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Ottawa Senators Draft Preview: Defence

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Five defencemen the Senators could potentially target in the first and/or second round

2017 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game
Pierre-Olivier Joseph (#15) joins his teammates at the CHL top prospects game.
Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images

After covering five potential forwards earlier this week, today we move on to five defencemen that the Ottawa Senators could potentially select with their first (#28) or second (#47) round pick.

A disclaimer: neither of us are professional scouts, and instead rely on statistics, video and other scouting reports to create our analysis.

Erik Brannstrom, HV71: LD

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 HV71 U16 U16 Elit 23 7 20 27 22
HV71 U16 U16 SM 8 3 9 12 4
HV71 J18 J18 Allsvenskan 1 0 0 0 0 -1
2014-15 HV71 U16 U16 Elit 8 4 9 13 24
HV71 J18 J18 Elit 15 6 7 13 8 11
HV71 J18 J18 Allsvenskan 18 2 13 15 6 8 Playoffs 7 2 3 5 4 7
HV71 J20 SuperElit 1 0 0 0 2 1
Sweden U16 (all) International-Jr 9 2 1 3 2 1
2015-16 HV71 J18 J18 Elit 2 2 1 3 0 0
HV71 J18 J18 Allsvenskan 5 1 3 4 4 2
HV71 J20 SuperElit 41 8 22 30 26 -4 Playoffs 3 0 0 0 0 0
HV71 SHL 3 0 0 0 0 -1
Sweden U17 WHC-17 6 3 0 3 2
Sweden U17 (all) International-Jr 10 6 3 9 4 1
Sweden U18 WJC-18 7 1 3 4 10 0
Sweden U18 (all) International-Jr 17 1 7 8 18 -1
2016-17 HV71 J20 SuperElit 19 9 14 23 18 13 Playoffs 7 3 4 7 4 5
HV71 SHL 35 1 5 6 2 10
Sweden U18 WJC-18 7 2 3 5 0 -5
Sweden U18 (all) International-Jr 17 7 5 12 39 -12
Sweden U20 (all) International-Jr 3 0 3 3 2 -1
2017-18 HV71 SHL - - - - -
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2013-14 Småland 1 TV-Pucken 8 0 4 4 4
2014-15 Småland 1 TV-Pucken 6 1 4 5 4
2015-16 Sweden U18 Hlinka Memorial 5 0 4 4 4 -3
2016-17 Sweden U18 Hlinka Memorial 5 2 1 3 31 -4
HV71 Champions HL 1 0 0 0 0 0

Background:

Now, let me be clear: I doubt that Brannstrom is available at 28 given that he’s ranked in the teens by most scouting services - a meteoric rise from the second round projection from early and mid-season. But if he is, the Sens should definitely consider taking him, especially since his overall year likely makes him the best Swedish defencemen available in the draft — higher than Timothy Liljegren. At 5’10, 175lbs, Brannstrom is a puck-moving left defenceman that has gained recognition at the U16, U18, and now U20 levels for HV71. Brannstrom does this through smooth skating (especially his acceleration), quick transition play, and superb vision for where his teammates are on the ice — a combination that sounds similar to Sens fans. Like most defencemen, he could work on his position and stick play in order to move the puck before he’s overpowered by bigger, stronger forwards in the defensive zone, but it’s a workable trait that doesn’t come close to cancelling out his many pros for the modern, possession-style that is rampant in today’s NHL.

This Season:

This season, Brannstrom starred at multiple levels. He was above a point-per-game in the top Swedish U20 league, where ehe was the captain of his squad. He also suited up for 35 games for the eventual SHL Champions, HV71 — an extremely rare feat as U20 D, let alone U18 D rarely ever get SHL playing time. Brannstrom played 11:21/game in the SHL — lower than the group’s other regular defenders — but it’s still a positive sign nonetheless.

Fit with the Sens:

Ottawa, like any NHL team, could always used skilled defenders. Nashville, Anaheim, and Minnesota are three successful franchises who have done well to stockpile a ton of young, puck-moving defenders and despite having used skilled defenders. Nashville, Anaheim, and Minnesota are three successful franchises who have done well to stockpile a ton of young, puck-moving defenders and despite having Thomas Chabot alongside Erik Karlsson, Brannstrom as a second-pair puck-mover would give the Sens more options. With Freddie Claesson, Ben Harpur, Andreas Englund, and Maxime Lajoie more projecting as borderline second/third-pair talent, Brannstrom would jump above them in the organizational depth chart in terms of projected NHL ceiling.

