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Meet the Ottawa Senators’ 2021 Draft Class

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Learn about the six newest members of the Senators organization

2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Physical, mobile, and long-term upside. As I reviewed information on the Ottawa Senators’ selections from the 2021 NHL Draft, those are the themes that stood out.

I have a lot of respect for the work of scouts. It’s often a thankless job with a ridiculous day-to-day grind and very few immediate rewards, if any. The last few years have been an exception to the latter in Ottawa, as the ‘rebuild’ amplified the importance of the organization’s amateur scouts and multiple top-five picks, including Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stützle, jumped straight into the NHL. Usually, though, questioning how we feel about the players picked is the norm, and the Senators returned to that in 2021. I don’t know about you, but it was nice to not have to worry as much about this year’s draft class in the same way, with extra stress surrounding whether the team will make the right pick or not. I am one of those fans who want the team to maximize every asset — this draft class is no different — but I can’t say that I subjectively felt the same sense of pressure that I did last year.

To me, what that means is that the Senators have taken a step in their rebuild, and they’ve turned their attention to finding missing pieces to compliment the Tkachuk and Stützle’s of the world. With the players below, you’ll see numerous physical, puck retrieving wingers and rangy, mobile defencemen with size, which could indicate what Trent Mann and co. think are the weaknesses currently in the organization.

Importantly, all of these players are at least, in my view, two or more seasons away from impacting the Senators at a pro level. Tyler Boucher will likely turn pro in the spring of 2023 after his second year with the Boston University Terriers; Ostapchuk and Latimer will play out their WHL careers; ditto with Roger and Romeo in the OHL; and Johansson, as the team’s youngest prospect, will take his time at the U20 and SHL levels with Timrå.

With only 10 non-NHL/AHL prospects in the system before this weekend, the Senators have restocked the cupboards as they look towards the future. Let’s meet this year’s draft class.


Tyler Boucher

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
LW USNTDP USHL 6'1" 205 lbs 01/15/2003

Background

Widely regarded as the most physical player in the draft class, Tyler Boucher appeared just as shocked as Senators fans when his name was called at 10th overall. It’s clear that despite where he was ranked on many public lists, the Ottawa Senators thought that he’d be gone in the top-20 but didn’t know where, and they didn’t want to miss out. In return, they’re hoping that Boucher can be that puck retrieving presence on the right-side that will help them win playoff games for years to come.

Boucher played his 15-year-old season in the U.S. prep school circuit in Avon, Connecticut. He was recruited by the U.S. National Team Development Program and joined their facilities in Ann Arbor, Michigan the following season where he billeted with Chris Osgood’s family. He spent much of the year with the U17 team, scoring a modest 26 points in 43 games to rank sixth among 2021-eligible players in team scoring, and was a teammate of Jake Sanderson’s in the USHL for 24 games, where his production ranked him eighth in the same metric. Internationally, Boucher suited up for the U.S. at the World U17s, scoring four points in seven games in a depth role for the Silver medal-winning Americans.

This past season, Boucher only suited up for 19 games across the USHL (5), U17 team (2), and U18 team (12) due to injuries and illness. He had two knee injuries that resulted in a torn meniscus and MCL, and also had bouts with pneumonia and COVID-19. When he was playing, his points-per-game rate ranked at a similar rate as compared to his peers — sixth-best despite the lost development time.

Scouting Report

It’s clear that the Senators see more to Boucher than just his physicality. They see a forward who showcases pro habits and a balanced toolkit that’s enabled by his physical play. He knows the type of player he is, and works hard to execute his gameplan every night.

Boucher is capable with the puck, scoring many of his six goals this season with the U18 team in and around the net. He’s able to get to there himself with some decent quickness and has NHL-ready off-puck movement, nimbly utilizing his body in space to free himself up for a high-danger pass or a rebound. Sens fans know this profile well because they see it every night with Brady Tkachuk.

