earning just under 10% of the Senators cap next season, with the expectation that he will be a second line player. He will be given the opportunity to play with Daniel Alfredsson, or perhaps a star UFA picked up should Heatley orbit out of the Senators' price range. He will inevitably miss 15 or more regular season games, and other players will be required to take his place for nearly 20% of the season. His injuries should not be held against him, as they come as a result of the fearless game he plays, but they are a factor nonetheless. Fisher has never eclipsed 50 points, however he has never had a full season of playing with capable offensive players (though, as the Senators 4th forward in terms of ice time and leader of the second power play unit, he has been given opportunities in terms of ice-time to make things happen). He is 27-years old, in his prime, and one would be overly optimistic to assume that he will explode offensively at this point, even given the opportunity to play with star linemates like Alfredsson; still, stranger things have happened and it would be unwise to suggest it impossible.

I hope that Fisher earns every penny of his contract; I hope that he shines in his role as second line center and provides the missing depth offense our team has so desperately needed in the post-season. I hope that Fisher's market level contract does not interfere with the signing of players who really make the difference on this team - the 50 goal scorers, the 100-point playmakers, the 30-minute defensemen. It probably won't. But what if we have to pay market value for a 22-year old top 4, physical, offensive defenseman capable in playing in all 3 situations? A 25-year old skilled, speedy playmaker who puts up similar goal totals to Fisher and plays a more pivotal role on the penalty kill than some of the best defensive players in the game? A 23-year old sniper who could very well hit 30 goals this season? A 27-year old defensive player who can play on any line, with any type of player, in any situation, and not look an inch out of place? Every player mentioned above is coming up for a contract next season. Many observers are banking on discounts from these players to keep the team together. If not, they're banking on poor seasons from these players to keep their values down.

It's a slippy slope, and suffice it to say, I don't envy Bryan Murray.

Senators 5 Capitals 4

Senators Goals
Alfredsson (1) from Spezza (1)
Spezza (1) from Schubert (1) and Redden (1)
Foligno (2) from Vermette (1) and Schubert (2)
Heatley (1) from Alfredsson (1) and Redden (2)
Kelly (1) from Foligno (3) and Donovan (1)

Team 1200 3 Stars:
1. Alfredsson
2. Foligno
3. Poti

My 3 Stars:
1. Alfredsson
2. Foligno
3. Spezza

I didn't get to watch Tuesday's game, so take most of these comments with a grain of salt.

- McGrattan looks like a new man. You talk about rookies showing off for spots, McGrattan was probably the hardest worker out there and is definitely making a statement that he wants to be considered a member of this team past the all-star game. I'm not a huge fan of the enforcer role in hockey, but if McGrattan can keep up this kind of play, I see no reason why Hennessy, Dimitrakos etc. should be in the lineup over him. He's obviously committed himself to improving his footspeed and endurance, and he's a whole new player because of it. He gets top marks from me so far.

- I've been weary of the expectations placed by some on Foligno, thinking he could/should make the team straight out of camp. I know he had a bright performance Tuesday after being ripped by Paddock, but seeing him tonight, gave me some confidence. However, I didn't really see him as that grinding, tireless, 100% effort player that the coach apparently wants him to be, but rather a solid playmaker and skilled player. I liked seeing him on the second unit in the second half of the game. I still think he'll start the season in Binghamton, and I agree that it will be best for his development, but I almost can't help but wonder if his demotion will be undeserved. Also, his goal was sick. I literally jumped up and down when he scored. He now has 2 goals and 5 points in 2 games, not too shabby.

- Nikulin was solid and had a couple really strong shifts, but I'd really have to see more of him. Based on what I saw tonight, he definitely won't make the team out of camp. He was solid but did not stand out.

- I was more impressed with Nycholat than Lee. Having Lee as anything but the #1 defenseman in Bingo would just be wrong, but I think if Nycholat keeps up his play he could earn the #1 slot there just as much as he could win the #6 slot here. Lee was smooth but didn't really stand out. I'll definitely need more time to evaluate him.

- Hennessy did not stand out at all, granted the lack of ice-time didn't help much. If he keeps playing like this, I don't know why he'd deserve the roster spot we've basically already penciled him into. He did have one great drive to the net which he deserved credit for, but he was far less effective at generating energy and momentum than his linemates McGrattan and Bass. He lacks the physical intensity (and intensity of any sort, really) to be a truly effective fourth liner for this team, I'm starting to think a slot on the 4th might be better served by someone else.

