Drafting success key to Senators' future prospects
Pipeline of young talent has organization well positioned to keep moving forward
|Mark Stone, who made his Senators debut in Game 5 of the first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers, is one of 11 players in the last three drafts to already see NHL duty in Ottawa (Getty Images).
For many a National Hockey League team, it is the absolute bedrock for long-term success.
And so it is with the Ottawa Senators, who continue to mine top-end talent every year at the NHL Entry Draft — justifying the importance the organization has placed on amateur scouting in recent years.
While this year's harvest won't be known until the 2012 entry draft is held June 22-23 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, the table will be set in a major way later this week when the Senators' scouting staff gathers at Scotiabank Place to sift through the mountains of information they've all gathered in the last several months.
"It's probably our most important meeting of the season," Pierre Dorion, the Senators' director of player personnel, told the Team 1200 in a radio interview.
For the scouts, it will be a time of great debate, and an opportunity to "sell" some of the prospects they've watched most closely in their respective scouting areas. And it is an open forum, with general manager Bryan Murray and assistant GM Tim Murray willing to listen to any and all opinions.
Dorion, for one, believes it's an environment that has helped breed draft success.
"Both Bryan and Tim have had success in the past in drafting," he said. "They've always emphasized 'we're going to build from within.' What they did in Anaheim and what they did in Florida (before coming to Ottawa) was pretty special.
"Valuing the importance of amateur scouting ... makes our guys feel important. We're well treated by both Bryan and Tim and our guys know that when they go out and scout, their opinions will matter at the end of the day."
Two years ago, for example, Regina-based scout Bob Lowes pushed hard for a certain forward who'd flown under a lot of teams' radar, but had plenty of raw talent. Few would argue today that forward Mark Stone, a two-time 100-plus point scorer with the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings and Team Canada's top goal man at the 2012 world juniors, is one of the Senators' stars of the future.
"From the third or fourth round on, (Lowes) kept pushing for Mark Stone," Dorion said of that 2010 draft in Los Angeles. "I kept saying 'don't worry Bob, we'll take him at the right time.' Fortunately, we were lucky enough to draft him in the sixth round (178th overall)."
The current regime has gone through four entry drafts to date and of that group, 11 players have already seen time in the NHL. Three of them — Norris Trophy finalist Erik Karlsson (2008), forward Zack Smith (2008) and blueliner Jared Cowen (2009) — were regulars on the 2011-12 team's roster. And others, such as Stone and Swedish forwards Jakob Silfverberg (2009) and Mika Zibanejad (2011), could join the mix as early as next season.
It should also be noted that centre Kyle Turris, one of the Senators' top performers during the first-round series against the New York Rangers, was obtained in a deal for David Rundblad — the Swedish defenceman Ottawa obtained at the 2010 draft for its first-round pick. And Turris himself was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2007 draft by the Phoenix Coyotes.
"I have to give a lot of credit to our pro scouts and to Tim and Bryan," Dorion said of the trade which solved the Senators' need for a second-line centre. "It wasn't an easy deal to make. Rundblad is going to be a good player in the NHL one day, but I think Kyle Turris is going to help us win a lot of hockey games."
The Senators currently hold the No. 15 pick in the first round of the 2012 draft and Dorion is confident they'll add another good young talent to the pipeline. Then again, it's exactly the same slot that Ottawa chose Karlsson four years ago.
"I like it a lot," Dorion said of the Senators' drafting position in Pittsburgh. "We have about that number of guys that we like. Picking at 15, I feel very confident that we're going to get ... I wouldn't say an impact player, but a very good NHL player."
The Senators' draft strategy remains the same as always.
"We'll take the best player that can help us down the road," said Dorion. "That's what we're looking at, the best player available."
Senators, Kleinendorst part ways
The Binghamton Senators are in the market for a new head coach after Kurt Kleinendorst, who guided the team to its first Calder Cup crown a year ago, informed the Ottawa organization he's decided to move on. His contract expires at the end of June.
"Kurt is an excellent coach and did a great job for us in his two years behind the bench with Binghamton," said Bryan Murray. "In terms of his future, Kurt has made the decision to look at other options outside of the Senators organization. We can appreciate his decision and wish him the best of luck in the future."
Kleinendorst, a 51-year-old Minnesota native, said he "thought long and hard" about the move.
"It's just a personal decision on my part," he told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. "I have nothing but good things to say about Bryan Murray and the organization, and the same is true for Binghamton. The people here are wonderful. The players that I've experienced for two years here have been wonderful.
"This has been a great experience for me. I'm a better coach today than I was when I got here. I'm more prepared for my next job because of what I experienced here. Now I'm going to move on and going to move forward."
(Watch Kurt Kleinendorst's final press conference in Binghamton).
World hockey championship update
Senators forward Kaspars Daugavins and Latvia made it two straight wins at the 2012 IIHF world hockey championship, blanking Italy 5-0 today at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm. It's the only match today involving an Ottawa player.
On Wednesday, Sweden — which includes captain Daniel Alfredsson, Karlsson and Silfverberg in its lineup — aims for a 4-0-0 start when it faces off against Germany in Stockholm (2:15 p.m. ET). Fans can watch a free live stream of all games at the 2012 worlds on the IIHF's YouTube channel (www.YouTube.com/icehockey).