Welcome to the annual Silver Seven draft coverage! Over the next two weeks, Colin and Ary will dive into a bunch of prospects that the Ottawa Senators could potentially take at the 2019 NHL draft on June 21st & 22nd.
After a tumultuous season, the rebuilding Senators will be picking... 19th??? The 1st round pick traded for Matt Duchene in 2017 immediately backfired, and with the Sens opting to keep last year’s pick to draft Brady Tkachuk, they’ve given up this year’s fourth overall pick to the Colorado Avalanche.
Fortunately, they still have two high picks this year — the 19th overall pick acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets after flipping Duchene at the trade deadline, and the first pick in the 2nd round, 32nd overall, from finishing last in the NHL. They also own the 44th overall pick acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade, although in this series we’ll be looking specifically at potential targets for picks #19 & #32.
Today we begin with four forwards who we expect to be chosen around the range of pick #19. You’ll notice an “Expected Range” listed in the player bios — it’s calculated based on a list of 20 different public scouting lists.
Let’s jump right in!
Raphaël Lavoie (C/RW)
|15 - 26
A big, right-shot winger from the QMJHL, Raphaël Lavoie followed up his 32-goal regular season with another 20 in 23 playoff games as he led his Mooseheads all the way to the Memorial Cup Final. The last time a player scored more goals in a playoff run was Tampa Bay’s Adam Erne, who notched 21 goals in 22 games. Scoring boatloads of goals isn’t new for Lavoie, as he also racked up 30 in his first full season with Halifax and led Team Canada’s U18s with five goals in as many games, but it is a trait that makes him stand out compared to the other players we chose for this article.
Some Sens fans may want to make comparisons to Gabriel Gagné, another big, goal scoring winger from the Q that didn’t pan out. While they both have an NHL release, Lavoie’s skating is a big differentiator, and allows him to power his way to the net on occasion. Coupled with the ability to shoot from far, and you have a player who can score goals in multiple ways once he’s in the offensive zone. Lavoie also has a better all-around game than Gagné, with coach Eric Veilleux giving him time on the penalty kill and trusting his overall defence as a winger. There’s some concern that Lavoie could’ve produced more than his 1.18 points-per-game (ranked 19th), given the fact that he played on one of the league’s best teams, and his relative age; he only missed the cutoff date for the 2018 Draft by 10 days. While he turned it on in the playoffs, it left some wondering why it took so long for him to find that consistency, and some scouts question his overall decision-making in transition. He finished the regular season with solid production for a player of his calibre, ranked 21st among league forwards in primary points per game, 22nd in shots per game, and 15th in expected goals per game.
Having played with Filip Zadina last season, Lavoie was listed as a player with a top-ten ceiling heading into the draft. If his strong playoffs is an indicator of things to come, the team that drafts him may be able to get value relative to his eventual draft slot. Any organization could use more high-end talent in their top-six, and with the departure of Mark Stone, the Ottawa Senators could especially use a right winger to compliment Drake Batherson in their system.
Ryan Suzuki (C)
|17 - 26
We took a fair amount of flak for taking Bobby Brink over Ryan Suzuki in the SB Nation Mock draft. And although I still disagree, it’s no insult to Suzuki, who is a fantastic prospect in his own right.
Suzuki already has the name recognition, being the younger brother of famed Habs prospect Nick Suzuki. He’s also been a junior hockey star, selected 1st overall in the 2017 OHL draft, and leading a Barrie Colts roster that didn’t give him much in terms of support. His 75 points in 65 games was 25 more than the team’s second highest player. A year ago Suzuki was widely believed to be a top ten pick in this year’s draft, although with the emergence of a bunch of other players, he’s slowly trickled down the draft boards.
In terms of his playing style, Suzuki is one of the OHL’s premiere playmakers. He has the silky hands to get around defenders, and the vision to set up his teammates in the offensive zone. From Mitch Brown’s tracking data, Suzuki was in the OHL’s top 4% of players in terms of how much he sets up his teammates. It’s a skillset that’s very similar to current Sens prospect Logan Brown, with both playmaking centres also being very effective on the powerplay.
My concern with Suzuki is that his style can be a bit too one-dimensional. From Prospect-Stats.com, Suzuki generated 0.71 expected goals per 60 minutes last season, which ranked 137th amongst OHL forwards. He rarely shoots the puck for someone who controls it so often, and when he does, it’s usually further from the outside. His 16.5% shooting percentage is generally not out of the ordinary, although it’s nearly 5% higher than his expected rate. He has a good wrist shot, but not to type that you’d expect to score a bunch of extra goals.
His defensive play could also use some work, although that’s much less of a concern for a player of Suzuki’s age.
At pick #19, however, we can’t expect to be getting a prospect with the entire package. He’s a proven play-driver, and his passing ability and vision give him a high ceiling. Suzuki would be a welcome addition to the Sens’ already-deep pool of excellent centremen.
Jakob Pelletier (LW)
|19 - 33
The shortest player covered in today’s group, Jakob Pelletier is expected to go closer to the end of the of the first round, possibly even available at pick #32. But we were impressed enough with Pelletier that we think he’s someone really worth considering with the 19th pick.
Pelletier’s skillset is quite rare for a prospect not expected to go in the top ten — he plays a complete game. Offensively, he thinks like a playmaker, but also has a shot that helped him score 39 goals last year. He’s a “dirty areas” player who’s extremely resilient for his 5’9” frame. It led to an impressive scoring run with the Moncton Wildcats, as his 89 points in 65 games was the second most for a U18 player, behind only Alexis Lafrenière (projected #1 pick in 2020). This didn’t appear out of thin air either — he scored at over a point-per-game rate in 2017-18 as well.
His relentlessness carries over defensively as well, as he’s always one of the first players to the backcheck, and plays a consistent role on the penalty kill. Some scouts have pointed to his skating as a flaw, although I personally think it’s become pretty overstated. He can still be an explosive player, and combined with his quick hands and creative thinking, Pelletier has little trouble creating space for himself.
Pelletier’s most dangerous asset, however, is his incredible ability to get pucks close to the net. He ranked 3rd in the entire QMJHL in expected goals, driven largely by the quality of his chances. He still generates an above-average amount of shots, but if he doesn’t have the puck in tight, he’s probably trying to bring it there. If he can find ways to increase his shot volume even more, he’ll be an elite offensive threat.
While Pelletier may not have the overwhelming scoring numbers of someone like Brayden Point or Alex DeBrincat did in junior, Pelletier falls into the same bin as a player who will likely fall due to his size. Given that he can still play a physical game, and that being small in itself rarely anchors a player from making the NHL, Pelletier would be an excellent addition to the Sens’ crop of young forwards.
Philip Tomasino (C)
|17 - 30
If the Sens wanted a centre who could keep up with Alex Formenton, Philip Tomasino may be their guy. After putting up a modest 24 points over 61 games in his rookie season, Tomasino grew into a bigger role for the Central Division champion Niagara IceDogs. His final statline reads 34G, 38A for 72P in 67GP, 7 points in 11 playoff games, and 5 points in 6 games for a weak Canadian U18 squad.
While Formenton aims to use his speed to get into scoring areas to unleash his shot, Tomasino is more of a creator, with the ability to handle the puck in tight spaces and feed his teammates for high quality opportunities. On a per-game basis, his counting numbers are a bit weaker than the other forwards we’re profiling, as he ranked 44th in primary points, 54th in shots, 47th in primary assists, and 63rd in expected goals. However, as a July 2001 birthday, Tomasino is one of the younger top prospects in this draft class, and that he was trusted with important offensive minutes on the IceDogs says something about his ceiling. Mitch Brown tracked games of 544 players manually, and Tomasino’s performance stands out at the top in most metrics, alluding to his well balanced game. He’s engaged defensively, and is continuously chasing after his opponents with his feet. Adding strength will help him protect the puck better, drive the net, and win battles along the boards -- all important for a centre at the pro level -- but the tools are there for him to be an impact player at the NHL level.
While Tomasino split time between centre and wing this season due to Ben Jones, Akil Thomas and Jack Studnicka’s presence, all three are turning pro next season, and Tomasino may suddenly become the IceDogs’ first-line pivot. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to the added pressure and lack of skilled teammates, as outside of Swiss forward Kyen Sopa, there’s a lack of notable names on the roster for 2019-20.
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