- Bass was solid and had a few high energy shifts, though he didn't play much. I enjoy his type of game and imagine he will be a fan favourite some day. A more physical Kelly.

- Heatley was both lazy and hot-dogging, a bad combination. I don't think I've ever seen him actually pull off a dangle, but he tries them at least 3 or 4 times a game. And yet, he scores the goal that put the game away. Ah, the Heater we know and love. He had a couple strong shifts on the PK and I hope he gets a lot of shorthanded minutes during the season. I really think it keeps his head in the game and enhances his gameplay - not that tonight was much evidence of it.

- Spezza was Spezza. I agree he looked speedier, and I look forward to seeing what other areas of his game have improved. Paddock also had him out of the PK for a full shift or two, it will be interesting to see if that was just a wacky experiment or Paddock's actually considering it. His set-up to Alfie, his set-up to Eaves... God I love watching Spezza play.

- Elliott was solid, not much else to say there.

- Alfie is God.

- Vermette's still bambi on ice as people like to say around here. But there is no doubt in my mind that he has what it takes to make it on the second line, especially if Alfie's there. Stop dicking him around Paddock and accept what is right.

- Likewise, Schubert was real solid on the backend tonight, and I actually like the pairing. There's going to be inevitable brainfarts like there were with Redden and Mez, but there's a good mix of positional/physical and defensive/offensive mindsets there. I think it could work. But then it leaves us with Mez/Corvo, and that might be an accident waiting to happen. Anyway, Schubert was very effective back there. Logged almost as much time as Phillips/Volchenkov, and was a +3 (actually, he was on the ice for no goals against). Please, please, please keep him on the backend full-time Paddock.

- Donovan was unimpressive throughout the first half, but seemed to get going about midway. The good thing is, even when things weren't really clicking, he was always skating. At best he'll be a light McAmmond; at worst, we've got a speedy hard worker who won't let bad things happen in his own zone, and I can live with that.

- Volchenkov owned Ovechkin every second of the night. He is completely awesome. Same goes for Phillips, just please shake the whole bad luck thing... broken stick, own goal - it's game 5 all over again. Come on hockey Gods, Philly deserves better.

- Kelly and Vermette were badass on draws. Why can't they both be centres?

- The jerseys look real sharp in action. I still hate the socks but to be honest I didn't even notice until I thought about it. The striped pants are still sick, I love them. Washington's jerseys are pretty nice too, I'm so glad they went back to their old colours. Some teams really downgraded (Edmonton, Florida) but Ottawa and Washington both have sweet jerseys right now, regardless of what they had in the past.

- The crowd was brutal tonight. Not one Go Sens Go chant all night. I know it's preseason, but wake up. Still, my little brother and I had a good time. I think it took until the 3-1 deficit for the big guys to wake up, and, once they did, the whole team was revived along side them. As usual, this team lives and dies by the Big Three.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rookie Profiles Pt IV

#66 - Pierre-Luc Lessard
Defense - 6', 198 - Jan 16, 1988 - Thetford Mines, PQ

Drafted in the fourth round in 2006 (121st overall), the 19-year old two-way defenseman had his best season yet in 2006-07, after being traded from the Gatineau Olympiques to the PEI Rocket of the QMJHL. In addition to recording career highs in games played, goals and points, he developed tremendously thanks to the key role he played for the Rocket. Lessard has strong offensive skills, being a creative playmaker who can shoot as well. However, he is also solid in his own end, with good decision-making skills and strong positional play, which offsets his lack of intense physicality in shutting down the opposition. Lessard still has a while to go before he is qualified for the NHL, however his development so far has been positive, and, if he commits himself to developing physically as well as he has skill-wise, Lessard could well see himself in an NHL uniform in the future.
Projection: Lessard will very likely return to the Rocket for a final season, and is unlikely to receive an entry-level contract with the Senators this year. Unless he were to astound if invited to the Senators full-training camp (which is unlikely in and of itself), there is simply no room for Lessard in Binghamton and he would likely be sent back to the Q anyways. He will probably be offered a contract for 07-08 if his development continues to progress, however.

2006-07 Prince Edward Island QMJHL 70 12 22 34 77
7 0 2 2 0

#70 - Andrew Marshall
Defense - 5'9", 205 - Aug 7, 1986 - Niagara Falls, ON

21-year old Marshall joins the Senators camp as an undrafted amateur. Marshall played for the Barrie Colts of the OHL in 2006-07, his fourth season with the team. While he served as alternate captain, he did not have as strong a season offensively as he did in 05-06, but still marked a solid 50 points. Marshall is committed to the University of New Brunswick in 2007. Marshall is far too small to play defense effectively at the NHL-level, even if he seep

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Rookie Camp Profiles

As September has finally rolled around, so begins the first of a constant stream of training and observation leading up to the selection of the Ottawa Senators final roster and, eventually, the beginning of the 2007-08 season. The first item on the docket is the 2007 rookie camp, which began today. Included in the camp is the 2007 Rookie Tournament in Kitchener, ON, against three other teams: Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the rookie tournament beginning Friday, it seems an appropriate time to present a introduction to the players expected to participate. As the furthest thing from a scouting expert, I thank hfboards, hockeysfuture, russianprospects and the Senators official website for most information found below.

26 prospects are expected to participate, with only Cody Bass and Tomas Kudelka having previously participated in a Senators rookie camp before, back in 2005.

You'll likely notice a disproportionate amount of Kootenay Ice players invited on amateur tryouts. They have likely been invited on the advice of the new Binghamton Senators head coach Cory Clouston, who served as head coach of the Ice for a number of years and had been with the Kootenay organisation in some capacity since 1999. While none of them are particularly noteworthy prospects in my eyes, it will be interesting to see how proteges of Clouston perform and how much weight his recommendation carries.

Below are the prospects in alphabetical order. I will give a brief overview of their draft position, 2006-07 season, and a scout report. The statistics listed are for the most recent NHL season and international tournaments (if applicable). Statistics read as follows - Games Played, Goals, Assists, Points, Penalty Minutes. Goaltenders statistics: Games Played, Wins, Losses, Ties/Shootout Losses (if applicable), Minutes Played, Goals Against, Shutouts, Goals Against Average.

#61 - Kevin Baker
Center - 5'11", 185 - March 27, 1987 - Etobicoke, ON
Undrafted, Nick Foligno's teammate in Sudbury has been invited to participate in the Senators training camp. The 20-year old centre was second only to Foligno in Sudbury scoring last season, his fourth season in the OHL. He led the team with 4 shorthanded goals, and also led the team with 7 shorties the previous season. Baker is of average size, and while he is a good skater, solid playmaker and dependable two-way player, he possesses no outstanding abilities.
Projection: cut

2006-07 Sudbury OHL 64 23 35 58 18
2006-07 Playoffs OHL 21 6 9 15 4

#58 - Cody Bass
Center - 6', 211 - Jan 7, 1987 - Owen Sound, ON
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2005 NHL entry draft, 95th overall, Bass is one of the Senators' more dependable prospects and by all observers is expected to make the team within a few years. He is projected as a centre similar in style, intensity and leadership to a Mike Fisher or Chris Kelly, two players he will have the opportunity to join in training camp and is very likely that Bass will supercede one of these players in a couple years' time. He is the most experienced of the Senators forward prospects, having already played 14 games in the AHL over the last two seasons. While Bass is not reputed as the most offensively gifted prospects, he can chip in his fair share of points. However, it is his defensive acumen and physical intensity that make him valuable. Bass is a premiere penalty killer and has received invitations to junior Team Canada tryouts for the rounded game he brings. Bass is reliable on faceoffs, skates well, and has a good head for the game in general.
Projection: Spends the season in the AHL. Could very likely serve as Bingo captain in a season or two before making the jump to the big time. He is one of the Senators prospects most likely to see full-time NHL action in his career.

2006-07 Mississauga OHL 23 5 11 16 37
2006-07 Saginaw OHL 30 5 24 29 49
2006-07 Playoffs OHL 6 1 2 3 10
2006-07 Binghamton AHL 5 0 2 2 9

#64 - Clayton Bauer
Left wing - 6', 203 - Jan 31, 1987 - Kelowna, BC
Similar to Kevin Baker, Bauer joins the rookie camp on an amateur tryout. He remains undrafted after four seasons in the WHL, splitting his last season between the Kelowna Rockets and the Kootenay Ice. The 20-year old left winger attended the Vancouver Canucks' rookie camp in 2006, but was cut. While he recorded career highs in goals and points with Kootenay in 2006, I cannot find enough information to make an assessment of his playing style or potential.
Projection: cut

2006-07 Kelowna WHL 2 0 0 0 0
2006-07 Kootenay WHL 68 24 28 52 90
2006-07 Playoffs 7 1 0 1 9

