Possessing 13 selections in the Entry Draft including picks no.3 and 5 – four more in the second round, there’s little doubt the Ottawa Senators will be the team to watch next Tuesday evening.
Tabbed by GM Pierre Dorion to run arguably the most important Draft in franchise history, Senators chief amateur scout Trent Mann is definitely in an enviable position.
Mann met local Ottawa area media via Zoom Tuesday to speak on topics Senators’ fans have been seemingly waiting to hear for months.
Responsible for leading his fourth Draft, Mann re-iterated the club will likely select the player the Los Angeles Kings don’t choose in the second overall position – something that Dorion mentioned previously the week prior.
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The assumption is the Kings will select Sudbury Wolves centre Quinton Byfield or Adler Mannheim forward Tim Stutzle. The Senators will be more than happy to have one of these potential star players fall into their lap, but who’s available in the number 5 slot and what the Senators do with this pick will be interesting to watch.
The Detroit Red Wings are the wild card in the fourth spot. Whomever they select may put the wheels in motion for the Senators to fall back a spot or two.
“I think Pierre (Dorion) is pretty clear on what the plan is there (at 3). At 5, I think it’s going to depend on what happens ahead of us. We have to be ready for a number of different things including a scenario where somebody may want to move up to 5 as well,” said Mann. “If that’s the case, what does that give us at the end as well? That’s a possible scenario the amateur staff has to prepare for, because this year we’re in the enviable place at picking 3 and 5. But equally based on the nature of the importance of the Draft to the organization we have to listen and prepare for any scenario that may happen. I think teams will call. Pierre has already indicated he’s willing to listen.”
Currently holding four second-round selections, it’s widely known one or two of these potential picks are assets the Senators GM can utilize to acquire players, especially from clubs that are tight to the salary cap.
Mann added, “I’ve let Pierre know for a while now for that second period, we’re still able to get some solid players. We feel strongly about that. There’ll be a number of them still on the board at that point in time. While I understand if he has a deal to make that helps now and moving forward, I completely understand that. But equally, if he feels there’s nothing out there that can help us then equally we can select a player there that can help the Ottawa Senators down the road.”
Organizational needs are also something Mann and his scouting staff are looking at, especially with early-round selections.
The Sackville, New Brunswick native explained, “We may have to go a bit more broader in respect when you look through the roster. I feel that there are some holes there. If there’s a player that fits the need at the time, I think you have to go with that player. However, we all know that teams are built through the middle and the back end, and are built around that. For us I still like what we have up the middle in the organization. I think that (Josh) Norris and (Shane) Pinto are on their way. I would imagine Colin White will be a different player this year, at least in my estimation anyway. I feel like there are some pieces there. It’s more of a Draft that’s a little more heavy on the wing than up the middle. Obviously, you have your handful of centres that are available. But in true numbers themselves, it looks like the wingers are a little more plentiful than centres.”
It’s no secret the Senators require more depth at the right forward position. Mann was squarely asked his thoughts on local product, Ottawa 67’s right wing Jack Quinn. Talk quickly shifted to Frolunda’s Lucas Raymond.
“Along with Jack Quinn, obviously Lucas Raymond, and the top point-getter in the Western Hockey League (Seth Jarvis) is not a bad right winger as well – there are some highly offensive right wingers available. If you’re specifically talking about Jack Quinn, he scored 52 goals. That’s not an easy feat no matter what league you play in. That’s enticing to us. Lucas Raymond we’ve watched quite a bit lately. You know he is playing, and that’s a bonus for us and for him as well. We’ve been able to see the growth of him over the past six or seven months as well, playing in the Men’s league last year and this year, “ the Senators chief amateur scout noted.
Like Raymond, Senators’ scouts have also gained extra views of Quebec League players. Unlike their Ontario and Western League counterparts, the QMJHL is set to open their season October 2, and are in the midst of completing their exhibition schedule.
