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Ottawa Senators Draft Profiles: Pick #19 Defencemen

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Four defencemen worth keeping an eye on in the middle of the first round.

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Finland v Sweden - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

In the second instalment of our draft profiles, we take a look at four defencemen the Senators could potentially target with the 19th overall pick. Last season, they picked a defender in the mid-to-late first round in Jacob Bernard-Docker. With the talent available this year, we could possibly see the same thing.

The four players we’ve chosen are based on a consolidated ranking from 20 different scouting sources, as well as our personal judgement. “Expected Range” is derived from the same list.

Let’s begin!

Ville Heinola (LD)

Team League Height Weight Expected Range NHL Rank
Team League Height Weight Expected Range NHL Rank
Lukko Liiga 6'0" 178 lbs 16 - 28 4 (Euro)

Ville Heinola quickly worked his way up draft boards after posting an incredible season in the Finnish Liiga. With 14 points in 32 games, that’s the fourth highest total all-time for a U18 defender. 8 of those 14 points came while on the power play, but the overarching point is that Heinola was too good for the U20 league, and worked his way up to playing over 20 minutes a night in a men’s league. He was nominated for rookie of the year, which was won by Kaapo Kakko.

While it was the offensive numbers that really drove attention to Heinola, it’s his overall smarts that make him a valuable prospect. He plays a solid defensive game, and has all the confidence carrying the puck offensively, with the ability to search for teammates and create plays. He’s a two-way player, and as the chart below shows, his above-average rates of zone entries and exits make him a strong even strength player.

Finlay Sherratt

What sets Heinola back in the rankings is that he would be a ‘project pick’. Despite putting up excellent numbers in a men’s pro league, he doesn’t project to play in the NHL for at least a few years, for two reasons. First, his strength has plenty of room for improvement — he’s an inch taller than fellow Finnish defender Mikko Kokkonen, for example, but weighs 22 pounds lighter. While Heinola boasts strong defensive positioning, he still loses out on a lot of puck battles. Secondly, his skating could also stand to improve, specifically his top-end speed. He’s a very mobile skater, especially in the offensive zone, but he doesn’t have the blazing speed that would help him immensely in the NHL.

What’s promising about Heinola is that he was able to play above his age group all season despite these flaws. He was relied upon for Finland at both the U18 and U20 World Juniors (the latter of which he won gold), and already has experience playing 20-minute games against men. He’s a left-shot, which isn’t an organizational need for the Senators, but his smart play makes him a prospect worth keeping an eye on at the draft.

Highlights

Cam York (LD)

Team League Height Weight Expected Range NHL Rank
Team League Height Weight Expected Range NHL Rank
U.S. National U18 Team USDP 5'11" 172 lbs 12 - 20 12 (NA)

Hailing from Anaheim Hills, California, Cam York is widely expected to be off the board by the time the Sens take to the podium at pick #19. But he was still available in our SB Nation Mock Draft... maybe the same will happen on draft day.

Coming up through the U.S. National U18 Team, York had the privilege of playing on a team that included Jack Hughes, Trevor Zegras, Cole Caufield, Matthew Boldy, Alex Turcotte, Spencer Knight, etc. It was the most stacked team the USDP has ever seen, so the question arises of whether or not York is just a product of playing with other skilled players.

Part of that is true, but York’s skillset also contributed to the world’s best junior team. His 65 points in 63 games is the most ever by a USDP defenceman, ahead of players like Adam Fox, Quinn Hughes, Cam Fowler and Charlie McAvoy. While there’s no chance York would’ve held that title if his teammates had been less elite, it’s still a very impressive feat. He’s committed to the University of Michigan starting next season (former team of Josh Norris), a recent hotbed for top NHL talent that will have a big opening with the aforementioned Hughes departing for Vancouver.

Don’t let the point totals fool you, though, because York is very much regarded as a two-way player. He boasts incredible hockey sense, with the ability to read plays and make quick judgements on whether to pinch or play more conservatively. He’s a good skater too, and although he’s a tad undersized at 5’11” and he doesn’t play a very physical game, it hasn’t held him back so far in the junior ranks.

My biggest concern with York is the transitional game, which although is highly regarded by many scouts, the results have proven to be pretty mediocre. From Mitch Brown’s tracking data of the USDP, 47% of his zone entries were controlled, and his success rate of controlled zone exits was 82% — both those stats were second lowest amongst his team’s defencemen. Those tasks were accomplished much cleaner by guys like Marshall Warren and Domenick Fensore, two defencemen expected to go in the mid-to-late rounds.