#68 - Curtis Billsten
Right wing - 6'3", 213 - Sept 10, 1986 - Calgary, AB
Another undrafted forward, 21-year old right winger Billsten is committed to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds men's hockey team, after four seasons in the WHL. 2006-07 was a banner year for Billsten, as he was named assistant captain for the Kootenay Ice, and recorded career highs in goals, assists, points and penalty minutes. Billsten has a massive frame at 6'3", 213, but appears unlikely to pursue professional hockey at a high level at this point.
Projection: While his size and experience might make him most the most attractive prospect of the tryout players recommended by Clouston, as noted above he is committed to university next season and is therefore unlikely to be signed.

2006-07 Kootenay WHL 70 24 40 64 96
2006-07 Playoffs WHL 3 0 1 1 2
#35 - Ryan Daniels
Goaltender - 6'1", 195 - June 22, 1988 - Scarborough, ON
The Senators 5th round selection in 2006 (151st overall) has some familiarity with other Senators prospects, having attended the previous two development camps. The 19-year old has spent the past three seasons as goaltender for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. He had a solid season in 06-07, dramatically improving his statistics from his first two years, dropping his GAA by over a full goal per game. He was the full-time starting goaltender for Saginaw and his minutes played reflected it. Additionally, he was named OHL goaltender of the month twice last season. Daniels' strength is his positional play, but he also has quick reaction and good instincts. He has a strong glove and is generally technically sound.
Projection: Daniels will very likely return to Saginaw for a fourth a final season. Binghamton is set in net with Brian Elliott, and Jeff Glass will likely be given one last opportunity to at least backup Elliott, if not platoon. There is no room for Daniels and it would be unfit for his development to have him wasting away as a third string goaltender in the AHL when he is set to get plenty of action in the OHL. Long-term, Daniels does not likely fit into the Senators' plans with Emery still young at 24 and Elliott having first-dibs on earning a backup position in the future. However the development of goaltenders is unpredictable and Daniels could find his way up the Senators' depth chart with consistently strong play.

2006-07 Saginaw OHL 60 38 18 3 3,553 174 2 2.94
2006-07 Playoffs OHL 4 1 3 239 13 0 3.26
There's the first 5 profiles, more to follow.

Rookie Camp Profiles Pt II

#67 - Steven DaSilva
Right wing - 6', 195 - Feb 10, 1987 - Saskatoon, SK

DaSilva had a breakout year in 2006-07 with the Kootenay Ice, recording 91 points and finishing second in the WHL scoring race, ahead of junior stars such as Zach Boychuk, Martin Hanzal and Peter Mueller, and behind only Zach Hamill. He led his team in every major statistical category, including goals, assists, points and penalty minutes. He is an intruiging prospect but went undrafted.
Projection: one of the most likely prospects on tryout to be offered an AHL contract.

2006-07 Kootenay Ice WHL 71 38 53 91 108
2006-07 Playoffs WHL 7 5 5 10 16

#56 - Kaspars Daugavins
Left wing - 5'11" 205 - May 18, 1988 - Riga, Latvia
One of the Senators most exciting prospects, Daugavins was drafted in the 3rd round in 2006 (91st overall), and spent the 2006-07 season with the St. Michael's Majors of the OHL. He joined the Binghamton Senators late in the season after St. Mike's had been eliminated from the playoffs, playing 11 games. Daugavins has substantial international experience, having represented Latvia in 5 tournaments over the past two seasons, including two World Junior Championships and two World Championships, a rarity for a player of his age. Stunningly, 18-year old Daugavins recorded 3 goals and 3 assists in the 2007 World Championships, playing against men over ten years his senior, from far stronger teams. He scored nearly a point per game playing as a rookie for a dismal St. Mike's club, and scored 2 goals for Binghamton later in the season. He was named to the OHL rookie first all-star team. Daugavins' best assets are his speed, skating ability, and playmaking ability. He has remarkable vision and an ability to anticipate the play. Daugavins has held his own at all levels, against peers and older players (in the AHL and WC). He is an extremely driven and determined player who doesn't coast on talent alone.
Projection: Will likely play in Binghamton last year as his play last season earned him the position, and while he is eligible to return to the OHL, it is unlikely he will do so. Daugavins appears to be one of the few forwards in the Senators prospect pool with top six potential, and as such will be given every opportunity to succeed.

