With more than 50 (!) submissions to the mailbag, and a lack of Senators news expected over the next few weeks, I’ve decided to split my responses into separate blogs. Enjoy my first responses to your questions below!
Kaptaan asks: Do the Ottawa Senators have three players on roster or projected that can compare to the Canucks Calder Nominee trio of Boeser, Pettersson, and Hughes?
Boeser is a very good player, but – from my perspective, at least – he’s not even in the same conversation as Hughes and Pettersson. Finding a Pettersson or a Hughes is tremendously difficult. The best opportunity the Senators have to do that lies in this upcoming draft. Pettersson should be an MVP candidate, and Hughes is already among the most effective defenders in the league. The Senators have lots of players who can develop into a Boeser-comparable (in terms of value, not necessarily playing style) top line winger, but they don’t appear to have a Pettersson or a Hughes-caliber prospect sitting in Belleville or the Junior/College ranks.
Of course, with all that said, the crazy thing about player development is that these things aren't necessarily symmetrical. Senators prospects may not develop at the time time or speed as Vancouver's trio. Just because Logan Brown doesn’t look like a future MVP candidate right now doesn’t mean he won’t be one. Just because Erik Brannstrom struggled a bit in his first taste of NHL action doesn’t mean he can’t be the next Erik Karlsson for this franchise. There's a lot in the prospect system to be excited about, and that's before the 2020 picks are added.
EDIT: To clarify, this isn't meant to be a slight at Chabot or Brady Tkachuk. They're both fantastic, and I originally looked at this question from the "projected" angle vs. the already-on-roster angle. As I note in the comments section, I'd take Tkachuk over Boeser every day and twice on Sundays. And, while I still view Hughes as a step above basically every young defender in the league, there's nothing to suggest that Chabot can't be the elite number one guy on a competitive team.
HenryHockey asks: What do you expect the Sens will go for with their plethora of first and second round picks? Surely some of those will be traded for other players that are further along in their development, to help the rebuild move along quicker.
Shortcuts are bad. That’s been my motto since Day 1 here as the Senators blogger. Pierre Dorion has done such a great job of accumulating draft capital in the last year, which would make it really painful to see him spend it on a shortcut. That’s not to say that there aren’t some intriguing opportunities out there – e.g. Puljujarvi in Edmonton – but the team should be very careful about spending its picks away from the draft floor.
Dan asks: Could Ottawa potentially package the number five pick and put an offer together to grab someone like Jonathan Toews? Chicago could benefit from the cap space, Ottawa could use a leader.
I’ll go as far as saying that this would almost certainly be considered one of the worst trades in NHL history. There’s no upside in this move, or any move like it, from Ottawa’s perspective. Use the picks. Bring in the next generation of Senators. There are cheaper ways to get leadership in the room.
Steve D asks: Do you think Wolanin, Jaros, Lajoie, Brown, White, and even Brannstrom will finally reach it and becomes real good players for the Senators?
Yes. There’s going to be lots of opportunity, especially for players like Wolanin, Jaros, Lajoie, and Brannstrom, to earn permanent spots with this team in the near future. It may not be right away, but that opportunity is going to knock soon. Think about it: Outside of Chabot, nobody in the crop of young defenders has really been able to separate from the pack. There’s a chance to do that for each of these players, and their American Hockey League success suggests it’s a possibility.
Up front, I’m still fairly high on Logan Brown. It feels like we’ve been talking about him forever, but he only just turned 22 years old.
Sensational: After hearing that Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz are going to play one more year in their leagues, do you think the Sens refrain from picking either?
I would hope not. Take the best player available. It’s not as though the Senators are going to be contending for the Stanley Cup in 2020-21, so selecting a player based on his North American availability for that season seems shortsighted. If the best player is a year away, the team should be more than willing to wait.
Sensational asks: Will the Sens sign a UFA or trade for a starting goalie? Any talks of Lehner rumors?
The Lehner talk makes some sense to me, but cost considerations might prevent it from happening. If I were running the show, I’d take the opportunity over the next season or two to see what the young guys are capable of doing. Sign a veteran starter who can split true 1A/1B duties with someone like Marcus Hogberg, and reevaluate the need for long-term external goalie help in a year or two. There’s no rush to spend money in net for this team.
Furis asks: Is the Sens current D depth (current and prospect pool) good enough to take a second forward at 5th overall (assuming Drysdale is available)? I hear next year’s draft is deep at D, and you’d have to think that the team will land in the 10-15 range. Would this affect the decision on this year’s pick?
The Sens should take the best player available at five, regardless of position. It’s impossible to know what the future holds in terms of trade opportunities, injuries, surprise development stories, free agency, etc. The depth chart today shouldn’t be a massive consideration in drafting for the competitive team of tomorrow. I have also read that next year’s draft is deep with exceptionally strong defenders, which might eliminate some of the internal pressure that management could be feeling as you suggest.
Lic (nice try) asks: Would you prefer Byfield or Stutzle at number three? Byfield is overrated in my opinion.
Byfield, I think. As much as junior players who use their size to their advantage come with some measure of risk, every report on Byfield suggests that he’s special. He was the consensus number two during most of the season for a reason. There's no doubt that Stutzle is also going to be an impact prospect for any organization, but my gut says Byfield.
Brian asks: I am sure that you wrote about this before, but after Stutzle (Byfield will be gone), who would you pick between Rossi and Drysdale? Do you put someone ahead of Rossi?
I’d probably take Rossi over Drysdale, and would need to take a long look at Raymond as someone I might take over both of them.
Spatso asks: DeMelo is now playing on Winnipeg’s top defensive pairing. Winnipeg has a wicked cap management problem. Is DeMelo an option for Dorion? Is DeMelo the best partner for Chabot?
My record of supporting DeMelo as an almost perfect partner for Chabot is well documented, but the reality is that those days are likely over. The signing of Zub, combined with the need to start integrating other younger players in the system, probably means that a return for DeMelo is off the table.
Brock C. asks: What’s the gambling strategy for Round 1/Play In Round this year? Who are your picks? All underdogs?
I don’t gamble, but here are my picks:
Carolina def New York (Rangers)
Edmonton def Chicago
New York (Islanders) def Florida
Pittsburgh def Montreal
Calgary def Winnipeg
Arizona def Nashville
Toronto def Columbus
Vancouver def Minnesota
Thanks for all your submissions! More to come this weekend.