For the first time in a long time, the Ottawa Senators have a stable of prospects worthy of bragging about. As is always the case with young players, some will meet expectations, some will exceed expectations, and many (perhaps most) will fall well short. That's just the way things go when we talk about up-and-coming players, no matter what kind of experience they have outside the NHL.
With that large group comes an obvious question: Which prospect is the best of them all? When all is said and done, which of these players has the best chances of long-term NHL success? Although we're all projecting based on very limited knowledge of the players in question, it's still a fun discussion to have. So below I'll list five of the top prospects in Ottawa's system right now, and open things up to you: Who tops your list?
Just a note: For the sake of transparency (and because I've been criticized/hated for, in the minds of some, not giving certain prospects their due), I've listed five of the Sens' top prospects in alphabetical order.
Cody Ceci: Ceci's the youngest player on this list, and since he's only been in the system for a few months he's rarely discussed among Ottawa's top prospects. But looking at his production in the OHL last season (60P in 64GP) and his torrid start this year (5P in 2GP), it's safe to say he belongs near the top of any list of Ottawa's top prospects. He's not the most NHL-ready defensive prospect, but he's got a significant upside. How far will that carry him in the NHL?
Robin Lehner: Some might argue about whether or not Lehner's the Sens' best goaltending prospect given the recent acquisition of Ben Bishop, let alone overall prospect, but most would agree that Lehner's got the intensity and competitive nature to be an NHL goaltender one day--even an elite-level NHL goaltender, if he can take the physical and mental assets he's got and put them all together. The question, though, is whether or not Lehner will be able to manage that.
Jakob Silfverberg: Silfverberg's got the most extensive professional hockey resume on this list, after captaining his SEL team to a league championship and winning regular season and playoff MVP honours in the process. Will he be able to translate his skills to the NHL, though? It remains to be seen, but we'll get at least a glimpse of his capabilities in the North American game when he takes to the ice in Binghamton in a couple of weeks.
Mark Stone: The WHL's second-highest scorer last season is averaging a point per game in the pros so far, but that's a little deceptive--he's only played one game. But he doesn't have 229P (78G, 151A) in his last 137 junior games by accident--he's an offensive force out there. He's got good size and a terrific shot, but a lot has been made about his skating; has he done enough to answer those critics?
Mika Zibanejad: The highest-drafted Senators prospect since Jason Spezza (provided we exclude Nikita Filatov from the equation, which we probably should at this point), Zibanejad is big, fast, offensively gifted, and defensively responsible--in other words, a coach's dream. But he couldn't produce much in a short stint with the Senators last year, and a disappointing season in the Swedish elite league left him with one bright spot last season: Scoring the gold medal-winning goal in overtime during the World Junior Championships. Which is the real Zibanejad: The Golden Goal scorer, or the other guy?