2006-07 St. Michael’s Majors OHL 61 18 42 60 64
2006-07 Binghamton AHL 11 2 0 2 9
2006-07 Latvia WJC-U20 5 3 7 10 2
2006-07 Latvia WC 6 3 3 6 0
#41 - Tyler Donati
Right wing - 5'10", 190 - Oct 17, 1986 - Toronto, ON
Recently signed to a one-year AHL contract, Donati had a spectacular season with the Belleville Bulls of the OHL, finishing 3rd in the league in goals and 4th in points, behind only Patrick Kane, John Tavares (Kane was selected 1st overall in 2007; Tavares will be selected likewise 2009), and Sergei Kostitsyn - not bad company. In addition, he was named to the OHL's second all-star team, was named the top overaged player of the OHL, and participated in the OHL all-star game. Donati went undrafted, likely because of his lack of size, though with players like Martin St. Louis and Daniel Briere tearing up the league, it hardly seems an impediment this day and age. However, his remarkable season came as a 20-year old playing against kids as much as 3 or 4 years younger. Donati lacks the two-way play that would make him a likely candidate to make the big team (his AHL-only contract doesn't help matters either).
Projection: Donati is expected to make the Binghamton roster, quite possibly on a scoring line if he impresses in camp. Unlikely many of the undrafted invitees, Donati is not on a tryout and has already been signed to a contract, meaning he fits into the Binghamton Senators' plans for the next season in the eyes of General Manager Tim Murray.

2006-07 Belleville OHL 66 54 75 129 52
2006-07 Playoffs OHL 15 6 20 26 4
#30 - Brian Elliott
Goaltender - 6'2", 206 - April 9, 1985 - Newmarket, ON
Drafted in the 9th round (291st overall) of the 2003 draft, Elliott has been a slow burner but thanks to his remarkable last couple years in the CCHA, has vaulted up the Senators depth chart and is likely their top goaltending prospect at the moment. Elliott spent the full four years at the University of Wisconsin, in one of America's top hockey programmes. Coincidentally, Elliott was coached by Mike Eaves, father of Senators forward Patrick Eaves.

While his 2006-07 numbers weren't as remarkable as his record setting stats in 05-06, Elliott finished his University career with a 1.78 GAA, .931 save percentage, with 16 shutouts. Remarkably, these statistics put him in the top 6 for all-time goaltending statistics in WCHA history. Elliott collected an impressive amount of hardware, including WCHA goaltending champion two years in a row, being named a first-team All-American, NCAA Midwest Most Oustanding Player, being named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament team, and being a finalist for the Hobey Baker award as most oustanding player in collegiate hockey (all in 2005). He has some experience in Binghamton, having played 8 games with the club after his university career was completed in 2007.

Elliott is a tremendous technical goaltender, but also possesses outstanding athletic ability and huge size that allows him to cover a significant portion of the net, with the reflexes to quickly reach the areas his massive frame doesn't cover. He shows great composure in pressure-filled situations, and appears to have a solid head for the game. He has trouble with rebound control and reading the play in scramble-type situations with heavy traffic, however his keen eye and steadiness can probably help him improve in this area. His heart is in the game and it shows when he plays. Elliott should have some familiarity with other Senators prospects and players, having participated in three development camps with the team.

Projection: Elliott has made a career of exceeding expectations. He could very well supercede Jeff Glass as the Binghamton Senators starting goaltender by the time the 2007-08 season begins. It also wouldn't be a shock to see Elliott backing up Emery at the NHL level in two or three years time, though projecting the role of a goaltender is as unpredictable as anything. Still, Elliott's technical proficiency speaks well to his ability to translate his game to the NHL level.

2006-07 U. Wisconsin WCHA 36 15 17 2 2,053 72 5 2.10
2006-07 Binghamton AHL 8 3 4 0 425 30 0 4.24

#62 - Garrett Festerling
Centre - 5'9", 183 - March 3, 1986 - Quesnel, BC
A diminutive centre, Festerling is yet another undrafted player invited on a tryout to the Senators rookie camp. He lead the Regina Pats in points, and finished in the top 20 of WHL scoring. The 21-year old has an adequate offensive skillset but his size looks to be a serious impediment to any NHL aspirations. Garrett is the brother of former Vancouver Giants captain and current Anaheim Ducks property, blueliner Brett Festerling.
Projection: cut

2006-07 Regina WHL 67 22 51 73 46
2006-07 Playoffs WHL 10 5 7 12 16
2006-07 Oklahoma City (Playoffs) CHL 1 0 0 0 0

