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An opportunity to trade down?

Every draft preview I’ve read seems to imply that between pick #7 and as low as #16 or even #22, you’re going to get a similar calibre player. It also looks like it could be a fairly deep draft, especially if you’re looking for more complimentary pieces rather than true top-end talent.

In light of these, perhaps Ottawa’s best move for this year’s draft is to trade down, even a few slots, and try to get at least one more pick in the top three rounds.

For example, maybe Carolina, drafting at #13, has their heart set on Tyson Jost (I’m just making this up to make a point, so don’t take this as a bona fide rumour). What might it be worth to the Hurricanes to make sure, if he’s still around when Ottawa picks, to move up that one slot to make sure they get the player they want. They have a bunch of extra picks in this draft. A third round pick? A second rounder? Anything Ottawa can get in that situation is worth making the trade, even if it’s a seventh rounder (though, in that case, I’d question Dorion’s negotiating skills).

(And, by the way, I kind of have my heart set on Tyson Jost, so I’m actually hoping that this exact scenario isn’t the one that plays out.)

It doesn’t have to be just the first round in which Dorion leverages one pick for two or more. Ottawa has one pick in each of the first and second rounds and two in the third. It could take some clever negotiations, but there’s no reason those four picks couldn’t be turned into five or six within the top 100 selections. That would greatly enhance Ottawa’s prospect depth. They likely wouldn’t get much in the way of elite talent, but they won’t if they stand pat, either. Plus, this way, the team gets more lottery tickets in the sweepstakes that is drafting future NHL players.

The team will have a cluster of players in Binghamton (though most of them played in the NHL at some point this year) who likely top out as bottom six forwards or bottom pairing defensemen. The most likely future for at least a few of these players is one filled with AHL games broken up by the occasional call up to sub for injury.

The draft is an opportunity to dream even just a little bigger. Maybe, with a pick acquired through maneuvering outlined above, Ottawa finds another player like J.G. Pageau or maybe possession driving defenseman to eventually bump Borowiecki or Wideman from the lineup. An NHL team needs players in these positions as much as the top six or top pairing.

The “All-Trade” Mock Draft

Everyone and their brother is publishing mock drafts this week in advance of the NHL festivities occurring on Friday night and Saturday. I, too, would like to get in on the action. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that almost no one is willing to guess what teams might trade up or down or into or out of the first round. Sure, lots of folks have been predicting such trades, but few combine that with a mock draft.

So, here is my mock draft complete with all the trades I think could be possible in the first round. Do I think all of these trades will happen? Of course not. But, in isolation, I can see the teams involved making each suggested move. Well, maybe not every one.

