The Ottawa Senators take a three-game winning streak into Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which is all well and good. Hey, it beats losing all the time.
But make no mistake. It’s all about the future for the Senators and that future is, well, not bad.
In The Hockey News’ annual Future Watch edition, which is on newsstands now, the Senators finished smack dab in the middle of the league at No. 15 among the NHL’s 30 teams. The good news is that’s far better than last year when the Senators were ranked 22nd.
The annual ranking is based on the quality of each team’s drafted prospects not yet playing for them and roster players who are 21 and under. The ranking is done by a panel of pro scouts and directors of player personnel, the kind of people who watch NHL prospects on an almost nightly basis.
But it’s still far from the halcyon days for the Senators when they were one of the top teams in the league and had a stable of prospects and young players who were the envy of much of the NHL. Recently, the Senators have not been producing much in the way of homegrown players, which might explain why they might be able to add to their group with a top-five draft pick this June.
Much of the reason for their standing has to do with Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson, who was drafted 15th overall last summer. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound rearguard does not have NHL size, but he certainly possesses NHL-caliber talent. The 18-year-old scored two goals and nine points at the World Junior Championship and is playing a prominent role for Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League, but he’s probably a couple of years away from full-time NHL employment.
Karlsson was ranked as the seventh-best NHL affiliated prospect, while goalie Brian Elliott was ranked 35th. When the exercise began, Elliott was a prospect, but has since become a full-time player in Ottawa and will likely hold the backup role to Pascal Leclaire next season.
Defenseman Patrick Wiercioch of the University of Denver, drafted 42nd overall last June, was the other Senators prospect to crack the top 75, finishing 74th.
The long-term future is shaping up reasonably well for the Senators. Now if they could just get the short-term future back on track.
This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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