Senators hope to reap rewards of draft week
For Bryan Murray and the Ottawa Senators, the 2007 NHL Entry Draft was all about planting seeds for the future.
Whether it was selecting players to lay the groundwork for possible trades and the hiring of a new coach, the time spent in Columbus, Ohio, is a vital process in building a successful hockey club, and Murray was pleased with the outcome of the week's work.
"I think we planted the seed for a couple of things going forward," Murray, the Senators' new general manager, said Saturday after Ottawa welcomed four more players into the Senators' fold on Day 2 of the draft.
On Friday night, the Senators chose centre Jim O'Brien from the University of Minnesota with the 29th overall pick.
When things continued Saturday, the second round had the Senators selecting Russian left-winger Ruslan Bashkirov from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Quebec Remparts at No. 60. In the third round, they chose centre/left-winger Louie Caporusso from the Ontario Provincial Jr. A Hockey League's St. Michael's Buzzards and in the fourth round, it was defenceman Ben Blood from Shattuck-St. Mary's, the Minnesota prep school that helped produce Sidney Crosby among others, who went at No. 120.
"Overall, we got some big kids, a real skilled Russian, a smaller player that's going to play university hockey next year, and hopefully out of this draft you get a player or two," Murray said.
With some teams electing to stay away from Russian players because Russia's hockey federation and the NHL are still working on a player-transfer agreement, the Senators didn't have that worry in selecting Bashkirov.
The Moscow native starred with Patrick Roy's Remparts, scoring 30 goals and recording 67 points in 64 games. His twin brother Roman also plays for Quebec.
"He's in Quebec right now and he's not going home. He'll go back and play on the big line in Quebec and get lots of points," said Murray, who likes what he sees in Ruslan, a five-foot-11, 186-pounder.
"We had him rated just behind O'Brien. Our guys thought the skill level was terrific. He's got a great frame ... you can't pass up that kind of opportunity. He's going to be a player.
"I just thought we'd take the North American players mainly, but when he was sitting there and sitting there, we just felt that we had to do it."
The five-foot-nine, 185-pound Caporusso, a native of Toronto, will attend Michigan in the fall, but Senators chief scout Frank Jay, who didn't attend the draft this year because of illness, was "adamant" the Senators took him, Murray said.
Likewise, Blood, a six-foot-three, 212-pound native of Plymouth, Minn., will also go the school route, having verbally committed to the University of North Dakota, although likely after one more year at the famed prep school.
Ottawa elected to deal its fifth-round pick and its two picks in the seventh round to Tampa Bay for the Lightning's fourth-round choice in next year's draft, which will be held at Scotiabank Place.
"With the draft being in Ottawa next year, having an extra fourth, who knows? It's supposedly a deeper draft, maybe a little better player at that stage," Murray said. "It would give us an opportunity maybe to put two fours together and move down to an extra three or something."
The actual drafting of players was only part of the work that got done personnel-wise.
Murray also met with fellow GMs during the week and, although no trades involving bodies emerged from Columbus, it doesn't mean there aren't any possible moves on the horizon.
"We don't have to do it today," Murray said. "We can do it going forward."
As well, with the coaching position still vacant after Murray's move to the front office, he was busy speaking to possible candidates for the role.
"Over the next week, week and a half, I'll talk to more people," he said. "We'll get it done as quickly as we can, but with no particular time in mind."