Boucher’s 6-foot-1 frame isn’t anything to scoff at, but he clearly used his time recovering from his knee injuries to add pro strength. While he’s capable of unleashing open ice hits, what I love about Boucher’s physicality is that, like Tkachuk’s, it’s usually smart and intentional — separating player-from-puck on the forecheck, aggressively attacking an opposing player on a backcheck, disrupting play along the boards, or going through players on his way to the net. He’s able to quickly get his wrist shot off, and shows signs of a more advanced shot through stick placement and angle changes.

Boucher needs to work on two things: 1) generating more power in his skating stride to allow him to separate from players easier and become that menace on the forecheck that he wants to be; and 2) continue his skill development with the puck, especially as a puck distributor. The skating piece is self-explanatory. If Boucher can accelerate faster, he can utilize his physical play to become the primary puck retriever on a top-six line with skill, akin to the Zach Hyman role to play alongside Tim Stützle. It’ll also help with his in-zone movement to help him beat opposing defenders to the slot to deposit passes or rebounds into the net, and assist him as a transition player on the rush.

His distribution with the puck is the bigger issue. When I watch his highlights, especially in the shift-by-shift video linked below, you can see him displaying the same rush pattern over and over, often having issues with his initial touch of the puck. Learning to manipulate opposing defenders by cutting laterally into space or changing pace can add an extra element that could allow him to surprise the opposition, distribute the puck, and then charge to the net to play within his strengths.

Next steps

Boucher follows in Tkachuk’s footsteps as he heads to the Boston University Terriers. Given the missed development time this year, expect him to spend at least two seasons in the NCAA before turning pro at the end of the 2022-23 season. Like Shane Pinto, I expect him to be physically ready for the NHL game right after his collegiate career; I’m sure the Senators are hoping that he can showcase the skill development that Pinto did to help him step right into a tailor-made role in the team’s top-nine.

Further reading, watching, and listening:


Zack Ostapchuk

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
C/LW Vancouver Giants WHL 6'3" 198 lbs 05/29/2003

Background

Selected 12th overall in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, Ostapchuk projects as a power forward whose versatility as a checker and as a scorer could make him a high-value piece.

A natural centre who has mainly played at the left wing position in his two seasons with the Giants, Ostapchuk had a disappointing eight points and 53 shots in 44 games as a rookie, and missed the final 18 games of the season with a knee injury that required surgery.

The decision to have surgery was a blessing in disguise, as Ostapchuk ended up with an extra six months of recovery time before his 2021 season started in the B.C. Division bubble at the end of March — starting the season with extra strength and the confidence to use his 6-foot-3 frame. The result? 16 points and 56 shots in 22 games while playing a top-six role and on the first powerplay. Using data from Pick224, Ostapchuk finished sixth among WHL forwards in even-strength primary points-per-game.

In an interview with Steve Ewen in The Province, Giants GM Barclay Parneta commented that, given the calls he’s getting and the information he’s hearing from opposing GMs, he thought Ostapchuk could be drafted in the second-round despite being ranked in the third-round by most public lists.

“To me, he’s an NHL player all day. Whether he’s a top-six forward or a top-nine forward I’m not sure. But with his ability to skate and drive the puck to the net, he’s going to find a spot there.” [...] “I think Ostapchuk could be like that. I think teams will say that they like him as a third rounder but they know other teams like him, too, so they may have to take him in the second,” Parneta explained. Ostapchuk has talked to 25 NHL teams so far and Parneta has been told that Ostapchuk is impressing in those conversations.

Scouting Report

A player with size, speed, and puck protection ability, Ostapchuk has all of the tools to play with power and be a reliable puck carrier in all three zones. Joel Henderson, a WHL scout for FCHockey, notes that “Zack does all of the hard things well and all of the easy things not at all” — a fascinating insight into the potential of Ostapchuk if he’s able to rid himself of some of the inefficiencies he plays with right now.

Ostapchuk’s top speed in open ice jumps out at you, especially given his size, because you can see him regularly bulldoze his way through the opposition on the rush. That skill, in and of itself, isn’t particularly projectable because NHL players are likely going to be just as strong and as fast as Ostapchuk, so what really makes him intriguing is the ability he displayed this season to react quickly to defensive schemes on the rush and utilize both his hands and his feet to beat defenders. He can be creative with his hands to protect the puck, distribute it, and to score backhand shelf. That offensive gear is what made Ostapchuk a second-round pick and could diversify his destiny from being just an aggressive, physical checking line player.

