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Ottawa Senators Draft Preview: European Defencemen

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Karlsson, Wikstrand, Jaros: which European defenceman will the Sens draft next?

Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators - Game Six
The Sens drafted Fredrik Claesson in the 5th round; can they find another gem?
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Over the last 9 years, the Ottawa Senators have selected at least one player from Europe in every draft. They have a clear preference for Swedes, and hence, three of the five players showcased below will be from the home country of Captain Erik Karlsson. However, last year, they drafted a Finn (Markus Nurmi) for the first time in 10+ years; that information, combined with the fact that there are two interesting Finnish defenders as potential mid- or late-round picks influenced our selection below.

Why defencemen? The Sens definitely have a need for quality players throughout their system, but outside of Thomas Chabot and maybe Christian Jaros, there’s a lack of T4 ceiling defenders. Furthermore, our piece on Swedish defenders last year was well received, so we decided to do something similar again!

Jonatan Asplund, Djurgårdens IF J20: 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 Djurgårdens IF U16 U16 Div.1 3 0 0 0 0
2014-15 Djurgårdens IF U16 U16 Div.1 23 5 19 24 62
Djurgårdens IF U16 U16 SM 8 2 6 8 10
Djurgårdens IF J18 J18 Elit 6 0 2 2 0 8
Djurgårdens IF J18 J18 Allsvenskan 6 0 0 0 0 -1
2015-16 Djurgårdens IF J18 J18 Elit 20 2 15 17 16 15
Djurgårdens IF J18 J18 Allsvenskan 18 4 5 9 24 4 Playoffs 4 0 0 0 0 1
2016-17 Djurgårdens IF J18 J18 Elit 3 0 0 0 0 1
Djurgårdens IF J18 J18 Allsvenskan 1 1 1 2 2 1 Playoffs 4 3 1 4 2 3
Djurgårdens IF J20 SuperElit 43 5 11 16 40 3 Playoffs 2 0 0 0 0 -2
Sweden U18 (all) International-Jr 8 0 0 0 0 2
2017-18 Djurgårdens IF J20 SuperElit - - - - -
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2014-15 Stockholm Syd TV-Pucken 6 0 0 0 2
Frölunda HC SHL 1 0 0 0 0 0
Sweden U18 (all) International-Jr 7 0 2 2 2 0

Background:

Starting off with a Swede, Jonatan Asplund plays for the Djurgården franchise, a team the Senators have a history with by drafting Fredrik Claesson and Andreas Englund from the same team (all of which also shoot left). Like their two alumni, Asplund plays a similar style as a steady two-way defender who isn’t known to put up points. He can move the puck, and from Grant McCagg’s report, can make a “smart first pass”.

This Season:

Playing in the SuperElit league, Asplund elevated his game over the course of the season, jumping from 62 to 36 on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings to be one of the bigger risers of the draft. Djurgården was bounced in the first round of the playoffs, so Asplund was sent down to the J18 league where he scored three goals and four points in four games. He’s projected to go around rounds four to six, although a team could grab him earlier if they’re attracted to his defensive game.

Fit with the Sens:

As previously noted, the Senators seem to have a good history and relationship with Djurgården. Puck moving defensemen are also a hot commodity in the modern NHL, so someone with the skillset of Asplund could prove to be great value down the road. Left defense isn’t currently a need in the Sens’ prospect pipeline, although it’s always great to build positions of strength.