One such player, highly-touted Chicoutimi Sagueneens forward Hendrix Lapierre who was limited to 19 games last season due to what was originally thought to be a concussion, has impressed in the early going. This summer doctors determined Lapierre in fact suffered a neck injury and currently has a clean bill of health.
‘For guys like that, it benefits them. Most players, it’s not going to change too much as far as jumping from 25 to 10 on your list. That’s not going to happen. Our guys have done their work already. But for a kid like Lapierre, our medical team has been pretty thorough on what (his injury) was, what it is moving forward. I’ve brought in our medical and strength team to help with the assessment for Hendrix and equally, I’m excited for the kid for people to evaluate him properly,” said an upbeat Mann.
There’s been chatter throughout league circles, the team is seeking an alternate goalie in case Anders Nilsson isn’t available for training camp. Nilsson suffered a concussion in mid-December and his status remains unknown.
SKA Saint Petersburg’s Yaroslav Askarov is the top-rated netminder in the upcoming Draft. Askarov earned KHL Player of the Week honours two weeks ago. In three games this season, the 18-year possesses an astounding 0.74 goals against average and .974 save percentage.
Mann isn’t opposed to drafting a goalie at no.5.
“A few years back we did a study internally just looking at goalies at their progress, and how long it takes, and what is needed – teams that have done well, teams that haven’t, and why they’ve been successful or unsuccessful. From there we started to choose goalies more frequently. There are certain pieces to their game that we look for. We’re not opposed to taking a goalie at any point if we feel it’s the best thing for the organization. A couple of years back we took a kid by the name of Brady Tkachuk. I felt we took a bit of heat for that. But at the time we felt he was a player that was best suited for the Ottawa Senators, and moving forward that was what we wanted to do. I guess at that point in time, it’s not really about position, it’s about the player at that point in time to move forward with the roster as far as winning. I really don’t get hung up at the positional piece at a point in time.”
Unfortunately for the Senators chief amateur scout, Trent Mann won’t be surrounded by his staff, at least not in-person. His disappointment was clearly showing Tuesday.
“It’s one of the biggest disappoints, staff is not together. We worked hard, put in long hours. We continue to work hard. And not to be together to execute this Draft is disappointing,” Mann told Full Press NHL. “I believe we’ll be set up through technology to be in constant contact, but equally, I’ll be a phone call away. We’ll run through that process once I get into Ottawa on the weekend.”
“But guys for example like Bob Janecyk, he oversees what goes on in the US – I may not be able to speak to every guy individually on what’s going on, it may just be with Bob Janecyk. Normally we’ll all be at the table and I can get the guys to huddle to make that pick. Zoom is still a possibility. We’ll make it what’s best for us.”
Whether the team selects Quinton Byfied or Tim Stutzle as their number one choice, the organization and Senators’ fan realize they’ll be adding a potentially future star player to the lineup. However, no one can truly predict when.
Mann compared the duo.
“They’re two very good hockey players, very different players, obviously Quinton is a physical presence right off the hop. He’s a genuine kid who works extremely hard day-to-day and brings a skillset that at a lot of big players don’t necessarily have.”
“There’s a little more maturity in Tim Stutzle right now based on the fact him playing with men for the last year and a half. Being around men and ex-NHL guys, I think that’s understandable his maturity levels may be a little further along off-ice. He’s just a kid that brings speed and skill where Byfield moves pretty well for a bigger guy. He brings a skillset with a little more power to his game. Stutzle is closer to being ready at this particular time just because of the fact he’s been playing in the DEL, playing with older players. For Quinton, I don’t worry about the size factor, it’s a matter of where he is on the ice with NHL players. Do you keep him around for a little bit to see if he’s going to fit in or is it better off for him to go back to junior? For Stutzle we also have the option to send him to the American League as well. I think the options are more in Timmy’s favour. But Quinton, at the same time is ready to battle for a spot in the NHL. Whether he’s ready or not you can run through the process, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he went to back to junior. If we picked Byfield and he went back to junior, I wouldn’t think, “What now?” It wouldn’t be part of the process.”