Most reports that I read on Ostapchuk cite three main areas of improvement. First, as an offensive player, Ostapchuk needs to work on his in-zone offensive game to become a threat in the slot through his off-puck reads, improving his ability to bring pucks off the wall and to the middle of the ice, and utilizing his body positioning to create opportunities for his shot. Relatedly, while he showcases strong straight-line speed, he needs to work on his edgework to allow him to be agile and escape pressure with the puck. That could also help diversify his rush patterns from making everything a straight line contest. Finally, he could be more efficient with his energy. Ostapchuk plays with a ton of aggression — an awesome trait when he has a projectable knack to bring the puck to the net — but can also tire him out. Learning to read the play defensively means that he won’t have to charge at the opposition every time to initiate contact, and instead, utilize his reach to become a threat on turnovers.

Next steps

All-in-all, Ostapchuk is a high-upside pick. A May birthdate and the missed development time due to injury means that there’s a fair amount of rawness to his game, which results in both flashes of brilliance and inefficient play. If the Senators are able to maximize his ability has a puck handler and distributor, Ostapchuk could be a strong middle-six player.

Next season, the Vancouver Giants’ are seeing key forwards graduate, leaving a ton of room for Ostapchuk and Florida 2020 third-rounder Justin Sourdif. Expect the two to play together on the Giants’ top-line, either with Ostapchuk lining up at left-wing, or potentially taking his natural centre-ice position.

Further reading, watching, and listening:


Ben Roger

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
RD London Knights OHL 6'4" 201 lbs 11/03/2002

You’ll notice by the length of this profile that there’s little information about Roger, commonplace for a late-round pick, but not one drafted in the second-round. Little public information is the name of the game for OHL players this year and Roger is no exception, having not played a league game this season.

Born in Brighton, Roger played his minor league hockey for the OJHL’s Wellington Dukes before being drafted 74th overall by the London Knights in the 2018 OHL Draft. He played in 35 games in his rookie season, recording six points with a 6-foot-1, 165 pound frame.

Now? Roger stands at 6-foot-4 and 201 pounds, having trained this past offseason with Belleville Senators staffer Jeremy Benoit to add muscle and keep his mobility. Roger was one of the many North American-based players who played games in June at the organized PBHH Invitational, where he had four points in nine games.

Here’s what Trent Mann had to say about Roger when interviewed by Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch:

“They didn’t have a season in the OHL, but there’s a ton of upside there. He’s got high-end athleticism in him as well. He’s a big kid that gets around the ice extremely well and he can move the puck up the ice. He’s a no-nonsense, no-muss and no-fuss type of player that’s going to be able to move the puck for us.”

Next steps

In short: the Senators had intel on him, and believe that he can be a smooth-skating development project with puck-moving ability. The Senators are comfortable with the London Knights development program, and Roger should be receiving top-four minutes next season on an inexperienced defence corps.

Further reading, watching, and listening:


Oliver Johansson

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
C Timra IK Allsvenskan 6'0" 183 lbs 07/26/2003

The tenth Swedish player selected in the 2021 NHL Draft, Oliver Johansson is the youngest player selected by the Senators.

A natural centre who mainly played wing this season, Johansson displayed his two-way hockey sense, strong skating ability, and creative playmaking tendencies in 22 games across three teams this past year.

He started the season with Timrå’s U18 team, playing all seven games he could before the league shut down due to COVID-19 concerns. He finished second in team scoring with four goals and nine points. He went over to Timrå’s U20 squad to feature in three games until that league went on pause, scoring a goal, before spending the rest of the season with Timrå’s men’s squad in the second-tier Allsvenskan. He made his debut in February, but really broke out in the final two games of the season when he got to replace former Sens prospect and local star Jonathan Dahlén on Timrå’s top-line as he was resting for the playoffs. Johansson scored three goals in two games.

He finished the regular season with three points and nine shots across 10:08 of ice-time in five games. Seven of Johansson’s 22 games this season came during Timrå’s successful promotion run in the playoffs, where he contributed two shots across an average of 3:49 per game. While that doesn’t stand out, the fact that a 17-year-old was trusted with ice-time in Timrå’s most important games of the year is a positive sign for his development.

