Silver Nuggets: How badly do the Senators need Matt Puempel to develop?

Matt Puempel, playing defense! - Claus Andersen

With Milan Michalek likely to depart, the Senators don't have a lot of goal-scorers in the pipeline ready to replace him.

In 2011, at the start of Senate Reform, Bryan Murray and the Ottawa Senators swung for the fences. They maneuvered to have four of the first 61 picks, and used them all on forwards. Their next pick, a fourth-rounder, was an undersized center named Jean-Gabriel Pageau. We know his story already.

The first two years of the Murray regime primarily focused on the team's own zone. 2008 and 2009 saw the team draft Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Jared Cowen, and Robin Lehner. Only one forward--Jakob Silfverberg--was drafted in the first two rounds. Jim O`Brien, selected in the first round of 2007, does not appear to be in the team's future plans, having been bypassed on the depth chart, while Z. Smith, selected in the third round of 2008, is a good depth forward, but nothing more. Jakub Culek, the team's third rounder (and first pick) in 2010, doesn't seem like he'll turn into an NHL player, and 6th rounder Mark Stone has impressed but has been kept from making the leap by injuries.

That left the cupboards pretty bare at forward, and explains the 2011 draft: Mika Zibanejad, Stefan Noesen, Matt Puempel, Shane Prince, Pageau, and a few lottery tickets--though defenseman Fredrik Claesson seems to be coming along nicely. 2012 saw another focus on defensemen and goalies, and 2013 saw one top-quality forward prospect in Curtis Lazar.

Now Noesen and Silfverberg are gone. Lazar needs development time, as does Prince. Pageau is playing in the NHL, as is Zibanejad.

But Milan Michalek is likely gone at the end of this year. Given the team's internal budget, it seems unlikely that they can afford to keep Michalek, Spezza, and Bobby Ryan--and given what they gave up to get Ryan and his performance so far, one has to think they are not letting him walk if they can avoid it.

Michalek is currently on pace for just under 60 points. He may never be the 40-goal scorer we hoped he would, but he also hit 35 once, and brings quality skating and defensive skills to his game. The Senators don't really have someone in the pipeline like that ready to replace Michalek. Sure, they have lots of good defensive guys: Greening can play that role, as can Zibanejad, but scoring goals is harder to teach than playing defense. Of everyone in the team's system, Puempel is the only one described as a "pure goal-scorer." With just one goal and two assists in three games in Binghamton, he hasn't exactly shown that touch.

That's bad news for the Senators, because when it comes to top-line goal-scorers in their system, it may be Puempel or bust--if they can't afford to keep a UFA like Michalek, they're not going to be able to afford a comparable UFA, either, and no one else has shown

Sens Links

  • Mika Zibanejad has been called up. Get your angst/snark over meaningless short-term roster decisions out in the comments. [S7S]
  • The Senators' problem areas don't sync up well with their upcoming schedule. [T6S]
  • Bonk's Mullet recaps the tweets of the week. A heartbreaking work of staggering genius. [RBM]
  • Erik Karlsson is excited to catch up with Daniel Alfredsson and family in Detroit. Still no articles about how good at hockey Erik Karlsson is. I guess his feelings are more important this season. [Senators Extra]
  • In the process of antagonizing Chris Neil, Kyle Turris reveals that he has smaller arms than Erik Karlsson! [Senators]

NHL Links

  • It looks like the knee injury that Taylor Hall sustained against Ottawa will keep him out four weeks. That sucks. [Twitter]
  • Being the best team in the NHL isn't enough of a deterrent, apparently. The San Jose Sharks have traded a fourth-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers for Mike Brown. I'd love to see who they decide to scratch to get him ice time. [PHT]
  • Rick Nash's second concussion in two years is really crappy news both for him and the New York Rangers. [Puck Daddy]
  • It's time for Winnipeg Jets snark! Coach Claude Noel says if his players don't shape up, "there will be consequences." Haha, yeah, okay. Unless those consequences are moving to the Metropolitan Division, the Jets will continue to suck. [Winnipeg Sun]
  • Joel Quenneville is throwing his youngsters into the fire and they're coming out smelling like roses. That strategy got Paul MacLean a Jack Adams trophy! [CSN Chicago, so prepare for video whether you want it or not]
  • Travis Morin of the AHL's Texas Stars has 15P (7G, 8A) in 6G. That's better than Mika Zibanejad. It's also a reminder that minor league success is not always a good indicator of overall talent level. Still, pretty badass start for his season. [AHL.com]
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