Highlights:

Henri Jokiharju, Portland Winterhawks: RD

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 Jokerit U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 2 0 5 5 2
Jokerit U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 32 6 17 23 14 Playoffs 9 3 3 6 4
2014-15 Jokerit U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 37 8 22 30 6 Playoffs 10 4 2 6 2
Finland U16 (all) International-Jr 8 1 6 7 2 0
Finland U18 (all) International-Jr 1 0 0 0 0
2015-16 Tappara U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 0 0 0 0 0 Playoffs 3 0 2 2 10
Tappara U20 Jr. A SM-liiga 47 9 20 29 20 17 Playoffs 3 1 2 3 4 1
Finland U17 WHC-17 5 1 0 1 2
Finland U18 WJC-18 7 0 3 3 10 3
2016-17 Portland Winterhawks WHL 71 9 39 48 38 14 Playoffs 11 0 3 3 4 -8
Finland U20 (all) International-Jr 7 0 1 1 0 3
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2015-16 Finland U18 Hlinka Memorial 5 0 2 2 0 2

Background:

If you didn’t think we covered enough Finns in Monday’s preview, we aren’t stopping now. Jokiharju played for the Tappara franchise in Finland in 2015-16, before moving to North America this season (chosen 25th overall in the import draft). He’s known as a two-way defender; he can chip in offensively with his speed, but he can also commit to the back check with his solid positioning. His 6’0” frame doesn’t make him much of a hitter, so instead he makes clean passes and can occasionally wire a shot past the opposing team’s goalie. He can play in all situations, a valuable asset for a defenceman just entering the draft.

This Season:

It took a bit of adjustment for Jokiharju to get used to the North American game, although by January he had come into his own. His 48 points as a WHL rookie is nothing to sneeze at, as he manned Portland’s top pairing. He was surprisingly left off of Finland’s U20 team at the World Juniors, although that didn’t stop Jokiharju from improving his play down the stretch. His Portland Winterhawks were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, with Jokiharju amassing three assists in the ten games.

Fit with the Sens:

If there’s one place the Sens lack depth at in the prospect pool, it’s at right defence. After Christian Jaros, the next in line is either Cody Donaghey or Macoy Erkamps; quite the steep drop. Although Jokiharju may never see first pairing time as long as Erik Karlsson’s around, Jokiharju’s two-way style could also be a perfect fit in Guy Boucher’s system. Plus with Jyrki Jokipakka leaving, we have to have someone with just as incredible a name!

Highlights:

Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Charlottetown Islanders: LD

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 +/-
2014-15 Collège Antoine-Girouard Gaulois QMAAA 42 3 8 11 18 -13
2015-16 Collège Antoine-Girouard Gaulois QMAAA 19 1 9 10 12 7
Charlottetown Islanders QMJHL 48 1 7 8 30 2 Playoffs 12 1 2 3 6 0
2016-17 Charlottetown Islanders QMJHL 62 6 33 39 54 14 Playoffs 13 1 5 6 12 3
2016-17 AHL/ECHL/USHL/WHL/OHL/QMJHL stats powered by Finland U18 (all) International-Jr 1 0 0 0 0

Background:

The younger brother of Lightning prospect Mathieu Joseph, him and Pierre-Olivier play two completely different styles. While Mathieu is the high-flying forward, Pierre-Olivier is the shutdown defender with great positioning that can close down the opposition. He doesn’t hit very often, instead he uses his mobile skating ability to gain ground on the opposition’s offense. He’ll still be 17 at the time of the draft, which gives him an edge when making age adjustments.

This Season:

While seeing increased ice time for the Charlottetown Islanders (the same team as Filip Chlapik), Joseph worked his way up the rankings to be the third highest QMJHL prospect in this draft by NHL Central Scouting (behind Nico Hischier and Maxime Comtois). His offensive output also gained some traction, increasing from 0.17 points per game last season to 0.63 this season. It’s nothing extraordinary, although very impressive for a defender who’s not known to be a key offensive contributor. He’ll still need to put on some muscle, making him more of a long-term project rather than someone who can make an immediate impact.

Fit with the Sens:

Pierre-Olivier Joseph’s rankings have been inconsistent across the board, meaning he could potentially drop to the Sens’ second round pick. If that’s the case, Joseph’s skill set could prove to be good value in that spot. A left-shot defender isn’t a need for the Senators at the moment, although Joseph’s skating and defensive awareness should make him a good asset regardless.

Highlights:

Conor Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds: RD

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 Sthrn Tier Admirals Mn Mdgt AAA SCTAMM 38 4 18 22 39 Playoffs 10 2 2 4 6
2014-15 Thorold Blackhawks GOJHL 15 2 8 10 28
St. Catharines Falcons GOJHL 15 5 3 8 12 Playoffs 13 3 5 8 6
2015-16 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 60 4 9 13 20 27 Playoffs 12 0 1 1 6 -2
2016-17 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds OHL 67 7 54 61 69 53 Playoffs 11 1 7 8 10 2
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2013-14 Sthrn Tier Admirals Mn Mdgt AAA OHL Cup 4 2 1 3 4

Background:

Unlike Brannstrom, and like the others on this list, Conor Timmins is likely going to be around for the Sens first round pick, and possibly even their second rounder. An early birthday — missing 2016 draft eligibility by a few days — Timmins made a gigantic step this season after starting the year as a question mark to get drafted and likely a second-pair OHL D. By the final rankings, Timmins is a first-round candidate, the Hounds #1 D, and an all-around defender. He always had the physical side to him, playing a well-rounded defensive game and skating the puck out of trouble if he needed to. What led to his rise was his increased offensive zone play, as Timmins developed his pass more and improved his decision-making in order to help the Greyhounds create more chances at 5-on-5 and on the power play. As touched on earlier in this piece, puck-moving right-handed defenders are rare — it’s likely why the Sens continue to hold onto Cody Ceci — and although I’d be worried about spending a high pick on someone who came outta nowhere, Timmins’ rise isn’t something new when you’re evaluating teenagers.

This Season:

Playing for a fantastic Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds system, Timmins led all Greyhounds D in scoring by 25 points, and finished 5th among all OHL defenders. Timmins’ 54 assists paced all draft eligible defenders in the OHL this year, and importantly, he generated 0.45 primary assists per game in 5-on-5 situations — a mark good enough for 1st among draft-eligible OHL D and an indication that his passing ability is as good as his point total indicates. Timmins’ 2.1 shots/game is an area for improvement as he only scored 7 goals this year for a 2.1 sh%; a good shot will only help him add another offensive weapon to his toolbox to create further deception at the pro level.

Fit with the Sens:

Being a RD from the OHL with decent offensive pedigree makes it easy to compare Timmins to Cody Ceci, but the former actually has had less pedigree. Hopefully this means that Timmins will get the time he needs to patiently develop through junior and the OHL in order to see if he can improve on this season’s strong performance and translate as many options from his junior game to the pro level.

Highlights:

Filip Westerlund, Frölunda HC: RD

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 AIK Härnösand J18 J18 Elit 34 1 6 7 4 -12
2014-15 AIK Härnösand J18 J18 Elit 33 11 16 27 12 -5
Sweden U16 (all) International-Jr 3 0 0 0 0 -2
2015-16 Frölunda HC J18 J18 Elit 21 4 8 12 18 22
Frölunda HC J18 J18 Allsvenskan 18 0 4 4 2 13 Playoffs 6 0 1 1 4 0
Frölunda HC J20 SuperElit 3 0 0 0 2 0
Sweden U17 WHC-17 6 0 0 0 0
Sweden U17 (all) International-Jr 10 1 3 4 4 2
2016-17 Frölunda HC J18 J18 Allsvenskan 0 0 0 0 0 Playoffs 3 0 1 1 0 2
Frölunda HC J20 SuperElit 23 1 6 7 8 -4 Playoffs 5 0 1 1 6 0
Frölunda HC SHL 33 0 4 4 6 3
Sweden U18 WJC-18 7 1 1 2 4 3
Sweden U18 (all) International-Jr 16 1 3 4 10 5
2017-18 Frölunda HC J20 SuperElit - - - - -
Frölunda HC SHL - - - - -
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2013-14 Ångermanland TV-Pucken 8 1 3 4 2
2014-15 Ångermanland TV-Pucken 6 2 0 2 6
2016-17 Frölunda HC Champions HL 7 0 0 0 0 1

Background:

There were many options for this final spot, but although he’s ranked as a third-rounder, Colin and I believe that Filip Westerlund could be a sneaky sleeper pick for the Sens second rounder (especially considering that the team doesn’t have a third-round pick currently). A RD (sensing a trend?), Westerlund uses his great lateral mobility and poise to transition the puck effectively, and generally uses an active stick to defend. Areas for improvement? He’s not an overly physical player, and needs some work on his shot.

This Season:

Westerlund plays for the youth-driven Frolunda HC in the SHL, and spent half of the season with the big club — suiting up for 33 games and averaging 11:03 of ice-time. He doesn’t have the flashy offensive numbers to go along with his play like the higher ranked Brannstrom, but again, it means something when U18 D can get regular minutes in the Swedish men’s league. His real breakthrough came in the U18s, where he was named one of Sweden’s top three players en route to a modest 2 points in 7 games.

Fit with the Sens:

Like many of the other RD on this list, there’s room for a player like Westerlund in the system. Westerlund may be a bit of a reach with a second rounder, but the upside is there if the Sens value him over a player like PO-Joseph and don’t think that he’ll be around for their 4th round pick.

Highlights:

Poll

Which defenceman would you like the Senators to select most?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Erik Brannstrom
    (44 votes)
  • 22%
    Henri Jokiharju
    (21 votes)
  • 10%
    Pierre-Olivier Joseph
    (10 votes)
  • 15%
    Conor Timmins
    (15 votes)
  • 4%
    Filip Westerlund
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (comment below!)
    (0 votes)
94 votes total Vote Now