Juho Korhonen, Kärpät U20: 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 KKP U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 4 0 2 2 0
KKP U16 Jr. C Mestis 3 0 0 0 0
Kärpät U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 7 0 0 0 0 Playoffs 11 1 1 2 2
2014-15 Kärpät U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 10 5 13 18 2
Kärpät U16 Jr. C SM-sarja 32 19 37 56 8 Playoffs 11 2 8 10 6
Finland U16 (all) International-Jr 7 0 2 2 2 2
2015-16 Kärpät U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 39 10 18 28 26 Playoffs 5 2 1 3 0
Kärpät U20 Jr. A SM-liiga 1 0 0 0 0 0
2016-17 Kärpät U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 0 0 0 0 0 Playoffs 5 0 2 2 2
Kärpät U20 Jr. A SM-liiga 35 11 20 31 14 6 Playoffs 6 1 0 1 2 3
Kärpät Liiga 1 0 0 0 0 0
Finland U18 (all) International-Jr 8 2 6 8 4 1
2017-18 Kärpät U20 Jr. A SM-liiga - - - - -
Kärpät Liiga - - - - -

Background:

As always, we’re looking for home-run picks when we profile players, and at 5’10, 170lbs, Juho Korhonen is a smaller defender. However, he has a ton of offensive ability, and given his ranking, he may be around for the Sens 6th round pick. A May ‘99 birthday, Korhonen has played against older players since he was 15 in Finland and has excelled at every level. In fact, he’s made the First All-Star Team in each of Finland’s three junior leagues. Unfortunately for him, Korhonen wasn’t selected for Finland’s U18 despite having better offensive numbers than four of the defenders from his league. Why may that be? From Finn Prospects:

The biggest concern with Korhonen is obviously his relatively small size and he loses majority of battles on board and in front of own goal. He tries to compensate his small size by defending with stick but defender is occasionally late and out of position to be really efficient. Also while he is mobile, his speed leaves a lot to be desired.

Despite these shortcomings, Korhonen has great vision and is consistently creating things in the offensive zone — whether it’s through putting the puck right on his teammates stick or getting his shots on net. Both scouting reports linked above mention his offensive ability likely allowing him to transition to the pro level.

This Season:

Korhonen finished third in scoring amongst defenders in the Jr-A SM-Liiga -- the highest mark among all first-time draft eligible defenders. He was named to the league’s first all-star team for his efforts, and even suited up for one Liiga game for Karpat as a show of appreciation for his season.

Fit with the Sens:

As noted by fellow blogger Ian Tulloch, defencemen who put up points are more likely to succeed at the pro level; Korhonen is definitely someone who fits that bill. Not playing in the U18s and being ranked so low by CSS means that Korhonen will likely fly under the radar and there’s a decent chance that he doesn’t get drafted at all. However, if scout Mikko Ruutu likes him and the Sens keep their 6th rounder or acquire an extra pick, Korhonen would be an intriguing defender to add to their LD depth chart.

Otto Latvala, HPK U20: 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 +/-
2014-15 S-Kiekko U16 Jr. C SM-sarja Q 4 1 3 4 10
S-Kiekko U16 Jr. C Mestis 25 7 16 23 30
JPK III-divisioona 1 1 0 1 0
2015-16 HPK U18 Jr. B SM-sarja 48 8 7 15 39 Playoffs 2 1 0 1 2
2016-17 HPK U20 Jr. A SM-liiga 47 6 15 21 61 10 Playoffs 7 1 0 1 4 1
Finland U18 WJC-18 7 1 0 1 2 1
Finland U18 (all) International-Jr 12 1 1 2 8 -2
2017-18 HPK Liiga - - - - -

Background:

If you asked me whether I had to put money on Korhonen or Latvala being drafted, I’d go all-in on Latvala. Although his PPG mark is well below Korhonen, Latvala is a massive 6’5 and as a July birthday, still has a ton of room to grow. From Finnish Junior Hockey:

Latvala has shown tremendous development over the past two seasons. He was named the top rookie in the U20 league. His overall mobility, foot speed and puck movement have improved a lot. He’s a big, strong defenseman who is difficult to get around due to his defensive awareness. His positioning and gap control are very solid. Has poise and can move the puck effectively under pressure to start offensive transitions. He moves well laterally at the blueline and possesses an effective, heavy wrist shot. His mix of physicality, hockey sense and developing offensive game is an interesting package.

