Recently, Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus ranked the Senators as the 18th best in terms of prospects. Some fans might be enraged by this ranking because they have been top-5 on basically every website for the past few seasons. But if you actually realize what happened to the farm system, it clearly makes sense.
Ottawa traded Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen, and also had Mika Zibanejad, Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch, Cory Conacher all recently graduate which severely depleted the rankings. Just because of the low ranking of 18th, doesn't mean that Ottawa has no good young talent. Ottawa is the youngest team in the league, but most of their young guys are just old enough to be considered "graduated" prospects. I wouldn't be worried at all with the perception that we no longer have a good prospect system, because it's not like we need many guys to be replaced soon anyways.
The top-10 that Pronman ranked is still a formidable group IMHO, and there could be some valuable players from that group. His top-10 goes as follows: 1. Cody Ceci, 2. Robin Lehner, 3. Mark Stone, 4. Curtis Lazar, 5. JG Pageau, 6. Shane Prince, 7. Mikael Wikstrand, 8. Matt Puempel, 9. Stephane Da Costa, 10. Mike Hoffman.
1. Even with a down-season, I still believe Cody Ceci can be a solid top-4 offensive dman to join Erik Karlsson and Patrick Wiercioch on the PP.
2. We already know what Robin Lehner can do, and he's clearly the goalie of the future.
3. Mark Stone has soured on me a bit after his huge WHL campaigns. His skating still seems like an issue, and looked overpowered in his short time in the NHL. I see his potential being a top-6 power forward, with a 3rd liner being more likely.
4. I'm pretty excited about Curtis Lazar, I think he will be very valuable, and every scout says that he's a shoe-in to be at least a bottom 6 forward. One of my minor hockey coaches also coached him in the Canadian Winter Games, and is very high on him which makes me root for him even more.
5. What's there to say about JG Pageau? He was an absolute wizard in the playoffs, and was easily the best player against Pittsburgh. His size is an issue (as well as his two-way contract, making him easy to be taken of the roster), but his possession numbers seem to indicate that his play was no fluke, and is generally sustainable.
6. Last year people said the player to watch at Sens camp was JG Pageau, and I've heard that the Sens are pretty high on Shane Prince this year as well. He is rarely talked about being overshadowed by fellow 2011 draftees like Zibanejad, Noesen, Puempel, Pageau, and Claesson, but he quietly had a solid AHL campaign last year.
7. Wikstand was tearing it up last year with Mora in the Allsvenskan, and at one point even had more points than Anze Kopitar during the lockout. He faded out after that, but overall had a good offensive season. Kind of like Claesson from the year previous, he is a late-round Swedish pick that could end up being a solid player.
8. Puempels biggest problem in his early career has been injuries. He has shown time and time again that he can score goals. In fact, that's all he does, as he hardly picks up any assists. He is the pure-goal scorer that be needed if Michalek leaves. He had a bounce-back season last year, and I still like his chances.
9. Da Costa is becoming Bobby Butler very quickly. Difference being, Butler actually showed some promise in the NHL with a solid end to the 2010-11 season. I'm kind of shocked Da Costa is still in the top-10 actually. After this one-year deal is up, I would put money down that he ends up in Europe. I really hope he turns it around, but it'll be very hard considering the depth at centre with Spezza, Turris, Zibanejad, Smith, Pageau, O'Brien, Lazar, etc.
10. Hoffman was really unlucky last year, as he got injured just as Ottawa was dropping like flies. He was a sure call-up, but instead that went to likes of Derek Grant and David Dziurzynski. He's small, but has lots of skill. Many people are high-up on him, but I find it hard to see him on this team (just like Da Costa) because many prospects are getting ahead of him.
Sure, a drop from the top-5 to 18th might be concerning for some organizations. But usually that's because of other reasons, such as many prospects had down seasons. I think it's the complete opposite. Our young players got invaluable experience this past season, and we still have an average system to boot. Like I said earlier, there is no need for young players to replace veterans in the near future, so our farm system isn't a concern.
I know it's great seeing the Senators always in the top-5 of these lists and being able to brag about it, but all that really matters is the actual product. We have a good team, and still got some help on the way. It'd be interesting to see if Hockey Prospectus did organization rankings on players under 25, like we do at Silver Seven. Then, Ottawa would surely be top-5.
One last thing, many people have mentioned (including Pronman) that another player to watch is Jarrod Maidens. Supposedly finally healthy after serious concussion issues, it'll be interesting to see if he can return to his old form. He is another sleeper pick in terms of prospects.
Lastly, don't worry...the Sens system is FINE!
Thanks for reading!