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Ottawa Senators 2021 Draft Profiles: Cole Sillinger, Aatu Räty, & Fyodor Svechkov

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The second piece in our series of profiles takes a look at three players who will likely all be available at 10th overall. Do the Sens take a swing?

Ottawa Senators v New York Islanders Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Today’s set of profiles expands our horizons to players who had vastly different seasons.

Only one played at the U18s; another had a positive COVID-19 test, and the last was a surprising cut from the roster.

One had to change leagues halfway through the year; another played his third season among men, while the last had a more traditional approach, splitting his time between his country’s top junior league and the second tier men’s league.

Let’s dig into the stories of Cole Sillinger, Aatu Räty, and Fyodor Svechkov.


Cole Sillinger

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
C/LW Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 6'0" 201 lbs 05/16/2003 #13

Background

Another draft-eligible skater with ties to Ottawa thanks to his father, Mike, Cole is a dynamic talent who can drive his own offence with a strong one-on-one skillset and a lethal shot. The 11th overall pick in the 2018 WHL Draft, the Senators got a good look at Sillinger’s strong rookie season as they watched draft pick Mads Søgaard in goal with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He led all Draft-1 players in points-per-game with 1.10 — outproducing likely top-10 pick Dylan Guenther — and was playing the best hockey of his life until he missed a month’s worth of game time with an upper body injury.

When the WHL delayed the start of their season in January for the second time due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on the west coast, Sillinger joined the Sioux Falls Stampede 20 games into their USHL campaign. He finished third in points-per-game among draft eligibles after Chicago’s Matthew Coronato and previously-profiled Chaz Lucius, but was named the league’s Rookie of the Year with 46 points (24G) in 31 games.

I was extremely excited to watch Sillinger at the U18s, but a positive COVID-19 test unfortunately kept him from the tournament.

Scouting Report

Sillinger is a talented driver of offence. He has strong instincts as a shooter, regularly cutting to the middle of the ice to generate dangerous opportunities for himself. He’s resilient with the puck, using quick hands for protection while being unafraid to hang onto it as he circles the zone to scout out opportunities. He can physically impose himself on the game — either by winning board battles or shaking off contact from defenders. His wrist shot is up there with Lucius and McTavish, with a balanced profile of a deceptive release point, good accuracy from range, and sharp velocity. What impressed me the most about Sillinger was his movement off the puck. If he’s not dictating play in the offensive zone, he’s dragging in defenders to open space or sneaking into quiet areas of the ice to deposit a rebound. Sillinger excels at turning poor pucks into good pucks in the offensive zone.

Data

I think it’s best if I address Sillinger’s weaknesses using some of the data we have available to us on his game. After reading multiple reports, there are a few inconsistencies that raise important questions when you’re thinking of how he might project to the NHL:

  1. There is little mention of his passing, and the reports on it aren’t great. It’s odd because up until this past season, Sillinger profiled as a player with more playmaking tendencies. He recorded 45 assists in 39 games in Bantam, and 31 assists (of 53 points) in his rookie WHL season. In the USHL, though, he seemed hellbent on finishing the job himself and by consequence, out of sync with his linemates at times. In Mitch Brown’s USHL dataset (13 games tracked), Sillinger was a net negative in terms of generating shot assists. Is this because of a gap in his offensive awareness? Is it a lack of trust in his teammates as he played with an unfamiliar team in a new environment? If I was interviewing Sillinger, that would be my first question — showing him clips and asking what his thought process was. While some reports noted that “his head is always up and [he’s] identifying his options”, others noted that he overhandled pucks, looked off teammates, and didn’t pass the puck into dangerous areas. I’m inclined to believe that he does have the capacity given his ability to drive results here in the past, but it’s worth the extra detail to thoroughly check this part of his game out.
  2. Will he be able to drive zone entries at the next level? Reports consistently cited good top speed once Sillinger got going, but like others in this draft class, he lacks pop in his acceleration and that can make him late to pucks. At the USHL level, Sillinger was able to create controlled zone entries on his own, but struggled with exits. Some of that could be chalked up to Sioux Falls finishing last in their conference and giving up the third most goals against; but as a centre, some of that falls on Sillinger not helping with exits consistently, not moving his feet, and being loose on gaps. Illuminating whether that’s due to his skating issues or a lack of hockey sense (i.e., positional awareness and shoulder checking to be aware of his linemates) will be key in ascertaining whether he plays centre moving forward.
  3. Did differences in coaching and tactics contribute to his vastly different playstyle in the USHL compared to the WHL? I’d ask Sillinger about his shot selection, as his 3.65 shots-per-game is a positive... but there were also times it came at the risk of generating a more dangerous opportunity. Was he coached to put every puck on net? Did he feel as though if he wasn’t the one scoring, his team wouldn’t score at all?