His shot is also very utilitarian, and won’t blow you away. It’s often his teammates cleaning up around the net after a rebound or tip, which is a big reason why his point total kept skyrocketing.

Overall, York’s hockey sense gives him a high ceiling to be a top-four defenceman. There are some flaws, although the upside could pay off in the end.

Highlights

Thomas Harley (LD)

Team League Height Weight Expected Range NHL Rank
Team League Height Weight Expected Range NHL Rank
Mississauga Steelheads OHL 6'3" 183 lbs 15 - 29 11 (NA)

The OHL’s best draft-eligible defenceman this year, Harley did it all for the Mississauga Steelheads this year and won’t be 18 years old until August.

On top of his 0.85 points-per-game (11th among defencemen), he finished the season ranked 15th in primary points per game and 20th in expected goals per game — surrounded by players older than him. He’s big (6-foot-3, 192 pounds), mobile, and smart, often having to transition the Steelheads out of his own zone and into the offensive end. That’s a change from previous seasons, where Harley didn’t necessarily have the acceleration or agility to cover a ton of ice or act as a threat off the rush. While he occasionally makes costly turnovers, I think you can chalk a lot of that up to the added responsibility in the defensive zone, or the penchant for creativity in the offensive zone; he draws players to him.

His in-zone defensive coverage is the aspect of his game that requires the most work, especially when it comes to containing forwards or winning 50/50 board battles consistently. Steelheads analytics guru, Jeremy Crowe, wants us to know that it doesn’t mean that Harley’s bad at defence as a whole, noting: “Thomas Harley played 30+ mins for Mississauga 21 times this year. He did not once play under 22 mins in a game. His average TOI of 28:19 was tops on the team. He was also a positive in both Corsi% and scoring chance%, and was +2.4% relative in both categories. Among the 100 OHL defensemen with 50+ DZ exit attempts and 50+ OZ entry attempts, Thomas Harley ranked top ten in controlled entry% and top three in controlled exit%, illustrating his excellent transition game.”

The Sens have a plethora of left-shot defencemen, but if the Sens believe he’s the best player available, you have to make the pick and look to parlay a defenceman for an asset you need. Harley only stands to grow on a Steelheads team that will continue to get better, and will aim to feature for Team Canada as a primary puck-mover at the next World Juniors.

Highlights

Moritz Seider (RD)

Team League Height Weight Expected Range NHL Rank
Team League Height Weight Expected Range NHL Rank
Adler Mannheim DEL 6'3" 208 lbs 14 - 28 6 (Euro)

No one on this list has seen his stock rise more in the last month than German international, Moritz Seider. The right-shot defenceman helped lead his country to a surprising sixth place finish at the men’s World Championship, captained his team to a Gold Medal finish at the Division 1 U20 championships as a double-underage player, and was named Rookie of the Year as his club team, Adler Mannheim, won their domestic league crown. Seider was one of four U18 players to play in the league all year.

Like Harley, Seider is big and mobile. He’s got strong hockey sense, which helps him keep up and occasionally push the pace of play against much older competition, and generally makes the right decision when moving the puck. His defensive acumen is what makes him standout, with his wingspan allowing him to break up plays as they happen, and his mobility allowing him to cover a lot of ice. At the World Championships, you saw a player who consistently competes each and every shift, and I’m sure it was that attitude that allowed his role to keep on expanding as his season went on.

Seider doesn’t project to have much offensive ability, as he hasn’t shown the ability to lead rushes or beat defenders in the offensive zone. That being said, he was able to do that against his own age group, and one of the reasons why that may be the first criticism is because he’s more looking to be sound in his own end against stronger competition rather than biting off more than he can chew. His ability to see the ice well and find his teammates means that he can help with zone exits, and there’s potential that his puck skills will grow as he does.

The Sens’ only right-shot defender in the system is Jacob Bernard-Docker, and while the NoDak blueliner looks promising, adding Seider to the mix would immediately shore up a weak spot. Since he played this past season in Europe, the AHL age restriction won’t apply (like Erik Brännström) and Seider could cross the pond as early as next season.

Highlights


MORE DRAFT COVERAGE

Pick #19 Forwards
Pick #32 Forwards
Pick #32 Defencemen
Other Interesting Forwards
Other Interesting Defencemen
Goalies