This package of tools has helped Latvala be ranked ~50 spots higher than Korhonen, but still in the ~late-round range where players don’t always get drafted. As always with bigger players, Latvala could stand to improve his skating and not rely too heavily on his size as players will continue to get stronger as he moves up a level. Much like Ben Harpur, Latvala projects as a defensive-minded blueliner with signs of a budding offensive game.

This Season:

Noted multiple times as one of the most improved players in Finnish junior hockey, Latvala rode the wave all the way to Rookie of the Year honours on the champion HPK U20 squad. His ability to be effective when he goes for the simple play helped Latvala earn top minutes on the squad as a 17 year old, and gave Team Finland the confidence to select him for their U18s squad (unlike Korhonen).

Fit with the Sens:

Like Harpur, expect Latvala to be ~2 years away from making his AHL debut if he’s drafted. He’ll likely split next year between the top junior league and the Liiga, with the option of being loaned out to the second division (Mestis) if HPK is stacked with defenders. A right-shot, Latvala adds to the team’s depth chart in the same ways that Lindstrom and Tilander do below: as an intriguing option after Christian Jaros and Kelly Summers.

Gustav Lindstrom, Almtuna IS: 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 +/-
2012-13 Östervåla IF J20 J20 Div.2 5 3 3 6 4
Östervåla IF Division 4 13 5 4 9 2 Qualification 6 0 1 1 2
2013-14 Östervåla IF Division 4 21 9 9 18 46 Qualification 8 2 5 7 0
2014-15 Almtuna IS U16 2 U16 Div.1 1 4 5 9 4
Almtuna IS J18 J18 Elit 21 4 12 16 30 9
Almtuna IS J18 J18 Allsvenskan 18 3 9 12 20 -7
Almtuna IS J20 J20 Elit 0 0 0 0 0 Qualification 4 1 1 2 6 2
2015-16 Almtuna IS J18 J18 Elit 4 3 2 5 4 7
Almtuna IS J18 J18 Allsvenskan 16 10 8 18 14 6 Playoffs 3 0 3 3 4 2
Almtuna IS J20 J20 Elit 3 0 4 4 2 1 Qualification 1 0 0 0 0 -3
2016-17 Almtuna IS J20 J20 Elit 6 6 4 10 10 9
Almtuna IS Allsvenskan 48 2 7 9 26 -11
Sweden U19 (all) International-Jr 4 1 6 7 6 1
2017-18 Almtuna IS Allsvenskan - - - - -
Almtuna IS J20 J20 Elit - - - - -
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2012-13 Uppland TV-Pucken 8 0 1 1 0 1
2013-14 Uppland TV-Pucken 5 3 0 3 4

Background:

Praised for his offensive upside and confidence with the puck, Gustav Lindstrom, a 6’2” right shot defenceman, went through the ranks always a step ahead of his competition. He started playing for U18 teams at 16 years old, and also had his first U20 call-up in the same year (although he didn’t get to play until the following year). He put up big offensive numbers, with his 10 goals in 16 games leading all defensemen in the J18 Allsvenskan league in 2015-16. He also showed to be leader that season, donning the ‘C’ for his team.

This Season:

Moving up to the main Allsvenskan league, Lindstrom saw his production drop to a mere 9 points in 48 games. Although it could’ve mostly been because of the elevated quality of competition, Lindstrom also took the time this season to work on his defensive game. Marcus Ragnarsson, a former NHLer for San Jose and Phildelphia, took Lindstrom under his wing as team coach (and uncle) to work on his defensive positioning, and evolving him into a two-way defender. Lindstrom has significantly improved because of it, which has grown his draft stock.

Fit with the Sens:

Lindstrom is projected to be a bit of a project pick, although the skill is still evident for him to be selected in the 3rd or 4th round. With good mentorship and his solid two-way skill, Lindstrom could immediately climb up the Sens’ RD depth chart.