All-in-all, Sillinger has boatloads of talent and has a strong ability to drive offensive results — something you want to see in a player at this stage in the draft. Let me be clear: Sillinger’s rookie campaign in the WHL ranked seventh since 2004-05 in points-per-game by a D-1 player, among names like Sam Reinhart, Brayden Schenn, and Kailer Yamamoto. If he’s able to stay in motion consistently, use his physicality effectively, and become a dual-threat because his passing ability does translate, I see a highly effective player. If he becomes over-reliant on doing it all himself or the awareness issues show up consistently, I worry about him being able to make high percentage plays at the next level.

Fit with Ottawa

Between McTavish, Lucius, and Sillinger, the Senators will have some options if they want to plug the gap in the system they currently have in terms of players with an elite shot. Josh Norris and Egor Sokolov will eventually need some help, and someone with Sillinger’s talent level would be a great addition to add shooting threat to the playmaking abilities of Stützle and Batherson.

I’m imagining that Sillinger will return to Medicine Hat next season, and he should be one of the league’s more dominant players. Ottawa can afford to give Sillinger the patience he might need to work on adding explosiveness to his skating stride and to work out kinks in his rush patterns.

Further reading, watching, and listening


Aatu Räty

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
C/LW Kärpat Liiga 6'1" 181 lbs 11/14/2002 #14

Background

When you look at the names alongside Aatu Räty as you explore his production as a Draft-2 player in 2018-19, you’re looking at Finnish prospect royalty. With 31 points (17G) in 41 games for a 0.76 points-per-game rate, Räty’s production trails only Jesse Puljujärvi, Patrik Laine, Anton Lundell, likely top-2022 pick Brad Lambert, and top Liiga scorers in Henri Nikkanen and Aleski Saarela all-time. He was ahead of names like Mikko Rantanen, Aleksander Barkov, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. As a 15-year-old turning 16, Räty scored three goals in six games at the U17s to lead his offensively-anemic team in goals, and had an assist in five games at the U18s — a premier tournament for players two years his senior.

That ramped up pressure on Räty for the 2019-20 season, where he saw 12 games with Kärpät’s Liiga club. He only scored four points — putting a damper on the sky-high expectations people had of him. Historical context is important to keep in mind here, though. Only 36 players since 2004-05 have played any games in their Draft-1 season at the Liiga level; if you bump the minimum games requirement to 10, that number drops to 16. Räty’s points-per-game of 0.33 ranks sixth, behind fourth overall pick Puljujärvi, 12th overall pick Lundell, and second overall pick Barkov. Detractors pointed to his U20s performance (3 points in 7 games) as a negative, while often forgetting the fact that Räty was the only Draft-1 player at the tournament. In their Draft-1 tournaments, Barkov and Lundell only scored one more point than Räty; while last year’s top pick, Alexis Lafrenière, was rendered invisible in his Draft-1 year. His production at the U20 level indicates cause for concern, though. In 2019-20, Räty’s goal scoring ability disappeared to the tune of just two tallies and 21 points in 30 games.

This past season, Räty looked like a player whose confidence was shot. He was cut from Finland’s U20 team, and while that served as a kick in the pants — he improved his production in the U20 SM-sarja (7 points in 8 games) — he had just six points in 35 Liiga games overall.

