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Silver Nuggets: In the system - left-handed defensemen

Freddie is the closest LD to the NHL in the Senators system.
Freddie is the closest LD to the NHL in the Senators system.
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday we looked at the right-handed defensemen in the system so today we'll look at the (many) left-handed defensemen in the Senators organization. As like the previous entries in this series, players on strictly AHL contracts (Aaron Johnson, Daniel New, etc.) won't be considered here. This leaves us with two defensemen playing for the Binghamton Senators, one CHLer, two playing in Sweden, and one BCHLer. I'm actually not going to cover Andreas Englund and Mikael Wikstrand in this piece, as I'll have a more in-depth piece on those two after the SHL season finishes - including season analysis and where they compare among their age group in terms of the likelihood of making an impact on the NHL.

Fredrik Claesson

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Ol' Freddie is an AHL veteran at the age of 22, which says a lot of things. Claesson has made a committment to the "North American" game and came over to the AHL at a young age in order to prepare himself better for the smaller ice surface. It helps that his simple, physical game suits the AHL style as well. Claesson's production has tailed off a bit this year after leading the BSens in even-strength assists last year, but so has production as a whole for the AHL Senators. He's a mainstay at even-strength and on the penalty kill despite being the youngest defenseman on the BSens, which says a lot about how much he's trusted by Luke Richardson. A frequent comment in the scouting reports below are about Freddie's character and coachability - he's a player that is loved by all for his "honest, hard-nosed" style of play.

Here's a report from Peter Levi after he was drafted by the Senators in 2011:

A defensive defenseman (ranked #27 by Central Scouting), Claesson was a teammate of Zibanejad‘s (and briefly Marcus Sorensen) and continued his strong, safe play with struggling Djurgarden this season (he was also a member of Sweden’s gold medal winning WJC team).  He might return to the Sweden for another season, although that seems less likely now that Djurgarden has been relegated.  I haven’t been able to find a decent scouting report on Claesson (Hockey Futures writes "Claesson is almost exclusively a stay-at-home defenseman. While not overly physical, he plays a sound positional game and is very good at preventing scoring opportunities and blocking shots and passes. Claesson is not an impressive stickhandler at this point in his career but those skills should improve as he continues to develop"), but the organisation has compared him to Anton Volchenkov.

From Pierre Dorion:

Competitive defenceman who can outlet the puck and battles defensively. Has a presence.

What you see is what you get with Freddie, and I think he definitely has a good shot at being a third pairing defenseman for an NHL team in the future. The reason I say "NHL team" and not Ottawa explicitly is something that is apparent throughout this whole article - the team has a ton of left-defensemen, both in the system, and at the NHL level. I actually prefer Claesson over Mark Borowiecki, as despite their similarities, Claesson is three (!) years younger and takes less penalties, although he doesn't provide the same element when it comes to fighting.

Michael Sdao

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The Princeton blueliner was a 7th round pick in 2009, so being a solid AHLer has to be considered a success for the 25 year old. We always remember the late round "steals" because they're exactly that - steals - they aren't the "norm". Sdao's 2011-12 season was his best, as he led Princeton blueliners with 20 points in 30 games due to his bullet of a shot on the PP, and was named to the ECAC second-all star team while serving as an assistant captain. In the pros, he won over a roster spot from a similar type of player (and also late round pick) Ben Blood, and is the BSens fighter on defense.

There really isn't much in terms of scouting reports on the 6'5, 220lb+ blueliner, but Jeff has this to say in his profile about him, which you all should read (especially the comparison with Eric Gryba, who Sdao had better numbers than in college):

Coach Luke Richardson mentioned Sdao wanting to "hit everything in sight into the 4th row" which he was happy to see from the rookie, but that needs to be toned down for the right opportunities to avoid mistakes. Luke made the same adjustment for Mark Borowiecki last season. Boro was goaded on more than one occasion, usually after the whistle and he took too many unnecessary penalties that hurt the team. Richardson suggested to ‘walk away’ and ‘pick his beefs’ when the time is right. Mark bought into it and the result was he was a more effective player on the ice. The same concept will be sold to Sdao. That’s the great thing about having Richardson as our coach here in Bingo, teaching these player’s the game and how to play it right and to be smart about it.

Miles Gendron

Miles Gendron is a bit of a project. What that usually means is that the team drafting him thinks that he has the potential to be very good, even though it may not look that way right now. Given his information below, I would agree. Gendron is a unique case though. First, this is only his second year playing hockey full-time, as he previously played high school baseball. Second, he's transitioning from forward to defenseman last year in the USHS and is now a full-time D with Penticton in the BCHL, a league usually for players waiting to be of age to play in the NCAA. Gendron will join the University of Connecticut's new D1 program in the Hockey East next year. Despite his modest point totals, Gendron was named the top senior hockey player in Massachusetts and was expected to go in either the second or third round (he eventually went 70th overall after being ranked 74th by CSS).

