A quick glance through the Senators' draft history reveals some disappointing years. 2007 looks particularly bad, as ex-GM Muckler had traded away many of the Sens' picks, allowing for only four picks, of whom only Jim O'Brien has spent anytime at the NHL-level. However, despite my bitter realism from having been a Sens fan for too long, I can appreciate that there have been several successful drafts, especially once the Bryan Murray team took over in earnest. Many have argued the 2008 draft to be the best in Senators' history, a fact that at this point seems undeniable. If you don't believe the experts (and me), below is a run-down of the Senators' draft class of 2008.
1st Round, 15th Overall: Erik Karlsson (315 GP, 63 G, 174 A)
Depending on your point of view, he is either the second- or third-best draft pick Ottawa has ever made (behind Daniel Alfredsson and possibly Jason Spezza). By the time he retires, he may be the undisputed best. If you are reading this article, you likely already know his importance far more than I could ever describe.
2nd Round, 42nd Overall: Patrick Wiercioch (103 GP, 9 G, 35 A)
He had a frightening throat injury in 2011-12, but returned well enough to garner a chance with the big team during the injury-depleted lockout-shortened
2012-2013 season. He was frequently a healthy scratch in 2013-14, but showed good possession numbers, and solid powerplay ability. He could definitely be a top-four defenseman with a couple more years under his belt. It is quite impressive that the same draft may have produced two top-four defensemen for the same team.
3rd Round, 79th Overall: Zack Smith (282 GP, 37 G, 38 A)
"Z. Smith" has been the third-line centre for several years now in Ottawa. A bit of a risk at the time, as he was in his third year of draft eligibility, it seems safe to say now that it was a shrewd pick. His offense can be streaky, and his agitator role can sometimes lead him to take dumb penalties, but he seems well-suited to his role and has grown with each year in the capital. He managed to put up 22 points last year, despite spending most of his time with Chris Neil and Colin Greening. Many wonder what he could do if given talented linemates.
4th Round, 109th Overall: Andre Petersson (1 GP, 0 G, 0 A)
Probably most famous for his disparaging remarks about living in Binghamton. Never was high enough on the pecking order in Binghamton to be given an audition at the NHL-level. He was traded this year for Alex Grant, as teams sometimes do with AHLers who are likely to move to a new organization at the end of the season anyway.
4th Round, 119th Overall: Derek Grant (25 GP, 0 G, 2 A)
Not known for his offensive prowess, Grant has proven to be an effective penalty-killer at both the NHL- and AHL-levels. It's not really clear what his future is in the organization, as he is a serviceable fourth-liner, but is unlikely to become more. He will probably remain a routine call-up unless he asks to be traded or decides to leave.
5th Round, 139th Overall: Mark Borowiecki (21 GP, 1 G, 0 A)
"Borocop" has actually turned out well for the relative gamble that is a fifth-round pick. He has proven to be very solid at the AHL level, becoming the Binghamton captain after Andre Benoit became a permanent fixture on Ottawa's blueline in 2013. He shows a willingness to fight, which teams will value as long as fighting remains a part of the game. Some worry that his propensity to make the big hit at the risk of leaving someone else open will prevent him from being an NHL regular. He has on a one-way contract for 2014-15, and with the logjam on Sens' defense, could push for a roster spot, could spend a lot of time in the press box, could be a small bonus in a trade, or could make a lot of money to play in the AHL.
7th Round, 199th Overall: Emil Sandin (0 GP)
The pick from 2008 you've probably never heard of. He never showed enough promise through his years in Brynas to earn a shot in the AHL. He started 2013-14 in the Allsvenskan with Almtuna, was traded to Valbo HC in Swedish Division 2, and is currently slated to play Swedish Division 1 hockey for Kristianskads IK in 2014-15.
So there you have it, a look at why 2008 currently looks like the best draft ever. Karlsson is a generational talent, Smith plays a prominent role, Wiercioch is looking better all the time, and Grant and Borowiecki are borderline NHLers. When you look at the fact that the likelihood of a draft pick playing more than 100 NHL games is about 24%, it makes 2008 look very good indeed. That being said, there are some other notable years, which given a couple more years, may turn out to look just as good. Here are some of the highlights:
2009: Jared Cowen, Jakob Silfverberg (traded for Bobby Ryan), Robin Lehner, and Mike Hoffman are the NHL notables, with guys like Chris Wideman, Corey Cowick, and Michael Sdao showing at least some potential. We'll wait to see how Cowen's career pans out to call this one.
2011: Mika Zibanejad and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have both impressed sooner than expected in the NHL. Stefan Noesen was also part of the Bobby Ryan package. Shane Prince, Matt Puempel, Fredrik Claesson, and even Ryan Dzingel have all been generating buzz in junior and in the AHL.
There seems to be a theme, that the Murray-led drafts were the best...
2012: Cody Ceci has looked good early, and Chris Driedger and Mikael Wikstrand are looking well ahead of their expected development curves.
2006: Nick Foligno (traded for Marc Methot), Eric Gryba, Kaspars Daugavins, and Erik Condra have all had at least some success in the NHL.
2005: Brian Lee, Cody Bass, Ilya Zubov, and Colin Greening?!?! Just kidding...
2001: Jason Spezza, Tim Gleason, Ray Emery, Christoph Schubert, and Brooks Laich. Most of these guys had decent careers, but also most of them not for Ottawa. Otherwise, this would be a bigger contender.
1994: Some guy named Daniel Alfredsson. And Radek Bonk and Stan Neckar. A contender simply because of Alfie.
1998 and 2000: The years we drafted Mathieu Chouinard! So nice, they drafted him twice
So at this point, I think 2008 wins. But 2011 and 2009 both have the potential to surpass the heights of 2008 if the prospects pan out. Overall, I think it's safe to say that in consideration of recent draft history, the Sens are in good scouting hands heading into the 2014 draft.