Getting to the bottom of what’s been happening with Räty could be the difference between getting a steal at the 10 slot for Ottawa, or taking a gamble on a player showcasing worrying warning signs. One scout made the argument that Räty might’ve been better off not playing this season, as he might’ve easily went in the top-10 on pedigree alone. If he rebounds in Liiga next year, suddenly, the hype might be back on for one of 2021’s top talents.

Scouting Report

Räty didn’t spend multiple years playing against players much older than him for nothing. He’s a positionally responsible pivot with a pro-ready frame, two-way sense, and a motor that can drive offensive transitions through the neutral zone. You can tell when he’s on when he’s shrugging off physical contact and dictating play, utilizing a skating-and-skill combination unlike many other of the top players in this class. He’s got strong off-puck instincts, but doesn’t have a quick release or deception in his shot to do a lot with prime chances when he does get them. His shot has power, and with time, he can do a lot of damage with it. Time is just something that fades as the games get tougher. While he could continue to work on his four-way mobility to be more agile, he can forecheck effectively — either as the F1 looking to make plays for his team or to win back possession.

The big question with Räty is this: do you value a strong foundational toolkit of skills, even if it isn’t all put together? When watching him, you get the sense that his issue is almost like he doesn’t know which tool of his to use in a given situation. When you combine that with a player whose confidence is at rock bottom, you get limited aggression and conservative play, resulting in an unreliable offensive game and turnovers under pressure. I can see how he perpetuates his downward cycle.

If I was drafting him, I’d start with: “kid, I believe in you. You have the ability to be the best centre from this draft class and possess the skills to be a dual-threat that can translate. Let’s take this shift-by-shift, game-by-game.” Working on his overall evasiveness and giving him structure to follow in the offensive zone, even if it’s simple, could lead to an effective pivot in transition that can drive a line — something you can’t say about some of the other players he’s fighting against in the top-15. Some scouts worry that some of his earlier success was because he was more physically advanced and doubt his hockey sense; hence, getting a sense if you can work with his noggin’ is the priority if you’re spending a high first round pick on him.

Data

We’ve got two sources of tracking data to use for Räty: Will Scouch’s, which is nicely presented in his video report linked below, and Lassi Alanen’s.

Scouch noted that Räty drove offensive transitions at a higher rate that Liiga’s two draft eligible players last season, Lundell and Toronto’s Roni Hirvonen; at the same age, he produced more high-danger chances than Lundell, too. When he was on the ice, he made Kärpät’s anemic offence better, and his points were either goals or primary assists.

Alanen’s data covers his seven games in the U20 SM-sarja, and Räty drove the most shot assists per 60, expected goals per 60, and controlled entries per 60, while being among the leaders in shots per 60 and shot contributions.

Fit with Ottawa

As a team further ahead in their ‘rebuild’ than every other team in the top-10, other than potentially the Los Angeles Kings, the Senators could afford Räty much-needed patience and low expectations to improve his game bit-by-bit. I’d love for the team to bring him to the AHL as soon as possible, giving him time to work with the organization’s development group face-to-face and under the supportive coaching of Troy Mann to see how they could maximize his tools. Unlike some of the others I’ve profiled this far, McTavish, Räty, and Fyodor Svechkov are the three that scream centre to me in terms of their toolkit. Another Liiga season and/or two AHL seasons would give him plenty of time to be ‘ready’ for an NHL spot as the team is ready to contend, and plugging a player with Räty’s ability — if all works out — could be a winning ingredient.

Further reading, watching, and listening


Fyodor Svechkov

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth EliteProspects Consolidated Ranking
C/LW Ladia Togliatti VHL/MHL 6'0" 179 lbs 04/05/2003 #15

Background

From the hometown of Alexei Kovalev and Viktor Kozlov comes Fyodor Svechkov, a reliable, complete centre with defensive polish and an offensive game waiting to be cracked open.

As a U16 in Russia’s top U18 league, Svechkov ranked second among his cohort in points-per-game with 1.65 and quickly rose the ranks to play in the country’s top junior league — the MHL — at age 16. Six points in 24 games is nothing to scoff at for a player mainly lining up against 19 year olds, but it was at the World U17s where his stock rose. Svechkov finished second among his team in scoring with six goals and eight points in six games as Russia won Gold.

This past year, he split his time between the MHL and VHL. His offensive production greatly improved, where he had 15 points in 15 games before moving onto play with men. Only 18 draft-eligible players even played a game at the VHL level this season, with only 11 scoring a single point. With 15 points in 38 games, Svechkov’s totals ranked him second after likely first-round pick Nikita Chibrikov.

Internationally, Svechkov stood out on Russia’s silver-medal winning squad at this year’s U18s, being the conduit for Matvei Michkov and Chibrikov to strut their stuff offensively while covering off the defensive responsibilities. It’s the type of play that’ll endear him to his teammates and importantly, his coaches, for a long time to come.

Scouting Report

Called the most complete forward in the draft after Matthew Beniers, Svechkov played against men this season and it showed big time at the U18s, where he looked like a player playing down a level with his composure and confidence. He’s got three-zone sense, always looking to find open ice, chipping pucks into space, and anticipating the play. Svechkov always looks like he’s in control, and while that might make his game look simple and lead to people doubting his offensive creativity. To me, it’s a plus — a sign of a player knowing what he needs to do in a league like the VHL, and especially for a team like Lada.

He shows good playmaking ability, using his positioning to pop pucks to his teammates on exits and entries without needing to drive entries himself. His understanding of spacing comes out in the offensive zone, too, and was frequently on display at the MHL level. Svechkov can pass from the half-wall, sustain a cycle, and generate centre-lane drives on a consistent basis.

Svechkov currently has to take smart routes to maximize his skating, but as he ascends to the KHL, AHL, and NHL levels, he’s going to be facing players just as smart as him. Working on his explosiveness will give him a separation tool and might help him dictate more plays in the offensive zone. While it means a lot to me that he produced despite a standout physical tool, I think establishing himself as a shooting threat will add more deception to his game and make defenders question what he’s going to do — adding an extra layer that he can exploit with his smarts.

Data

We’ve got three data sources for Svechkov. Mitch Brown and Lassi Alanen tracked the U18s for EliteProspects and saw top-of-the-sample results with his playmaking, reliability in transition, and defensive involvement.

That kind of data, relative to Svechkov’s age group, is important because among men in the VHL, his shot differentials were... poor. Will Scouch pointed out that, if you just looked at the shot differentials, it might be easy to think he has limited offensive upside if you weren’t familiar with the gap in quality between the top and bottom VHL teams — Lada being in the latter. Scouch also noted that Svechkov was involved in 40% of his team’s transitions, indicating his tendency to enter the offensive zone with control before making a pass.

Dylan Griffing is my go-to source for tracking data on Russian prospects, and he has an incredible public database that you can explore. Of note is corroborating evidence of Svechkov’s ability in transition and how dangerous he is in terms of generating offence for his team through his passes.

Fit with Ottawa

Svechkov’s NHL projection is clear: he’ll surely make the show, at least as a 3C who can thrive on defensive minutes — a valuable trait — and potentially a 2C if the offence comes. The KHL’s crown jewel, SKA St. Petersburg, arranged for Svechkov’s transfer to the KHL after his standout performance at the U18s, and it’ll be fascinating to watch him advance yet another level next season.

I couldn’t find information on what his contract situation would be like, but Svechkov is the type of player who you could let stew in the second-best league in the world for a few seasons before bringing him straight into the NHL. If the Senators do stay the course with homegrown talent down the middle, having Norris as your top pivot with Pinto and Svechkov as your 2A/2B might not scream “skill” but could be a group that all shared a similar trait: they can all play against tough competition and thrive. It’s the kind of ‘playoff mentality’ that we hear Dorion and Mann spew on the regular.

Further reading, watching, and listening


Do you have a favourite of this trio? Barring a surprise, all three should be available around where the Senators are selecting at 10. Who would you pick?