From the New England Hockey Journal:

The skinny: With Gendron it’s all about the wheels, and he’s a sleek racer the way he gets about the ice, using his rapid acceleration, crisp edgework and high-end, four-way mobility to move the puck at will. A converted forward who is still learning the position, Gendron is a work in progress with a very nice potential payoff for an NHL team that can afford to stash him away and let him incubate in junior (the Penticton Vees of the BCHL) along with several years in the NCAA before he’ll turn pro. The offense is there, but he needs to get stronger and add strength/mass to his skinny frame.

Quotable: "He’s a wild card as an elite skater; not many D-men in this draft have his height and skating ability, and with the way he plays, he might be a Jake Gardiner-type guy someday." — NHL scout, Western Conference

From Buzzing the Net:

The Connecticut Huskies commit was one of, perhaps the, swiftest skater in the northeastern U.S. last season at the Rivers School in Weston, Mass., where he played for former NHL forward Shawn McEachern. Gendon, who was in his first full year of focusing solely on hockey, moved forward to defence to patch a hole in Rivers’ roster and stayed there permanently. Gendron showed more than enough potential to earn NHL Central Scouting Service’s No. 74 spot in its final North American ranking, even as teams are wondering whether his permanent home is on the blueline or the wing.

From ESPN scout, Corey Pronman, who had Gendron ranked 68th:

Gendron is described by scouts as a high-tools type of prospect who is raw. The latter part stems from the recent change from forward to defense on top of lack of playing time versus quality opponents. "He’s an elite skater" said one NHL scout, as Gendron has the first few step bursts and overall top gear to be a dangerous puck rusher. He has good upside, but a team drafting Gendron has to understand the risks. He still has a ways to go in learning the position, in terms of reads and improving his physical play. Gendron has decent size (6-2, 172 pounds), but could stand to bulk up more.

From the Hockey News re: Gendron's draft combine, where he had two top-10 finishes. An interesting note is that former Sens player (and one of my favourites) Shawn McEachern was his coach at the Rivers school. I'm sure Bryan Murray and co. called him to get a positive evaluation on Gendron.

Miles Gendron wasn’t going to let teams forget him: The New England prep schooler wore neon orange sneakers to the combine, knowing he had the chance to make a big impression.

"For sure it was a big deal," he said. "Coming from a smaller school you don’t get as much exposure as the CHL guys."

Gendron played for ex-NHLer Shawn McEachern this year at the Rivers School, which has not traditionally been a powerhouse. But after starting his prep school career as a fourth-line left winger, Gendron switched up to defense when the team hit a spate of injuries and now NHL teams are intrigued (though some scouts still prefer him as a forward) by his puck-moving skills from the back end.

Gendron will go to the B.C. Jr. A League next year before heading off to the University of Connecticut. The Huskies are the newest members of Hockey East and that jump in competition from the Atlantic Hockey conference was a factor in his choice.

"The Hockey East switch was a huge part of it, playing against the best competition," he said. "I really liked the coaching staff and the campus is awesome. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to play right away as a freshman on the power play and PK."

Looking at his numbers, I didn't think Gendron was that impressive, especially against his USHS and now BCHL counterparts. It does seem clear that there's more to Gendron that meets the eye if so many are touting the young blueliner, and the last piece of info I have on him is this piece from The Hockey Writers which nicknamed Gendron "the Promise". I hope that it works out for him.

Ben Harpur

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Next up is Ben Harpur, formerly of the Guelph Storm but now playing for the Barrie Colts in order bolster the Colts OHL Championship run. Harpur placed himself on the radar after he participated in Canada's summer WJC camp (the 6'6 defenseman did not receive an invite to the main camp). A defensive defenseman, Harpur is finally putting up points in his final OHL season and looks to join the BSens next year. I'm always skeptical of defensemen who don't put up points in the CHL as even the defensive ones rarely make it to the NHL, but I'd love for Harpur to prove me wrong as one of the few exceptions. He was ranked 101st overall among North American skaters by Central Scouting (picked 108th overall by Ottawa).

From Harpur himself and Scott Walker, his coach at Guelph:

"The coach looks to me to shut down the other teams’ top lines and be one of the go-to penalty kill guys along with a couple of the guys that we just traded for," he said. "I want to be that guy they can look to in the last minute of play or when we’re protecting that one-goal lead."

...

"He is a big kid who skates well, shoots well, understands the game and reads it wells a defenceman," Walker said. "Last year, he was one of our steadiest defencemen and this year he has taken it to another level."

A Jared Cowen comparison (uh oh) from Red Line Report:

Huge, toolsy rearguard has a lot to like, but the hockey sense is what keeps him down lists lower than his talent would dictate. Massive, at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, Harpur will only get stronger as he physically matures and fills out. He has decent speed for his size, but his footwork and transitions are still a work in progress: has trouble with shiftier, more elusive opponents who can get inside position on him or catch him flat-footed at times. A physical presence who uses his big body to staple opponents to the boards or keep the front of his net clear, he also uses his long reach and an active stick to thwart scoring chances. Scouts question the vision and instincts, saying he tries to do too much and gets caught running around. There is some untapped potential in a player like Harpur, but given how raw he is at this stage, any team that drafts him will have the long view in mind.