  1. Auston Matthews (C) – Arizona Coyotes
    Trade with Maple Leafs for Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, 2016 #4 (from Oilers), 2016 #20, 2016 #53. Yes, really.
  2. Patrick Laine (LW) – Winnipeg Jets
    Because if there’s a pick in the draft that has literally no chance of being traded, this one is it.
  3. Jesse Puljujarvi (RW) – Carolina Hurricanes
    Trade with Blue Jackets for Nicolas Roy, 2016 #6, 2016 #43. ‘Canes figure they can part with their 2015 first round pick if it means getting a talent who can step right into the NHL. Pretty much all of hockey Twitter agrees.
  4. Matthew Tkachuk (LW) – Toronto Maple Leafs
    See #1 and #7. Toronto will now have all three members of the London Knights best line in the 2016 Memorial Cup, plus Dylan Strome as their #1 centre of the future. And, Lou Lamoriello is just getting started.
  5. Pierre-Luc Dubois (C) – Montreal Canadiens
    Trade with Canucks for Lars Eller and 2016 #9 because Jim Benning is good at drafting, but very bad at trading and should just stop doing the latter.
  6. Logan Brown (C) – Columbus Blue Jackets
    See #3. Carolina acquires this pick from Calgary for Valentin Zykov, 2016 #13, 2016 #21 thereby demonstrating that Ron Francis might be diabolical in his ability to plan ahead. Flames still don’t have any goalies.
  7. Mikhail Sergachev (D) – Edmonton Oilers
    Trade with Coyotes for 2016 #4. Also receive Ryan MacInnis, Kyle Wood, 2016 #68, 2017 2nd-round. Chiarelli ends up with two defense prospects, a forward prospect, an extra 3rd this year and an extra 2nd next. Arizona ends up with Matthews and an otherwise empty cupboard.
  8. Alex Nylander (LW) – New Jersey Devils
    Trade with Sabres for Jon Merrill, 2016 #11, 2016 #73. In the first of Tim Murray’s moves, he turns this pick into the left-shot defenseman he covets, replaces the pick, and adds another.
  9. Olli Juolevi (D) – Colorado Avalanche
    Trade with Vancouver Canucks for Tyson Barrie and 2016 #10. Also get Luca Sbisa and Alex Burrows. Joe Sakic might be worse at trading than Jim Benning.
  10. Clayton Keller (C) – Vancouver Canucks
    See #9. Like I said, Benning is good at drafting.
  11. Jacob Chychrun (D) – Boston Bruins
    Trade with Sabres for Alexander Khokhlachev, 2016 #14, 2017 3rd-round. Tim Murray continues his pocket picking – adds another scoring forward, replaces the pick, and adds another.
  12. Tyson Jost (C) – Calgary Flames
    Trade with Red Wings for Tyler Wotherspoon and 2016 #13. Flames decide they can’t risk losing out on Jost. Ken Holland doesn’t bother to tell Treliving he wasn’t going to take him anyway. Flames still don’t have any goalies.
  13. Jake Bean (D) – Detroit Red Wings
    Trade with Senators (for #12) for Teemu Pulkkinen, Ryan Sproul, rights to Pavel Datysuk, 2016 #16, 2016 #107, 2016 #167. Also receive Alex Chiasson and 2016 #163. The weirdest trade of the day lets both GMs, Dorion and Holland, say they got good value and they both might actually mean it.
  14. Keiffer Bellows (C) – Pittsburgh Penguins
    Trade with Sabres for Marc-Andre Fleury, 2016 #55, 2016 #61. Also receive Robin Lehner. Murray flips his enigmatic starter for a solid, established one while Pittsburgh buys cap flexibility without asking Matt Murray to play next season without a safety net. Treliving is heard swearing loudly from elsewhere on the draft floor.
  15. Michael McLeod (C) – Anaheim Ducks
    Trade with Wild for 2016 #24 and 2016 #30. Anaheim use their two first rounders to move up, just because they can.
  16. Dante Fabbro (D) – Nashville Predators
    Trade with Ottawa for 2016 #17 and 2016 #78. The Predators love their defensemen and decide they can’t risk Ottawa taking Fabbro from them. Pierre Dorion doesn’t bother to tell Nashville’s David Poile he wasn’t going to anyway.
  17. Julien Gauthier (RW) – Ottawa Senators
    See #12 and #16. We in the Senators fanbase hope that a new day is dawning in Ottawa’s front office. Turns out, though, that the brain trust still isn’t able to resist a hulking forward with “intangibles”.
  18. Max Jones (LW) – Philadelphia Flyers
    This situation works out too perfectly as the almost quintessential Flyers forward falls into the teams lap, so the Flyers stay put at #18. Somewhere, Ed Snider smiles.
  19. Logan Stanley (D) – Montreal Canadiens
    Trade with Islanders for Greg Pateryn, 2016 #35, 2016 #45. Someone suggested that Garth Snow won’t be able to just make his pick and then sit on his hands until Round 4. Meanwhile, Montreal looks to get value for a defenseman they could otherwise lose in the expansion draft. Marc Bergevin is once again considered a god in the Montreal media.
  20. Charlie McAvoy (D) – Toronto Maple Leafs
    See #1 and #7. The Leafs really need a right-shot defenseman and they get one here. Plus, you didn’t think that Toronto would be happy with just one pick in the first round, did you? Just wait. Trader Lou isn’t done.
  21. Luke Kunin (C) – Minnesota Wild
    See #15. Trade with Flames for Gustav Olofsson and 2016 #24. Wild get the strong centre they covet with a minimal sacrifice from their depth of young defensemen. Flames still don’t have any goalies.
  22. Pascal Laberge (C) – Tampa Bay Lightning
    Trade with Winnipeg for Dominik Masin and 2016 #27. Lightning trade up to get a centre prospect to replace Stamkos. Sort of. They hope. Maybe one day.
  23. German Rubtsov (C) – Florida Panthers
    Florida has no reason to trade up or down, so they use their new analytical model to take a flyer on the biggest question mark in the draft.
  24. Boris Katchouk (LW) – Calgary Flames
    See #21. Flames get a “meat and potatoes” winger to complement their strong two-way centre. They also still don’t have any goalies.
  25. Kale Clague (D) – Winnipeg Jets
    Trade with Stars for 2016 #27 and 2016 #36. Winnipeg continues to collect prospects like pogs.
  26. Filip Gustafsson (G) – Toronto Maple Leafs
    Trade with Capitals for 2016 #31, 2016 #57, 2016 #72. Toronto completes the draft day hat trick by getting the top goalie on the board. Treliving is heard swearing loudly from elsewhere on the draft floor.
  27. Riley Tufte (LW) – Minnesota Wild
    Trade with Stars for Jared Spurgeon and 2016 #30. Why on Earth would Dallas want Jared Spurgeon?
  28. Tage Thompson (RW) – Philadelphia Flyers
    Trade with Blues for Philippe Myers, 2016 #48 and 2016 #52. Blues hope Myers becomes the second coming of Barrett Jackman in a few years. Philadelphia continues to draft big tough forwards. Somewhere, Ed Snider smiles.
  29. Alex DeBrincat (RW) – Dallas Stars
    Trade with Bruins for Jared Spurgeon and 2016 #30. Also get 2016 #49. And, now you know why.
  30. Rasmus Asplund (C) – Boston Bruins
    See #29.

