The Ottawa Senators and NHL draft success

Taking a cue from The Copper & Blue and Bird Watchers Anonymous, I decided to take a look at the Ottawa Senators historical drafting successes. I'm broken down the period from 1999 to 2006, choosing that start date to shrink the overall data pool and that end date to give the drafted players a reasonable amount of time to get to the NHL.

Be warned: Most of the following draft picks didn't pan out. And many of those who did turn into NHL players are no longer in the Ottawa Senators system--usually lost without receiving fair value back. So without further ado, a round-by-round breakdown of the Senators' drafting success:

Round one:

Year Rd No Player NHL GP
1999 1 26 Martin Havlat 543
2000 1 21 Anton Volchenkov 428
2001 1 2 Jason Spezza 464
2001 1 23 Tim Gleason 393
2002 1 16 Jakub Klepis 66
2003 1 29 Patrick Eaves 307
2004 1 23 Andrej Meszaros 379
2005 1 9 Brian Lee 82
2006 1 28 Nick Foligno 187

Over the period we're looking at, the first round was a terrifically strong one for the Senators. Despite a relatively low average draft position (about 20 overall, on average), the players selected have, on average, played 316.6 career NHL regular-season games. Eight of nine players remain in the NHL, with only Klepis left out.

Round two:

Year Rd No Player NHL GP
1999 2 48 Simon Lajeunesse 1
1999 2 62 Teemu Sainomaa 0
2000 2 55 Antoine Vermette 458
2002 2 47 Alexei Kaigorodov 6
2003 2 67 Igor Mirnov 0
2004 2 58 Kirill Lyamin 0

Eek... as good as the Senators' first-round picks were in this period, the second-round picks were at least as bad. Ottawa only had six second-round picks over the course of the eight-year period, with most others being traded in deadline deals, and only one player has suited up for more than six NHL games. The fact that half of the picks have not even had a sniff in the NHL is awful. Five of the six have played a combined seven NHL games. When looking at the Senators' desperately lacking farm system of the past few seasons, one may not need to look far beyond the terrible second-round drafting record.

Round three:

Year Rd No Player NHL GP
1999 3 94 Chris Kelly 406
2000 3 87 Jan Bohac 0
2001 3 81 Neil Komadoski 0
2002 3 75 Arttu Luttinen 0
2003 3 100 Phillipe Seydoux 0
2004 3 77 Shawn Weller 0
2004 3 87 Peter Regin 86
2004 3 89 Jeff Glass 0
2005 3 70 Vitali Anikeyenko 0
2006 3 68 Eric Gryba 0
2006 3 91 Kaspars Daugavins 1

Again, awful drafting. Kelly has become a very good bottom-six NHL forward, while Regin sure looks like a solid top-six forward. But eight of 11 players selected in the third round haven't played a single NHL game, and the tenth has one. While Gryba and Daugavins are contributing to the AHL's Binghamton Senators and may still become NHL players, it's pretty clear to see why the B-Sens struggled so mightily from 2005 until some signs of improvement this year.

Round four:

Year Rd No Player NHL GP
2000 4 122 Derrick Byfuglien 0
2001 4 99 Ray Emery 163
2001 4 127 Christoph Schubert 315
2002 4 113 Scott Dobben 0
2002 4 125 Johan Bjork 0
2003 4 135 Mattias Karlsson 0
2004 4 122 Alexander Nikulin 3
2005 4 95 Cody Bass 33
2005 4 98 Ilya Zubov 11
2005 4 115 Janne Kolehmainen 0
2006 4 121 Pierre-Luc Lessard 0

The presence of Emery and Schubert make this list somewhat impressive, but 2001 was an anomaly in what has been a pretty forgettable round for the Senators. Mattias Karlsson looked like he might have been NHL-ready before he went back to Sweden, Zubov would have spent some time in Ottawa if he hadn't gone back to Russia, and Bass might still make Ottawa this season; still, it's pretty bad aside from 2001.

The later rounds:

Year Rd No Player NHL GP
2000 5 156 Greg Zanon 311
2004 5 156 Roman Wick 0
2001 6 193 Brooks Laich 393
1999 7 213 Alexandre Giroux 31
2001 7 223 Brandon Bochenski 156
2003 9 291 Brian Elliott 87

Since there are so few players who actually plan out from the fifth round onwards, I've highlighted the most notable selections in the window. You'll note current Senators goaltender Brian Elliott on the list, despite the fact that at 291st overall, he is the latest Ottawa Senators draft pick ever, in the history of the franchise. Wick is the only other guy on the list still with the Senators organization, and he is expected to come to North America to join the team this season. Zanon has joined the Minnesota Wild, Laich the Washington Capitals, and Bochenski most recently played for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Giroux is an interesting case: He's put up pretty huge numbers in the AHL (545P in 575GP), but just hasn't had the juice to make it work in the NHL.

Conclusion: The Senators' firs-round picks were really strong, and they drafted some pretty good supporting players in the later rounds (even if some of those players had their greatest success outside of Ottawa). The problems with making second-, third-, and fourth-round draft picks work out has come back to bite the Senators significantly, and can at least partially explain the team's struggles in 2008 and 2009. They also almost certainly help explain the recent struggles of the Binghamton Senators.

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