As a duo, Ottawa Senators’ GM Pierre Dorion and Head Amateur Scout Trent Mann are about to preside over their seventh NHL Amateur Draft. As with any evaluation team, they’ve made some sketchy decisions at the draft table. But they’ve also made enough good selections that Sens fans should have some degree of optimism heading into tonight’s draft.
Today, Faces presents the Senators’ top 10 draft choices since the Dorion/Mann combo took over in 2016.
For this exercise, we’re going with Senators’ draft decisions that weren’t that clear cut, some of them yielding diamonds in the rough. I freely admit it’s a little early to be assessing the quality of some of these draft picks. Over the next few years, rankings will change and some might be completely replaced on this list. These are ten selections that fans should find encouraging at this very early stage.
We’ve now reached a point where the rules and conditions of this exercise are a longer read than the actual list (perhaps I should have posted them in fine print). Anyway, we’re now on the clock, so let’s head to the podium with our selections.
#10 Viktor Lodin – LW, 2019 Draft, 4th round, 94th overall
Lodin’s selection created zero buzz in Ottawa at the 2019 draft and things pretty much remained that way until this past season, when video of Lodin’s puck wizardry began making its way onto social media. The 23-year-old had 27 points in 44 games in Sweden’s top league, then came over to Belleville for 10 games, scoring 8 points. He even got called up to Ottawa for a game. He was frequently noticeable, consistently doing some nice things with the puck. Look for a big year from Lodin in Belleville this fall.
#9 Angus Crookshank – LW, 2018 Draft, 5th round, 126th overall
As with Lodin, this one may seem a little off the page. Crookshank was drafted out of the BCHL, then spent three years at New Hampshire, where he posted 18 points in 20 games in his final year. In 2021, he left school to turn pro and immediately – while playing against grown men for the first time – he posted 16 points in 19 games in Belleville last season. Crookshank isn’t big, but his intensity is off the charts – an absolute buzzsaw. After missing last year due to a pre-season injury, he’s flying under the radar right now but he remains a player to watch.
#8 Egor Sokolov – LW, 2020 Draft, 2nd round, 61st overall
Sokolov was a tough choice, but I admire the Sens for this pick. Sokolov led the QMJHL with 46 goals, along with a matching 46 assists for 92 points in just 52 games. But he was an overager who’d been passed over twice in the NHL Draft. That and his lack of NHL level quickness remain huge red flags. But his skill, size and incredible character made him worth a shot. The whole league probably had him as a sleeper pick, but the Sens struck first. Sokolov had 50 points in 64 games in his first full pro season with Belleville and has all the ear marks of a guy who might just will his way into the NHL someday.
#7 Zack Ostapchuk – C/LW, 2021 Draft, 2nd round, 39th overall
As a second-round pick, Ostapchuk was seen as a reach at last year’s draft. TSN’s Bob McKenzie had him ranked 95th. The Vancouver Giants made him their captain last season and he responded with a fine year, scoring 43 points in 60 games. But in this year’s playoffs, the 6 foot 3, 200 pounder put the Giants on his back and absolutely erupted for 23 points in 12 games. He’ll dominate the Western League this year and looks like an excellent choice.
#6 Mark Kastelic – C/RW, 2019 Draft, 5th round, 125th overall
Kastelic got into 16 games with Ottawa this season, and did a pretty decent Nick Paul impression. In fact, Kastelic is Nick Paul from four years ago – same size, same motor, with similar junior and AHL numbers. And the playoffs are where guys like that really shine. We’ve already seen enough to know he’s an NHL player and getting him in the 5th round was a steal.
#5 Mads Sogaard – G, 2019 Draft, 2nd Round, 37th overall
You can’t teach “big,” and at 6 foot 7, Sogaard is definitely that. At the 2019 draft, the Sens had just drafted Shane Pinto. Five picks later, they butted in line to get Sogaard. They acquired Carolina’s 37th overall pick and sent the ‘Canes picks #44 and #83. In the current Ottawa goaltending logjam, Anton Forsberg has a tenuous hold on the number one job right now. Maybe it’s Murray? Without a definite long term #1 tendy, opportunity could be knocking loudly for Sogaard in the next couple of seasons. His play in Belleville has generally been excellent.
#4 2018 Brady Tkachuk – LW, 2018 Draft, 1st round, 4th overall
So, what’s a 4th overall pick doing on this list? In 2018, some analysts worried about taking a player that early when he only scored 8 goals in 40 games in his draft year at Boston University. There was plenty of yelling about Filip Zadina being the better pick. In his draft year, Zadina had just scored 44 goals in 57 games with Halifax. The Sens stuck to their guns and went with Tkachuk. While Zadina sputters in Motown, still trying to find the next gear, Tkachuk is Ottawa’s eight million dollar a year captain, and still hasn’t hit his prime. As an aside, Jake Sanderson could eventually break his way into this list for the same reason as Tkachuk. The Sens wanted a defenceman with their fifth overall pick in 2020. They had to choose between Sanderson and the higher ranked Jamie Drysdale. They went with Sanderson, who remains a blue-chip, blue line prospect. He’ll debut this fall while Drysdale – who was chosen one pick later – has already played over 100 games in the NHL. So, the jury is still out as to whether Sanderson belongs on this list.
#2 2018 Alex Formenton – 2nd round, 2017 Draft, 47th overall
Getting one of hockey’s fastest players at 47th overall is never a bad thing. As a teen, Formenton had a late growth spurt, barely enough to get him drafted by London in the 11th round in 2016. After one season, with just 34 points in 65 games, the Sens identified Formenton was still early in his growth and development and grabbed him in round two. He finished 4th in Sens goal scoring this season with 18. It feels like he’s been around forever but he’s still only 22 and has barely played 100 games in the league. Late blooming is his thing. The best is yet to come.
#1 2017 Drake Batherson – 4th round, 2017 Draft, 121st overall
An NHL all-star? In the 4th round? Need we say more?
By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine