The Best of Times & The Worst of Times: Ranking 25 years Worth of Sens' Drafts
Some fans may already be triggered from the image above. Yes, the Senators have certainly had their fair share of hidden gems (Alfie) and misfires (Lee) over the years, but the same could be said of every NHL franchise. While it’s too soon to cast judgment on the more recent drafts (some of these kids still can’t even grow facial hair yet), we have a fairly good sense of how players have panned out from prospect to on ice product at this point. So let’s take a look back at 25 years worth of Ottawa Senators draft picks (we've omitted 2017-2020 as it's too soon to tell) rank them from worst to first. And if you think the gentleman above is the worst the Sens have ever fared at the annual NHL crap shoot, then buckle up...
Photo credit: Brian Winkler/Getty Images
25th - 2002 Draft
Notable players: Jakub Klepis, Alexei Kaigorodov
Someone had to be the worst. And in this case it’s the dumpster fire that was the 2002 entry draft for the club. 8 picks yielded the Sens a whopping 72 games and 15 NHL points between Klepis and Kaigorodov (the rest failed to register an NHL game). Yikes, moving on.
24th - 2007 Draft:
Notable players: Jim O’Brien
Despite drafting one of the best hockey names around in Ben Blood (4th rd, 120th overall), the Sens whiffed on most of their selections with O’Brien becoming the only one to crack an NHL roster. Not as bad as 2002 though as they only made 4 selections this time around.
23rd - 2014 Draft:
Notable players: Andreas Englund
He’s still young enough so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but the prospects taken after Englund are either no longer with the organization or are in ECHL or lower leagues, meaning they won’t be gracing the ice of the CTC anytime soon.
22nd - 2005 Draft:
Notable players: Brian Lee, Colin Greening
While statistically not the worst draft from the Senators in terms of NHL point production, the sting of taking Lee over the likes of Kopitar, Rask, or Oshie drops this one down the rankings a few slots just from a “what could have been” perspective alone.
21st - 2004 Draft:
Notable players: Andrej Meszaros, Peter Regin
The Sens front office certainly wasn’t short on draft capital this time around with 11 picks in the 2004 Draft. Unfortunately the other 9 players outside of Meszaros and Regin only combined for 20 total games played and 0pts. Yuck.
20th - 2013 Draft:
Notable players: Curtis Lazar, Marcus Hogberg, Ben Harpur
Poor sweet Curis Lazar, you have to wonder what his NHL career could have been had he not been rushed to the show. Harpur had a few moments with the Sens before joining the Leafs, and Hogberg still has a role to play with the club. Not the best, not the worst, but a largely forgettable draft for the club and fans alike.
19th - 2012 Draft:
Notable players: Cody Ceci
Journeyman goaltender Chris Driedger is the only other player from this draft class to crack the NHL ranks. After 3 games over 3 seasons with the Sens he eventually moved on to Florida. Meanwhile, what a rollercoaster ride the Cody Ceci years were. Ceci would either make a brilliant offensive play that led to a goal, or a frustrating defensive blunder that would result in a goal going the other way. There wasn’t much in between those two extremes. Unfortunately there also wasn’t much else in terms of production from the rest of the Sens picks this year either, which makes this draft on the lower end of the spectrum.
18th - 1995 Draft:
Notable players: Bryan Berard, Brad Larsen
This will go down as one of the stranger drafts in Senators history. Brad Larsen was drafted by the Sens, then had his rights traded to Colorado, who ultimately didn’t sign him, before going ahead and drafting him again in 1997 anyways. But it was the Bryan Berard pick (going 1st overall to the Sens) that most fans will remember. After being shockingly re-assigned to the minors following training camp he demanded a trade that the team was all too happy to accommodate. So, in a three team deal involving the Leafs and Islanders, Ottawa wound up with Damian Rhodes and Wade Redden (not so bad in the end for the Sens after all).
17th - 2016 Draft:
Notable players: Logan Brown, Jonathan Dahlen, Max Lajoie
It’s hard to be too critical of this draft as it’s the most recent draft up for review and many of these prospects are just starting to get sniffs at NHL competition. That being said, the remainder of the drafts on this list have produced steady NHL talent, and thus far 2016 has not. Will this always be the case? Doubtful. If we revisit this class 5 years from now we likely discover a few NHL caliber players who are regular contributors to the Sens. But as it stands right now, 2016 has left a bit to be desired. 2020 will be a make or break year for Logan Brown, as there’s only so long the Sens can keep moving him back and forth between the minors and pros.
16th - 2003 Draft:
Notable players: Patrick Eaves, Brian Elliott
Steady if not unspectacular pretty well sums up this draft which is why it’s coming in right in the “meh” middle range of these rankings. Fun fact of the day, Brian Elliott holds the NHL record (post WW2) for single season GAA with a 1.56 mark in 2011-12 with St. Louis (across 38 starts).
15th - 1993 Draft:
Notable players: Alexandre Daigle, Pavol Demitra
Probably the most notorious draft in franchise history involving one of the most disappointing #1 overall picks in recent memory. That being said, I say the word “disappointment” over “bust” for a reason. People always crap on the Daigle selection, but what most tend to ignore is that coming out of Jr, he was touted as the heir to Gretzky’s throne. He was a slam dunk, lock, can’t miss prospect who every franchise in the league would have taken #1 overall and, if they didn’t, their GM would have been out of a job within the hour. So to say that they failed in this draft isn’t fair. At the end of the day Daigle had a 600 game NHL career (enjoyed his time off the ice more than he should have), and wound up with 327pts instead of challenging Gretzky’s scoring records. That being said, his career looks Hall of Fame worthy compared to Patrik Stefan, Rick DiPietro, and Nail Yakupov (all 1st overall picks that came after him who had even less inspiring career totals than Daigle). Also taken in this draft was Pavol Demitra (in the 9th round) who although he played more games for the PEI Sens than their NHL counterpart, wound up having a solid NHL career with 768pts and over 800 games played. Alas, it looks like all that autographed Daigle paraphernalia from my youth will continue to collect dust in my basement rather than being my early retirement plan. *sigh*
14th - 2000 Draft:
Notable players: Anton Volchenkov, Antoine Vermette, Greg Zanon
Thundering hits, and blocked shots. That’s what Sens grew to love about Volchenkov. Vermette had a solid career. Greg Zanon wound up having a nearly 500 game NHL career, just not with the Sens (the team chose not to sign him following his NCAA stint). This draft is also known as the time the organization drafted goaltender Mathieu Chouinard for the 2nd time…. And still got 0 games played out of him, that alone is reason to drop this draft a couple of spots.
13th - 2006 Draft:
Notable players: Nick Foligno, Eric Gryba, Erik Condra, Kaspars Daugavins
In terms of producing NHL level talent this draft will essentially serve as the Mendoza line for our rankings. The 2006 draft resulted in 4 out of 7 picks playing 90+ games, and while you likely won’t hear grandparents regaling children with tales of the “greatness of Condra” or the “brilliance of Gryba”, they did have serviceable careers. Foligno is approaching 1000 NHL
games played with a 30G campaign under his belt, an All Star selection and has captained the Blue Jackets for the last several seasons.
12th - 2009 Draft:
Notable players: Jared Cowen, Jakob Silfverberg, Robin Lehner, Chris Wideman, Mike Hoffman
Picking 9th overall hasn’t worked out well for the Sens in franchise history (Lee & Cowen). The good news from this draft however is they went 5 for 5 in terms of their first 5 selections, with all of them playing at least 180 NHL games. And while none are currently still playing for the Senators (which hurt them rankings wise) 3 of them are still having productive NHL careers (Silfverberg, Lehner & Hoffman).
11th - 1992 Draft:
Notable players: Alexei Yashin, Patrick Traverse
The team’s first ever draft pick, became their first NHL star, and then the franchise’s first ever villain after forcing his way out of town after a nasty hold out. While this draft class may not have produced quantity, it at least gave the Sens some legitimacy in their early years with a bankable star who was an impact player at the NHL level (491pts in 504 games with the Sens).
10th - 2011 Draft:
Notable players: Mika Zibanejad, JG Pageau, Ryan Dzingel, Fredrik Claesson
The 2011 draft was a mixed bag for the Senators. It produced some fan favourite players, but of the 10 players selected, not a single one is still with the team. While the Sens get points for finding some late round gems (Pageau in the 4th, Dzingel in the 7th), they get bumped down a few pegs for giving up on Zibanejad too soon. Mika has only improved his goal and point total every season with the Rangers so far, culminating in a 41G in 57 games campaign last year.
9th - 2010 Draft:
Notable players: Mark Stone
The Sens didn’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick in this draft so the fact they walked away with a difference maker like Mark Stone is a huge win. If he was still with the team, this draft class would likely be ranked higher (that’s how highly I think of Stone) but unfortunately 5(ish) seasons in the Nation’s Capital doesn’t let you get much higher than 9th on this list.
8th - 1996 Draft:
Notable players: Chris Phillips, Andreas Dackell, Sami Salo
Nearly 1200 games played, a steadying presence on the blue line for close to 2 decades, and his number retired by the team. Chris Phillips was part of nearly every meaningful moment in Senators history from their inception to the modern era. Sami Salo was a 9th round steal, and who doesn’t like a good old defensive minded Swede in Andreas Dackell?