Next steps

Ranked 99th by @Scouching, 152nd by @mckeenshockey, and 286th by @FCHockey, EliteProspects’ contributor Jimmy Hamrin noted that there was more interest in Johansson than you might expect, which potentially explains the Senators selecting him with a third-round pick. Next season, expect Johansson to spend much of the season with Timrå’s U20 team in the J20 Nationell and potentially feature in a few SHL games as Viktor Lodin’s teammate in limited minutes.


Carson Latimer

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
RW Edmonton Oil Kings WHL 6'1" 185 lbs 01/10/2003

The Port Moody community in British Columbia is thrilled with the 2021 class. After Kent Johnson went fifth overall to Columbus, they watched the Senators trade up to draft Carson Latimer, who became the first Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) rostered player to be drafted to the NHL in the same year.

Drafted in the third-round of the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, Latimer played out of the CSSHL for much of the 2019-20 season. A big game player who featured for Team BC in the 2019 Canada Winter Games, Latimer scored his first WHL goal on his first shift as he managed to get into six games for a deep Edmonton Oil Kings squad. When the pandemic hit, Latimer had to find another place to play, so he chose the local Port Moody Panthers in the Junior B PJHL. Latimer played eight games, recording 11 assists and 12 points to lead all rookies in scoring and finish sixth league-wide before it to shut down due to COVID-19.

The games helped Latimer get into game mode for the WHL’s Central Division bubble in March, where he impressed in a bottom-six role and eventually saw his ice-time elevated at even-strength and special teams when top forward Dylan Guenther was away at the U18s. Latimer ended up scoring 16 points (5G, 11A) in 22 games — finishing first in rookie scoring in the weaker Central Division and earning Rookie of the Year honours.

Ranked 116th by The Athletic’s Corey Pronman and 174th by McKeen’s, here’s what Senators western Canada scout George Fargher had to say about Latimer to Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch:

“Carson’s a really good skater, he’s good speed and good agility with a good stick. He’s a very solid two-way player who works hard and competes. He’s just a really good up and down player.”

A fleet-footed winger who thrives on the retrieval, Latimer showcases strong off-puck details that he utilizes to be an in-zone option offensively, and a reliable defensive option. He’s got a quick shot and a good motor, but mainly utilizes his speed in straight-lines for a dump-and-chase style game as opposed to being a creative player in transition. Part of that is coaching, as Latimer is clearly relied on to be the F1 into the zone, but I hope to see an improvement here next season if he wants to be more than a fourth-line player. With a strong ability to sweet talk fans, I hope Latimer succeeds.

Further reading, watching, and listening:


Chandler Romeo

Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
Pos Team League Height Weight Date of Birth
LD Hamilton Bulldogs OHL 6'5" 205 lbs 07/16/2003

Move over, Angus Crookshank. You’ve got competition for the best name among Senators prospects.

The 49th overall pick in the 2019 OHL Draft out of the GTHL, Chandler Romeo hasn’t had a chance to suit up for the Hamilton Bulldogs yet. He spent the 2019-20 season in Brantford split between the Junior B GOJHL (44GP: 9G, 12A) and the Junior A OJHL (10GP: 3G, 2A) but couldn’t arrange ice-time this season. He skated with different teams, including the CCHL’s Ottawa Junior Senators, before playing 10 games at the PBHH Invitational, recording four points and 15 penalty minutes.

Romeo’s game is all about his potential as a two-way player. He’s confident with the puck, and mobile defenders with his size have been a favourite of the Senators scouting staff, as you can hear from Ontario-based scout Don Boyd in his interview with Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch:

“The obvious is he has the size to play in the NHL. He has a great wing span, and his skating is good for his size, he moves the puck and he’s a first-pass, two-zone defenceman that can be physical. His skating is something with that size that makes him a viable option in the future.”

Romeo set to play second-pair minutes on the left-side of Hamilton’s blueline, behind second-rounder Artyom Grushnikov, this upcoming season.

Further reading, watching, and listening: