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Ottawa Senators Draft Preview: Forwards

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Who could the Sens choose with the 28th or 47th pick? Here are five potential forwards.

CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game
Jason Robertson had one goal and five shots for Team Howe at the 2016 All-American Prospect Game.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

With the 2017 NHL Entry Draft only a few weeks away, we’ve decided to run a six-part series that’ll cover options for the Sens first two picks (28th, 47th overall), mid- and late-round options, overagers, and some potential European gems. We’ll start by taking a look at some forwards who may be available for the Sens first and second round picks.

We’re not going to pretend to be scouts, but we will attempt to analyze these players based on publicly available scouting reports, videos, and statistics.

Aleksi Heponiemi, Swift Current Broncos: C

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
2013-14 Ilves U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 6 3 4 7 0
Ilves U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 15 2 5 7 2
2014-15 Ilves U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 10 7 18 25 2
Ilves U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 31 26 50 76 16
Ilves U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 1 0 0 0 0
Finland U16 (all) International-Jr 7 1 2 3 0 -2
2015-16 Ilves U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 39 25 40 65 24 Playoffs 5 2 4 6 2
Ilves U20 Jr. A SM-liiga 7 2 2 4 2 4 Playoffs 7 1 0 1 2 1
Finland U17 WHC-17 5 0 0 0 0
2016-17 Swift Current Broncos WHL 72 28 58 86 18 15 Playoffs 14 0 8 8 8 -7
Finland U18 (all) International-Jr 4 0 5 5 0 1
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2016-17 Finland U18 Hlinka Memorial 4 0 5 5 0 1

Background:

Kicking off the profiles with a Finn, Heponiemi played junior hockey in Finland before being taken 10th overall in the 2016 WHL import draft. He’s a tad undersized at 5’10” and 143 lbs, although he’s very agile and quick on his skates. Generally known as a playmaker, he can still shoot the puck, tallying 28 goals this season. His pass is his biggest strength, possessing the ability to make clean, tape-to-tape passes to beat the opponent’s defenders. He’ll need to bulk up, though, if he plans on making the NHL.

This Season:

To say that Heponiemi transitioned nicely to North America would be an understatement. He completely exceeded expectations, taking home the WHL Rookie of the Year honours by leading the league’s rookies in scoring (86 points in 76 games). He also shined at the World U18s, picking up five assists in four games. In the playoffs, he managed to record eight assists in fourteen games as his Swift Current Broncos were eliminated in the second round.

Fit with the Sens:

Ottawa doesn’t lack in centre prospects, with Colin White and Logan Brown being drafted in the first round in 2015 and 2016 respectively. It never hurts to create positions of strength, though, and centre seems like a fantastic place to build that from.

Highlights:

Joni Ikonen, Frölunda HC J20: C/RW

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
2012-13 Blues II U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 10 4 8 12 2
Blues II U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 10 1 10 11 4
Blues U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 13 2 7 9 0 Playoffs 4 0 0 0 0
2013-14 Blues U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 4 5 4 9 14
Blues U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 5 3 4 7 0 Playoffs 6 3 4 7 0
2014-15 Blues U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 0 0 0 0 0 Playoffs 6 3 7 10 4
Blues U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 45 20 38 58 24 Playoffs 9 4 4 8 4
Finland U16 (all) International-Jr 11 8 8 16 8 1
2015-16 Frölunda HC J18 J18 Elit 21 17 10 27 4 16
Frölunda HC J18 J18 Allsvenskan 18 14 11 25 39 12 Playoffs 4 1 0 1 0 1
Finland U17 WHC-17 5 1 5 6 20
2016-17 Frölunda HC J18 J18 Allsvenskan 4 2 3 5 0 2 Playoffs 7 6 6 12 4 7
Frölunda HC J20 SuperElit 40 22 19 41 42 8 Playoffs 5 3 0 3 2 -2
Frölunda HC SHL 10 0 0 0 0 1
Finland U18 WJC-18 7 4 4 8 8 4
Finland U18 (all) International-Jr 12 7 8 15 6 0
2017-18 Frölunda HC J20 SuperElit - - - - -
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2010-11 Finland Selects U13 QC Int PW 4 1 4 5 2
2016-17 Frölunda HC Champions HL 3 0 0 0 0 -1

Background:

Although they’re both Finnish, Ikonen and Heponiemi play two completely different styles. While Heponiemi is an elite playmaker, Ikonen uses his soft hands and shifty skating to get close to the net. On top of this he possesses an incredible wrist shot, which makes you wonder why he’s projected to go in the 2nd/3rd round. There are two reasons: he’s a small player (5’10”, 177 lbs), and his creative style makes him very prone to turnovers. Either way, he has plenty of upside to one day crack the top six of an NHL lineup.