7th - 2015 Draft:
Notable players: Thomas Chabot, Colin White, Filip Chlapik, Christian Wolanin, Christian Jaros
This draft may wind up being even higher when you look back on it 10 years from now. Most of the value here lies in A) Can Chabot continue his development and produce at an elite level for the duration of his time in Ottawa? And B) Can one or more of
White/Chlapik/Wolanin/Jaros establish themselves as steady NHL producing talent? The jury is out on this one.
6th - 1999 Draft:
Notable players: Martin Havlat, Chris Kelly, Martin Prusek
Martin Havlat was a game breaker in his own right, and had he been able to stay healthy this draft may have had a chance at being ranked higher. But Ottawa fans were ultimately left wanting more from the Martin Havlat experience. Tantalizingly skilled, but oft injured is likely how most will remember his time in the Nation’s Capital. Chris Kelly was probably one of the more under appreciated Sens while he was here. He was likely miscast in his role with the team from the beginning as management became frustrated by his less than stellar scoring prowess (posting a Sens career high of only 15G over the course of a full season). But it was after the team flipped him to Boston for a 2nd round pick that he cemented himself as one of the premier penalty kill specialists/3rd line grinders in the league. Boston knew what Kelly was and what he wasn’t and once they slotted him into the proper role he flourished. It appears there was no ill will between him and the club as he rejoined the Sens on a 1 year deal in 2016-17 playing all 82 games. The Sens also drafted serviceable backup goaltender Martin Prusek, making 3 NHL quality bodies from this draft class.
5th - 1998 Draft:
Notable players: Mike Fisher, Chris Neil
Drafting two of the most popular players in Sens history is normally a lock for the top 3. Unfortunately the first time the franchise took Mathieu Chouinard (see 2000 draft for Chouinard the sequel) came at the 15th overall pick, and as much as Fisher and Neil were fan favourites, neither could be classified as a star. Each draft class ranked above this one had at least 1 elite NHL level player in it, making 5th as high as I could realistically rank them. Number 5 on this list, number 1 in our hearts.
4th - 2008 Draft:
Notable players: Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Zach Smith, Mark Borowiecki, Derek Grant
*Cue Faith Evans & Puff Daddy “I’ll Be Missing You” music*
Unfortunately none of the players taken in this draft are still with the team. Now you can argue that at a $11.5M AAV price tag for Karlsson that’s perhaps not a bad thing, but at the time it hurt to see him go. This draft produced 5 NHL players who played at least 250+ games, and one elite level talent (Karlsson). Had he stayed with the club longer there’s a good chance this draft cracks the top 3, unfortunately they’re on the outside looking in on this one.
3rd - 1997 Draft:
Notable players: Marian Hossa, Magnus Arvedson, Karel Rachunek
One of the best pure goal scorers in club history, Marian Hossa was an All Rookie team selection, 5x All Star, 3x cup winner, and HHOF inductee. Normally this would be good for tops on the list, unfortunately most of that success came with clubs not named the Ottawa Senators. While Arvedson and Rachunek were both serviceable NHL players (playing 805 NHL games between them), they’re a slightly weaker supporting cast than the next two draft classes, which is why Hossa will have to settle for bronze in our all time rankings this time around.
2nd - 2001 Draft:
Notable players: Jason Spezza, Tim Gleason, Ray Emery, Christoph Schubert, Brooks Laich
This draft if anything is one of the better pure drafting jobs the Senators have done in their franchise history. The Sens managed to grab solid NHL players at the later rounds (4 players taken in rounds 4 or later played over 150 NHL games) while hitting both of their first round picks (no small feat given who actually went in the first round in 2001). Spezza was over a point a game player during his time in Ottawa and was part of the franchise’s iconic Pizza Line along with Heatley and Alfredsson. Ray Emery has one of the more memorable moments in Sens folklore when he managed to get into two fights in the same line brawl vs. Buffalo, and Gleason and Laich both ranked in NHL.com’s top 20 in the “redraft” version of the 2001 entry draft which is a win as well. And I’d be remiss as a redhead to not shout out my fellow ginger Christoph Schubert for his 250+ games with the franchise.
1st- 1994 Draft:
Notable players: Daniel Alfredsson, Radek Bonk, Stanislav Neckar
How could it not be the 1994 draft? When you get the most beloved Senator of all time (and franchise leader in most statistical categories as well), plus a 10 year career out of one of the greatest mullets that ever graced an NHL roster in Radek Bonk, what’s not to love? Sprinkle in 4+ seasons of the oft injured Stan Neckar (who wound up playing over 500 NHL games) and you have one of the Senators most productive NHL drafts in terms of games played/points produced.
But it’s the off ice impacts that Daniel had during his time in Ottawa (there has never been a more committed community ambassador in the Ottawa sports scene than Daniel Alfredsson, the stories of his financial/time/impact in the community that you’ve heard only account for about a quarter of what he actually did while in town, he liked to work anonymously for the most part) that make this draft the undisputed #1 on this list.