#71 - Nick Foligno
Centre - 6', 204 - Oct 31, 1987 - Buffalo, NY

Drafted in the first round of the 2006 draft (28th overall), Foligno is in the eyes of many observers, the top Senators prospect. I personally rank him around #3-4, with Hennessy, Lee, Zubov and Daugavins in the same range. The son of former NHLer Mike Foligno (who was also his coach in Sudbury), improved upon his excellent draft year in 2006-07. He lead the Sudbury Wolves in scoring for the second straight season and played a huge roll in his team's visit to the OHL Finals, also leading his team in playoff scoring. He served as Assistant Captain for the Wolves and played in the OHL all-star game.

Foligno is a heart and soul centre in the same vein as Mike Fisher (who, coincidentally, also spent his junior career with the Wolves). Foligno is strong on the forecheck and crashes the net with abandon. He doesn't avoid corners and plays a very prototypical "North American" game. He is a strong physical player even if he needs to add considerable bulk to his average frame. While he needs to improve on his consistency both in effort and execution, Foligno likely has the offensive tools to fight for a top six spot in the future, and certainly has the physical elements which will make him a valuable bottom-six player even if his offensive game does not translate at the NHL level. Still, he needs considerable work on his defensive game and as such time in the AHL is most likely a requirement at this point, before he joins a team like the Senators that relies on the defensive contributions of all of its players.

Foligno has shown a dogged determination to make the Senators roster in 2007. While it is unlikely he will do so as a full-time roster member simply because of the Senators depth, and his inexperience at the highest level, Foligno's determination is admirable and will likely result in a role as an injury call-up should his effort remain consistent. His father was an NHLer and Foligno's long-time coach and this should speak to good bloodlines; however, it will interesting to see how the younger Foligno performs without the guidance (or perhaps helping hand) of his father.

Projection: Foligno still has a year of junior eligibility, but it is unlikely he will return. The most likely scenario is a first or second line spot in Binghamton, with opportunity to serve as an injury callup should his play dictate it. Foligno still needs to bulk up considerably and there is no rush to get him into the Senators lineup, much as he may desire it.
2006-07 Sudbury OHL 66 31 57 88 135
2006-07 Sudbury OHL 21 12 17 29 36

Rookie Profiles Pt III

#65 - Brett Gallant
Left wing - 5'11", 175 - Dec 28, 1988 - Summerside, PEI

The 18-year old left winger for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL went undrafted and is attending the rookie camp on an amateur tryout. Despite his average height and low weight, Gallant served as the Sea Dogs' enforcer over the past two seasons. Spending his time on the fourth line, he lead his team in penalty minutes in 2006-07 and finished second in the league in that category. Gallant had a remarkable 30 fights in just 48 games last season. While no one will mistake Gallant for a scorer (he has just 7 points in his junior career), it is possible that his fighting skills could draw the attention of Clouston and Tim Murray. However, his unimpressive size makes it unlikely that his career will continue at a higher level. He lacks the size to be a true enforcer and lacks the offensive skills to be an agitator in the vein of a Sean Avery or Chris Neil. However, he is also the youngest player at camp (now that Jim O'Brien is not attending), and should be judged accordingly.
Projection: cut

2006-07 Saint John QMJHL 48 5 1 6 192

#60 - Michael Grenzy
Defense - 6'3", 206 - Feb 6, 1984 - Lockport, NY
Though he was selected in the 9th round of the 2003 draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, Grenzy was unsigned by them and arrives at the Senators camp on an amateur tryout. The 23-year old just completed a full four years at Clarkson University. While he didn't have the banner offensive year in 06-07 he did in 05-06 (when he lead the defense corps in points), Grenzy had a solid all-around senior year. Grenzy possesses great size and uses it well, however he has also developed into a smooth skater and strong positional player. He has shown great improvement through his college career but at this point does not project to be an NHL-calibre player at any point. Grenzy quarterbacked Clarkson's power play, but did not put up outstanding numbers while doing so.
Projection:Wwhile he does have an outside shot at earning an AHL contract based on his size and experience, Binghamton already has substantial depth at defense with recent signings, and it is unlikely Grenzy would be able to put his offensive skills to good use as he would likely not see power play time. However, his physical tools are valuable and Binghamton might see a use for Grenzy as a 5th or 6th defenseman.