This Season:

At the under-18 worlds, Ikonen was top 10 in tournament scoring, with an impressive four goals and four assists in seven games and being names a top three player on his team. Playing for the Frölunda organization (the same franchise as Erik Karlsson in his junior days), Ikonen spent most of his time tearing up the U20 SuperElit league (3rd in goals-per-game). He also had the honours of being called up to the SHL, and although he remained scoreless, he showed he could fit in with the big guys. To cap it off Froölunda won the Champions Hockey League tournament (playing against other Euro professional teams), surely a fantastic experience for an 18-year-old.

Fit with the Sens:

Although he played mostly at centre, Ikonen can also play the right wing, a position the Sens currently lack in their prospect pool. His high-risk high-reward style is very Karlsson-esque, which could make him appealing to the organization.

Highlights:

(This is only a fraction of Ikonen’s skill set. Many more clips are available, such as a few that I’ll link here.)

Antoine Morand, Acadie-Bathurst Titan: C

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
2013-14 Lac St-Louis Grenadiers Bntm AAA QBAAA - - - - -
2014-15 Châteauguay Grenadiers QMAAA 41 18 37 55 34 18 Playoffs 16 12 18 30 16 5
2015-16 Acadie-Bathurst Titan QMJHL 48 14 36 50 37 -3 Playoffs 5 0 3 3 0 -6
Canada Red U17 WHC-17 6 3 3 6 0
2016-17 Acadie-Bathurst Titan QMJHL 67 28 46 74 52 21 Playoffs 11 2 10 12 8 0
2017-18 Acadie-Bathurst Titan QMJHL - - - - -
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2014-15 Team Québec CWG 6 5 6 11 4
Châteauguay Grenadiers Telus Cup 7 2 9 11 4
Team Québec White QGC-16 5 0 6 6 2
2015-16 Team Red U17-Dev 3 1 3 4 2
2016-17 QMJHL All-Stars Jr Super Series 1 0 0 0 0 0

Background:

Ranked as a second/third rounder, Antoine Morand is a slick young centreman with a high skillset. As this ISO from HockeyProspect.com demonstrates, Morand uses his shifty skating and superb hands to generate dangerous scoring opportunities. You always worry about whether a smaller player (listed as 5’9, 5’10) can generate the same kind of separation in pro hockey, but Morand appears to have strong legs capable of supporting his frame to win puck battles along the boards. His assist totals indicate that he’s more of a passer, and he seems to like to use his lateral vision to generate opportunities for his linemates.

This Season:

Morand was named to the QMJHL’s Rookie Team last season, playing top minutes for the Titan after they selected him with the 2nd overall pick in the 2015 QMJHL Entry Draft. In fact, he was the only player born in 1999 to finish the season above a point-per-game! He followed that up by finishing 23rd in QMJHL scoring this year, second among draft-eligible skaters. Acadie-Bathurst isn’t a strong team, but they made it to the second round this year thanks to Morand’s 74 points -- 57 of which were either a goal or first assist (“primary point”).

Fit with the Sens:

Although Morand played C, I could envision him as a winger at the NHL level due to the fact that he was barely even on faceoffs in the Q and his lack of size hurts him in containing bigger forwards down low defensively. No scouting report I looked at questioned his work-ethic - a good sign - but there are limitations to being a smaller player in on the boards. With Bobby Ryan getting older, the Sens only have Mark Stone and Francis Perron as pass-first wingers in the system — Morand would fit there. It also helps that Sens Chief Amateur Scout, Trent Mann, is based in the Q, meaning that he’d be able to vouch for Morand if he’s still around for the Sens second round pick. in the Q, meaning that he’d be able to vouch for Morand if he’s still around for the Sens second round pick. If the Sens do take Morand, I’d like to see him increase his shot rate from the 2.61/gm it currently is. By making himself a shooting threat, he’s more likely to carry on his deceptive passing ability to the pros.

Highlights:

Jason Robertson, Kingston Frontenacs: LW

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
2012-13 Little Caesars Bantam Minor AAA HPMBHL 20 16 7 23 6
2013-14 Detroit Kings 15U AAA Midget 51 40 47 87 6
2014-15 Don Mills Flyers Minor Mdgt AAA GTMMHL 62 28 33 61 14
2015-16 Kingston Frontenacs OHL 54 18 14 32 6 5 Playoffs 4 1 1 2 2 1
2016-17 Kingston Frontenacs OHL 68 42 39 81 29 3 Playoffs 11 5 13 18 0 -1
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2008-09 California Brick Invitational 5 3 3 6 0 Playoffs 1 0 0 0 0
2014-15 Don Mills Flyers Minor Mdgt AAA OHL Cup 7 2 3 5 2

Background:

Drafted in the 4th round in the OHL Priority selection, Robertson is a hard shooting LWer with size (6’2, 194lbs). A pure goal scorer, Robertson pots a decent amount at 5-on-5 (29) — second among draft-eligibles in goals scored for the second year in a row (18 last year) and he seems to do this by powering his way to the home-plate area. Although he’s a volume shooter (a la Mike Hoffman) — he finished second in the OHL after Alex DeBrincat with 300 shots — he doesn’t appear to have an elite wrist shot (14% sh% - close to the OHL average). Given that he’s been getting results regardless, that shouldn’t worry you and instead, it should make you salivate thinking of the kind of potential he has if he works on his shot more. The knock on why many scouting services have him low is likely his skating — he doesn’t have good first-step acceleration and it takes him a while to get to top speed — but as a late birthday (July, 99), Robertson is younger than most of his peers and has a lot of room to grow in his development. His defensive play is also a work-in-progress, mainly because he stops moving his feet, but like Morand, most scouting reports don’t have this as due to a lack of work ethic.

This Season:

After playing third-line minutes for a stacked Frontenacs squad as a rookie last season (9th in team scoring), Jason Robertson broke out in a big way — exploding for 81 points to pace all Kingston players and finish 13th in league scoring. He finished with 30 more points than Kingston’s next highest scoring player, and had a higher PPG rate in the playoffs (18 points in 11 games). Kingston scored an OHL low 179 goals this season, so it’s easy to project how opposing teams could put out their top defensive talent against Robertson’s line. Regardless, it didn’t matter, and in fact, he got better as the year went on, posting a 1.8 PPG in his final 25 games and ending the year with a point on 48% of Kingston’s goals.

Fit with the Sens:

There’s always a need for goal scorers, especially when pure shooting talent (like Hoffman) is one of the hardest things to cultivate in the modern NHL. With no real ‘sniper’ in the organization and a volume shooter in Jonathan Dahlen shipped out to Vancouver, there’s a need for a dynamo like Robertson in the Sens system and hopefully he’s around for the 28th overall pick.

Highlights:

Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane Chiefs: C/LW

SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
2013-14 Los Angeles Jr. Kings U16 T1EHL U16 34 17 23 40 14
2014-15 Spokane Chiefs WHL 68 23 34 57 50 12 Playoffs 6 2 3 5 6 -1
U.S. National U17 Team USDP 7 3 4 7 2
USA U17 WHC-17 6 3 3 6 2
USA U17 (all) International-Jr 4 0 6 6 2
2015-16 Spokane Chiefs WHL 57 19 52 71 34 20 Playoffs 6 1 4 5 10 0
U.S. National U18 Team USDP 9 7 7 14 12
USA U18 WJC-18 7 7 6 13 12 7
2016-17 Spokane Chiefs WHL 65 42 57 99 46 14
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2014-15 Team Gold USA-S16 5 2 4 6 -
2015-16 Team Kelly USA-S17 5 2 3 5 2
USA U18 Hlinka Memorial 4 4 3 7 14 2

Background:

Although the rankings listed above may seem a bit high for the Sens’ 28th pick, Yamamoto is your typical draft faller. He’s listed at 5’9” and 159 lbs, quite tiny for the typical NHLer, although every inch of that is jam packed with skill. His most noticeable attribute is his skating, which he uses to accelerate quickly and get to high top speeds. Next is his incredible hands, as he’s not only a great passer, but has a shot that’s improved over the last season. His style screams Johnny Gaudreau in almost every facet.

This Season:

Although his Spokane Chiefs finished last in their WHL division, Yamamoto finished the season with numbers resembling that of a top five pick. His 1.52 points per game was the highest in the WHL amongst first year draft eligibles (higher than Nolan Patrick and Cody Glass), and his 42 goals took an impressive jump from his 19 last season. Looking solely at even strength numbers, they’re just as impressive, with everything well above league average.

His stats are massive, his skillset is massive, but his small stature could potentially turn away enough scouting staffs to have him drop to Ottawa.

Fit with the Sens:

Ottawa likes to draft big forwards — that’s no secret. They took Logan Brown (6’6”) 11th overall last year, and Gabriel Gagné (6’5”) 36th overall in 2015. Adding Yamamoto would bring some variety to the Sens’ prospect pool. Although he’d be another centre with high upside to match Brown, White and Chlapik, he can also be played at left wing. Over all of this though is that he has an elite set of skills, one that would be too good to pass on should he drop to 28. Choosing the best player available is always a great strategy to go by, and Yamamoto would almost certainly be that option.

Highlights:

Poll

Which forward would you like the Senators to select most?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Aleksi Heponiemi
    (13 votes)
  • 6%
    Joni Ikonen
    (22 votes)
  • 2%
    Antoine Morand
    (9 votes)
  • 24%
    Jason Robertson
    (80 votes)
  • 57%
    Kailer Yamamoto
    (187 votes)
  • 3%
    Other (leave a comment!)
    (12 votes)
323 votes total Vote Now