The Ottawa Senators have had the No. 1 overall selection three times in their 28-year existence, but only one of those picks was good enough to make the franchise’s all-time all-drafted team.
Which is to say, Chris Phillips turned out just fine as a defensive defenseman, while Alexandre Daigle famously underachieved and Bryan Berard’s career was derailed by a devastating eye injury.
Fortunately for the Senators, they’ve generally been astute at the draft table, making up for high-profile misses such as Daigle by consistently finding quality players in the later rounds. To that point, Ottawa plucked Pavol Demitra 226 picks after taking Daigle first overall in 1993. Demitra just missed out on making the Sens’ all-drafted team – we went with Mika Zibanejad as the fourth-line center – but Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Hoffman and Magnus Arvedson were fifth-round picks, Mark Stone was a sixth-rounder and Sami Salo and Brian Elliott were taken in the ninth round, which doesn’t even exist anymore. Elliott, in fact, was the second-last player selected, 291st overall, back in 2003.
So, who made the Sens’ all-time all-drafted team? Let’s get into it.
On the first line, longtime running mates Jason Spezza and Alfredsson are reunited, with pure sniper Hoffman joining them at left wing. Spezza’s the passer, Hoffman’s the shooter, Alfredsson does both of those things plus everything else. The second line features oft-controversial center Alexei Yashin – who, like Spezza, was a No. 2 overall pick in his respective draft year – between newly minted Hall of Famer Marian Hossa and Magnus Arvedson on the left side. Like the first line, this trio should produce plenty of goals, with Hossa and Arvedson also offering superior two-way play.
There was no shortage of checking centers for the third line, but how could it be anyone but Mike Fisher? He gets the nod over Antoine Vermette (55th, 2000), Radek Bonk (third, 1994), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (96th, 2011), Brooks Laich (193rd, 2001) and Chris Kelly (94th, 1999). Fisher has superb all-around help, too, with Stone at right wing and Nick Foligno on the left side. Stone’s a game-breaker, Fisher is a force in all three zones and they don’t come more honest than the gritty Foligno.
The fourth line looks more like an up-and-coming first line, with Zibanejad setting up ultra-skilled (but ultra-injury-prone) Martin Havlat at right wing and Brady Tkachuk on the left. As mentioned, it was Zibanejad over Demitra by a nose, with Havlat beating out Jakob Silverberg (39th, 2009), Daigle (first, 1993), Chris Neil (161st, 1998), Andreas Dackell (136th, 1996) and Patrick Eaves (29th, 2003). Tkachuk, with just two years of NHL experience under his belt, might seem like a bit of a stretch on an all-time team, but Ottawa hasn’t hit too many home runs at left wing at the draft table. Tkachuk’s only real competition for the spot was Zack Smith (79th, 2008), who has one 20-goal season in 10 NHL campaigns, while Tkachuk is 2-for-2 in that regard.
On the blueline, the top pairing is sorted with Erik Karlsson and Phillips. Karlsson is the catalyst for the team’s offense, while Phillips sets the standard on the defensive side. The second pair sees master blaster Salo with shot-blocking bodychecker Anton Volchenkov. Just a big, physical duo that knows how to shut things down, plus Salo’s slapshot is a fearsome weapon. The third pairing is a lower-case top pair, with Karlsson understudy Thomas Chabot matching up with Andrej Meszaros in another offense-defense combo. Berard (first, 1995), Cody Ceci (15th, 2012) and Tim Gleason (23rd, 2001) also made the short list on ‘D.’
The goaltending position was the most difficult to gauge. To be blunt, the Senators have not had much success drafting netminders. Only once have they taken a goalie in the first round, and Mathieu Chouinard (15th, 1998) did not pan out, playing one game in the NHL.
It came down to three stoppers: Elliott, Ray Emery and Robin Lehner. You can make a credible case for all three as the all-time all-drafted team’s No. 1 netminder – just like you can make the case for all three that they should be the No. 3 guy. In the end, we went with the longest-serving and most proven of the bunch, and it’s Elliott. He has by far the most career wins as well as the best goals-against average. For the backup job, the choice was Emery over Lehner – Emery, after all, was the starter during the Sens’ lone run to the Stanley Cup final in 2007, plus he has a much better career winning percentage than Lehner. Of course, this leaves Lehner (46th, 2009) on the outside, despite the fact he was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2018-19 and his career save percentage (.918) is significantly better than that of Elliott (.912) and Emery (.906). Again, this was a tough one to figure out, and if you want to go with the rising Lehner as your starter on this team, there won’t be any argument from this corner.
Here’s a look at Ottawa’s all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.
Jason Spezza (2nd, 2001)
Alexei Yashin (2nd, 1992)
Mike Fisher (44th, 1998)
Mika Zibanejad (6th, 2011)
Daniel Alfredsson (133rd, 1994)
Marian Hossa (12th, 1997)
Mark Stone (178th, 2010)
Martin Havlat (26th, 1999)
Mike Hoffman (130th, 2009)
Magnus Arvedson (119th, 1997)
Nick Foligno (28th, 2006)
Brady Tkachuk (4th, 2018)
Erik Karlsson (15th, 2008)
Chris Phillips (1st, 1996)
Sami Salo (239th, 1996)
Anton Volchenkov (21st, 2000)
Thomas Chabot (18th, 2015)
Andrej Meszaros (23rd, 2004)
Brian Elliott (291st, 2003)
Ray Emery (99th, 2001)