2006-07 Clarkson ECAC 30 2 12 14 12

#49 - Chaz Johnson
Right wing - 6'1", 210 - Jan 30, 1984 - Montreal

The 23-year old Johnson joins the Senators camp on a professional tryout, after having spent most of the last two seasons with Rockford of the UHL. He also received brief playing time in the AHL on tryouts with Milwaukee and Rochester. Johnson joined Rockford after going undrafted after four seasons in the QMJHL with Rimouski, Val D'Or and Drummondville. Johnson was a relentless agitator in the UHL, racking up 361 penalty minutes in 111 games over two seasons. Humourously, his 248 PIM season in 05-06 was only good for third on his Rockford team. In 17 games in the AHL, he recorded 2 goals and 25 PIM. He has a few fights on his record and seems willing to go toe-to-toe when challenged, but doesn't appear to search for a scrap.
Projection: could possibly sign a contract with Binghamton as he has some AHL experience, however his skills seem to be better replicated by others already in the Senators system. It is unlikely he fits into the team's plans, and will likely be cut.

2006-07 Rockford UHL 45 14 12 26 113
2006-07 Playoffs UHL 17 6 9 15 16
2006-07 Milwaukee AHL 1 0 0 0 0
2006-07 Rochester AHL 8 1 0 1 13

#57 - Mattias Karlsson
Defense - 6'3", 228 - April 15, 1985 - Stora, Sweden

The 22-year old defender was selected in the fourth round of the 2003 draft (135th overall). He has not played in North America yet (having spent his whole career so far in his native Sweden), however he has attended the past three Senators development camps. For the first time, Karlsson spent the entirety of the 2006-07 season in the Swedish Elite League, with Bofors IK. He had his best season in 06-07 and recorded career highs in goals and points by a significant margin in addition to leading his team in points as a defenseman, an appauldable feat as it was his first full season in the SEL. While Karlsson has been working on his physical game, his strength remains his offensive play. He has good passing skills, a hard shot an
d is a strong skater.
Projection: Karlsson will likely start the season in Binghamton as a #5-6 defender, but should receive second unit power play time, or better if his play dictates it. He isn't likely to challenge for an NHL spot for a number of seasons.

2006-07 Bofors Sweden 44 11 21 32 34

#59 - Tomas Kudelka
Defense - 6'3", 198 - March 10, 1987 - Gottwaldov, Czech Republic

Selected in the 5th round of the 2005 draft (136th overall), Kudelka is one of the Senators more experienced prospects, despite his relatively young age. He has 16 games of AHL experience over the past two seasons, and has competed in the World Junior Championships in each of the past two seasons, in addition to playing in the WHL with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and competing in the Czech Extraliga as a 17 year old. Kudelka is likely the Senators #2 or #3 defensive prospect, only clearly behind Brian Lee. Kudelka was a key member of a poor Hurricanes team in 06-07 and developed his skills tremendously thanks to the significant role he played.

Kudelka is a strong all-around player, with no significant weaknesses (though his decision-making needs work, it should improve with experience). He is a strong, fast skater, with great offensive ability as both a passer and shooter. Though he could stand to add weight to his 6'3" frame, he uses his size well. He is strong positionally in his own end, but as already mentioned he needs to work on his decision making.

Projection: Kudelka will most certainly start in Binghamton this season, and could very well play a key role on the first power play unit with Brian Lee. He is still a number of years away from the NHL, and likely won't see time as an injury call-up because of the Senators depth on defense (Nycholat, Richardson and Lee will all see time
before him, and Senators GM Bryan Murray is reportedly still interested in signing another depth defenseman). However, he is a strong prospect and will likely be a regular NHL rearguard eventually.

2006-07 Lethbridge WHL 59 14 27 41 74
Czech Republic WJC-U20 6 1 2 3 6
Binghamton AHL 11 1 2 3 8

#55 - Brian Lee
Defense - 6'2", 208 - March 26, 1987 - Fargo, ND

The Senators highest pick since they selected Jason Spezza 2nd overall in 2001, Lee fell into the Senators hands at 9th overall in 2005 thanks to a lottery. Knowing the Senators could well risk losing both Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden in the coming years, former GM John Muckler envisioned Lee would develop into a replacement for the latter player, though Muckler admitted Lee would be a project. While on paper Lee did not have the sophomore season at the University of North Dakota that observers may have wished for, especially following his solid freshman debut, he improved with much-needed strength training and focused on improving his play in his own end. While his statistical production was comparable with his 05-06 season, Lee emerged from 06-07 a much more rounded defenseman. He represented the United States in the World Junior tournament for the second straight season, and though he failed to log a point, he did help his team earn a bronze medal. Lee signed an entry-level contract with the Senators in the summer of 2007, forgoing the rest of his college eligibility.