From Hockey Prospectus (via Peter Levi):

Ben was selected in the 3rd round of the 2011 OHL Priority Selection Draft by the Guelph Storm out of the Niagara Falls Canucks Minor Midget program. Ben made the Storm as a 16 year old but received limited action due to the depth on the Storm blueline. Harpur had a steady sophomore season for the Storm. He is a big bodied presence on the blue line and is good at using his size to lean on smaller forwards and clear out the front of the net. He needs to work at bringing a consistent physical presence to his game and finish more checks when given the opportunity. He is a good skater despite being such a big guy and has adequate speed to jump into the offensive rush when available. However, he has struggled in one on one situations at times due to a late pivot. He is good at using his long stick to keep opponents to the outside and is effective at getting into passing lanes and intercepting passes. Harpur is sometimes caught standing around in the defensive zone and needs to consistently pressure opposing forwards rather than let the play come to him. He takes good angles when he does pressure forwards and is good at keeping his body to the net so that driving lanes are kept to a minimum. He occasionally steps up and effectively holds the offensive blue line strong but is sometimes slow transitioning from forwards to backwards and would benefit from improved foot speed. Harpur is good at getting his shots on net through traffic but needs to work at walking the line to create better shooting lanes. Ben shows flashes of potential but also needs to further improve and become more comfortable in his size. He will need to become a better skater and play a more tenacious game at his size. He does a variety of things well but nothing that stands out as exceptional. Harpur is a player we see going outside the first few rounds and selected to become a reliable defensive defenseman at the next level. One that doesn’t play huge minutes but can be relied upon in his own end, and to hopefully play a penalty killing role as well.

I think that Harpur has clearly developed positively since he was picked in 2013, but it remains to be seen how he'll adapt to the faster pro game where his hockey sense could hurt him.

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Sens Links

  • The Sens only played one game on the weekend, but what a game it was. Here are the recaps from Saturday afternoon's matinee vs. Phoenix Arizona. [Silver SevenRank the PerformancesWTYKYOttawa CitizenSensChirpSenShot]
  • Now that January is over, who was your player of the month? My vote: Erik Karlsson or Bobby Ryan. [Silver Seven]
  • Who do the Senators play this week? Take a gander at B_T's Week Ahead and the weekly preview from the Bonk's Mullet crew! One important note for the games this week, Chris Phillips will pass Daniel Alfredsson's milestone at home on Thursday to become the new franchise games played leader. [Silver SevenBonk's Mullet6th Sens]
  • Curtis Lazar has moved up to play with Mike Hoffman and Kyle Turris on a newly formed line despite one point in his last twenty NHL games. The Sens are clearly trying to get the kid going. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Sheer_Craziness started a new series that looks at the so-called "spare parts" currently on the Senators roster - players that could be traded away at the deadline. The first is on Neil/Phillips, and the second on David Legwand. [Silver Seven - Old GuardSilver Seven - Legwand]
  • Your update on trade deadline stuff from Nichols (via Bob McKenzie). Jack has thoughts on this by arguing that the Senators shouldn't have even called about Antionne Vermette - resigning Marc Methot should be the priority. [6th SensSenShot]
  • Varada argues that the Sens are the team that may see the biggest year-to-year benefit from getting a top-10 pick in 2015. [WTYKY]
  • Still think the Senators can make the playoffs? Bryan Murray sure hopes so. Chirp has your odds in his news and notes column. [Ottawa CitizenSensChirp]
  • Many have been playing around with @MimicoHero's new data visualization tool on twitter, and user ek65 was kind enough to do a write up for the Sens forwards and defensemen! Interesting stuff. [Silver Seven Fanpost - ForwardsDefense]
  • Speaking of defensemen (this Nuggets post, the link above), Richard McRae has another fantastic fanpost that looks at defensive deployment, and Nichols has a great piece arguing that the Senators need a more balanced defensive unit. [Silver Seven Fanpost6th Sens]
  • Want to buy some Sens related merchandise for people that you hate? If yes, Luke Peristy has the post for you. [Bonk's Mullet]
  • There's been lots of reports out there regarding Bryan Murray's successor, but former Penguins GM and Senators executive Ray Shero keeps popping up. [6th Sens]
  • Your prospect update from Ian, which features a game between two "rejected" Senators, albeit for very different reasons. [Silver Seven - Prospect Update]
  • Jeff has your recaps from the two BSens losses to Norfolk over the weekend. [SenShot - vs. Norfolk 1vs. Norfolk 2]
  • Speaking of prospects, Jack has a look at the Senators assets that were all 4th round picks in 2013, and who the organization hopes will play important roles in the future. [SenShot]
  • Your week 17 Ups and Downs from Amelia. What a fantastic couple of weeks for Bobby Ryan. [Silver Seven]
  • You know who's play has been trending upwards? Mika Zibanejad, who has 22 points in his last 30 games, playing primarily with Bobby Ryan. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Episode MacArthur of the Chet Sellers and Luke Peristy podcast was a good one. End your reading with a listen. [Silver Seven]