There you have it. In my mock draft, 27 of the 30 first round picks change hands, the best player the Senators get is 39 and plays in the KHL, and the Flames still don’t have any goalies.

Why I’m still high on Matt O’Connor (and why Ottawa doesn’t need to draft a goalie in 2016)

Ottawa has been burned many times by U.S. college free agents. Arguably, the only truly successful (thus far) prospect Ottawa has acquired from this pipeline is current backup goalie, Andrew Hammond. The best of the rest signed by the team include such luminaries as Bobby Butler, Jesse Winchester, Cole Schneider and current prospect Buddy Robinson. While all have suited up at the NHL level, none would be considered an impact player. And these are relative success stories! There have been many signings that never panned out at all.

So, with this in mind, it’s understandable why Senators fans might be quick to dismiss a former NCAA free agent when things don’t seem to be going so well. Such, I feel, is the case with Matt O’Connor.

As we all know, O’Connor was the top prize of the 2015 NCAA free agent class. He is an intelligent player who experienced significant success at that level. Signed at 23 years old, he was more mature than a junior-aged prospect and, many thought, much closer to competing at the NHL level. And, sure enough, things looked great in Ottawa’s prospect and training camps – so much so that, when Hammond went down with an injury in camp, O’Connor was tapped (now infamously) with the start in Ottawa’s home opener. The Senators lost that game, but only by a score of 3-1 and O’Connor actually played quite well. Really, it’s only owner Eugene Melnyk’s comments with respect to the “stupidity” behind the decision on the part of former coach, Dave Cameron, to start O’Connor in that game that has tainted our memory of it.

From that game, O’Connor was assigned to a, frankly, atrocious Binghamton squad for seasoning. Finishing out of the playoffs for the second straight year and with a team total 241 goals against, defence was not that team’s strong suit. Arguably, neither was offence nor special teams, for that matter. Thus, while O’Connor did not acquit himself to the level we’d all hoped, perhaps there was good reason for that.

After all, until Hammond proved himself a capable goaltender behind Ottawa’s (itself less than stellar) NHL-calibre defence, he was a fair-to-poor goalie prospect for the team, going by his statistics in Binghamton. What turned Hammond’s game around, according to Hammond himself, was having regular access to goalie coach Rick Wamsley. Another of Ottawa’s prospect goalies, Chris Driedger, similarly credited Wamsley with guiding his own improvement.

(All of this said, there is legitimate argument that Wamsley wasn’t the wizard he might have been sold as.)

O’Connor suggested that working with Wamsley was at least part of the reason for signing with Ottawa. That he, perhaps, did not get the attention he expected might have contributed to his struggles. O’Connor floundered in Binghamton until December, when Wamsley paid a visit and worked with the prospect. That still left more than two months in which O’Connor was left to figure things out for himself. Once O’Connor got some instruction, he seemed to start to turn things around.

The point of reminding us of all this history is to argue that maybe Ottawa doesn’t need to use one of its draft picks on a goaltender this year. As Trevor Shackles points out in his article, the Senators have needs at every position. Perhaps a better use of Ottawa’s picks would be to address those other needs and wait and see on O’Connor.

Besides, it’s not as though the Senators don’t have other goalie prospects in their system. There is the aforementioned Driedger, who played reasonably well behind the same terrible Binghamton team – well enough to earn a call up to the Senators when Hammond sustained a second injury during the season. There is also Marcus Högberg, who has been identified as a promising goaltender and plays in Sweden’s top professional league. Finally, the Senators took Joey Daccord in last year’s draft with their 7th round selection. Daccord isn’t considered a particularly likely prospect to hit, but neither would be any goaltender that Ottawa took later than the second or third round in this year’s draft, either.

To write off Matt O’Connor after one rough season isn’t fair to him or the process behind grooming NHL goaltenders, who frequently do not establish themselves until age 25 or 26. With only six picks in this year’s draft. I’d rather see Ottawa’s brain trust focus on some of the team’s other areas of weakness and see what they have in O’Connor and the other goalies already in their system.

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