At the time of his drafting, Lee was projected to be a player in the mold of a Wade Redden or, to the particularly flattering observers, Brian Leetch. While he remains an offense-first defenseman, understandable considering his great transition skills, smooth stride, stellar puckhandling and enviable hockey sense, as mentioned he has begun to round out his game, an adapation that should only continue at the professional level. While he has shown great dedication over the past year bulking up his frame, he is still not a physical defenseman, and, much in the vein of former Senator Tom Preissing, appears eager to eschew that part of the game completely. What he lacks in physicality he makes up for in smarts and dedication to his own development. Lee is also truly underrated in his own zone.

Projection: If Lee isn't Binghamton's #1 defenseman by the first puck drop, he will be by the last. While Lee is still not ready for the NHL, he should log huge minutes in Binghamton in all three situations. Ideally Luke Richardson can serve as a mentor of sorts; if not, Lee should get some limited time as an injury call-up that will give him a taste of the NHL. He might be ready for the NHL in 08-09, but I wouldn't expect him to really come into his own until the following season. While the Senators have a number of defenseman who have made the NHL at extremely young ages (Redden, Phillips, Meszaros), it is unreasonable and likely detrimental to his development to expect Lee to make the same jump, despite his draft position.

2006-07 U. North Dakota WCHA 38 2 24 26 69
USA WJC-U20 7 0 0 0 14

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bashkirov Looking Good

Despite his team's embarrassingly poor showing in a 8-1 loss to the Canadian U20s squad Tuesday night, Senators 2007 second-round draft pick Ruslan Bashkirov made a good impression with his debut on the Russian U20s squad. Serving as a call-up for injured Russian star Alexei Cherepanov, knocked out of the tournament by a Brandon Sutter hit earlier in the series, Bashkirov was clearly the best player on a mediocre Russian side. Though he recorded no points, Bashkirov had a visible impact on the game, was relentless in the offensive zone even as the Canadians swarmed him, and he refused to give up even as the game drifted out of sight for the Russians with each additional goal the Canadians effortlessly notched. He particulary shone in the opening and closing frames, including a close chance in the final period where he drove to the net, tenaciously hacked at the puck, but was ultimately robbed by Canadian netminder Jonathan Bernier.

Since his drafting by the Senators in June 2007, Ruslan Bashkirov has had something of a tumultous summer. Bashkirov seemingly escaped the aversion to the selection of Russians in the draft because he was already in North America, and did not present the troubles of acquring from the RSL that other Russians would have. Ruslan spent the 06-07 season with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, even participating in the CHL Top Prospects game and being named star of the game for his side. Though his twin brother Roman outscored him, Ruslan was reputed as the bigger, stronger, more competitive player, and was expected by most observers to be selected first. Such was the case, with Ruslan going in the second round to Ottawa, with Roman being bypassed altogether.

However, the selection quickly grew sour in the eyes of observers when Ruslan and his brother quit the Remparts team unexpectedly and returned to Russia, signing 5-year contracts with Ak Bars Kazan. It is still unclear as to exactly why the Bashkirov brothers left Canada, either for the substantial pay increase one of the RSL's richest teams could offer them over Canadian junior hockey, or the fact that they were upset over Roman being bypassed in the draft and wanted to ensure they would play together long-term. Regardless of the reasoning, the brothers' tale took an even stranger turn when they mutually agreed to be released from their Kazan contracts just weeks after signing. Though it was as clear at the time of the signing as it was after, Kazan is a deep, successful team and the Bashkirov brothers could not be expected to play substantial roles immediately, if ever.

Ruslan has since signed a contract with Khimik Mytischi of the RSL, according to

Whether due to his strange movements this summer or not, Bashkirov was not invited to participate in the initial Russian team training camp for the 2007 Super Series against Canada. Accordingly, he was left off the starting rosters for the tournament, but injuries to Cherepanov and Yegor Averin opened the door for his addition to the roster.

There still remain 3 games to play, and Russia has yet to compete with the Canadians for any extended length of time. Though Bashkirov has so far participated in only the lone game, observing his progression should make the remaining games worth watching for those concerned with the future of the Senators, even if the results of the games are not in doubt.