Adam Tilander, North Bay Battalion: 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 +/-
2011-12 Skövde IK U16 U16 SM 3 0 1 1 2 -1
Skövde IK J18 J18 Elit 10 0 1 1 0 -6
2012-13 Skövde IK J18 J18 Div.1 15 3 7 10 2 Qualification 2 1 0 1 0
Skövde IK J20 J20 Elit 1 0 0 0 0 0
2013-14 Skellefteå AIK U16 U16 SM 3 3 1 4 0
Skellefteå AIK J18 J18 Elit 16 5 14 19 4 13
Skellefteå AIK J18 J18 Allsvenskan 14 3 2 5 4 -1 Playoffs 5 0 3 3 0 4
Sweden U16 (all) International-Jr 10 0 2 2 0 -4
2014-15 Skellefteå AIK J18 J18 Elit 19 5 10 15 12 10
Skellefteå AIK J18 J18 Allsvenskan 12 1 3 4 6 1 Playoffs 7 0 12 12 2 7
Skellefteå AIK J20 SuperElit 15 1 3 4 6 1
Skellefteå AIK SHL 1 0 0 0 0 0
Sweden U17 WHC-17 6 1 1 2 2
Sweden U17 (all) International-Jr 17 2 4 6 8 -2
2015-16 Skellefteå AIK J18 J18 Elit 1 1 1 2 0 2
Skellefteå AIK J18 J18 Allsvenskan 2 1 1 2 0 1 Playoffs 1 0 0 0 0 1
Skellefteå AIK J20 SuperElit 38 3 12 15 16 6 Playoffs 6 1 1 2 2 2
Sweden U18 WJC-18 7 1 2 3 4 1
Sweden U18 (all) International-Jr 19 1 7 8 8 3
2016-17 North Bay Battalion OHL 64 6 29 35 20 -32
TOURNAMENT STATISTICS
2011-12 Västergötland TV-Pucken 8 1 4 5 0 5
2012-13 Västergötland TV-Pucken 8 3 4 7 2 4
2013-14 Västerbotten TV-Pucken 8 5 5 10 6
2015-16 Sweden U18 Hlinka Memorial 5 0 2 2 2 -1

Background:

A right-shot defender who made his way to North America early, Adam Tilander is known for his offensive ability. A highly-touted player for quite some time, Tilander suited up for Sweden at the U17s as a 15 year old and the U18s as a 16 year old. With good mobility to go along with his solid 6’0, 190lb frame, Tilander uses his hockey sense and passing ability to transition the puck and put up points. He can sometimes take a little too long with the puck and get himself into trouble, and still needs to work on defending the cycle, but the offensive upside is there. In fact, when North Bay coach Stan Butler drafted Tilander in the CHL Import Draft, he noted that Tilander had a chance to be a first-round pick.

This Season:

So what happened? Tilander’s offensive game didn’t struggle. He led all North Bay blueliners in scoring and was 5th in the OHL in primary points (51%) for U18 D. However, only 15 of his 35 points came at 5-on-5, as North Bay had a tough year generating offence at 5-on-5. His stock dropped from 59 in CSS’s midterm rankings to 96, with many likely looking at his -32 as a big reason why. But for a young Swedish defender transitioning to North American ice, playing top minutes for a weak OHL team, Tilander learned a lot and I’d expect more from him next season.

Fit with the Sens:

Tilander may drop to the team’s 4th round pick, and much like Filip Ahl in his draft year, the Sens have the ability to buy low with the chance for high upside. If the Sens don’t decide to go with a Conor Timmins or Josh Brook with their first or second rounder, Tilander could fill an important hole on the depth chart and make a pro (AHL) impact after next year.

Highlights:

Poll

If the Sens draft one of the previous six players, who would you like it to be?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Jonatan Asplund
    (6 votes)
  • 10%
    Juho Korhonen
    (7 votes)
  • 28%
    Otto Latvala
    (20 votes)
  • 20%
    Gustav Lindstrom
    (14 votes)
  • 32%
    Adam Tilander
    (23 votes)
70 votes total Vote Now