Last week I started What I said would be a four-part article. I have changed my mind and will go into more detail instead, making this a 6 part article. To be clear, it will consist of the first article which was an introduction to the prospects. This one will be looking into goaltenders, the next will be centers, then wingers, followed by defenseman and finally I will finish with the prospects that are closest to NHL ready.
The Ottawa Senators have 4 prospects in their system at the goaltending position, not counting Nathan Lawson. I am not counting him as he does have NHL experience, all with the New York Islanders, and along with the fact that he is 29 years of age isn’t considered a prospect. Although he is a solid option as a 3rd option in any organization. The Sens for much of their existence have been considered an organization that is week at the goaltending position but that was not the case last year. This is they might not be as strong in terms of prospects but definitely do not lack them.
Driedger is probably on his way back to playing in the WHL next season as the Senators will most likely send former NCAA player Andrew Hammond to Binghamton. He will most likely enter his 4th season in junior unless he completely shocks and impresses the Sens brass. Driedger has seen a steady improvement to his stats on a yearly basis as he gains more playing time. He along with all other Sens goaltending prospects are all projects. He was Drafted by the Tri-City Americans 80th overall in the fourth round in 2009 out of the midget aaa draft, he was playing for the Winnipeg Monarchs at the time.
The Winnipeg native put up average stats for someone who was drafted in the 4th round posting a SV% .881 and a GAA 3.50, with a 6-6-1 record. Playing the role of back-up for a team who had a decent season in 2010-2011. The following year he was traded to the Calgary Hitmen, where is split time in net playing in 44 games and wining 24 games. Calgary had a good year finishing 3rd as Driedger went on to post better numbers than the year before, finishing the year with a SV% of .896 and a GAA of 2.80. Not a dramatic improvement but always good to see a prospect improve his stats with increased playing time. Last season, he once again appeared in more games playing in 54 games. Calgary once again finished in 3rd place last year but for Driedger, it was yet another slight improvement as he finally brought up his SV% over the .900 mark to .915and his GAA to 2.51.
He started off last season with impressive numbers but kind of fell off a bit after the great start. It is yet known if he will ever become a legitimate prospect for the Sens but we are seeing improvement on a year to year basis. This upcoming season will be a big season for the young goaltender as this will be his final year in junior and at his age, he should be the starter for much of the games. the Senators are hoping for a big year from him to prove he is ready to turn pro and begin his career in Binghamton in 2014-2015.
Although Brassard was drafted much later than Driedger, I believe he has a higher ceiling but is of much more risk. but I think the Senators believe the risk factor on him is worth a shot due to the reward they may acquire later on. Francois was never the type of player that had nothing but success in junior as he played in lower levels of midget much of his midget career. He wasn’t drafted in the QMJHL until 2011 but finally started seeing success when he was acquired by the Lac St-Louis Lions. Brassard split time as the starter in his QMJHL season debut, starting in 37 games, he won 20 of those game onward to a SV% of .905 and a GAA of 2.80. Last year he was the main starter of the Quebec Remparts, appearing in 58 games he was the winner in 33 of those games. Just like Driedger he started the season with impressive numbers but kind of fell off a little bit after that amazing start. He ended with finishing the year with a SV% of .909 and a GAA of 2.73. a slight improvement to the year before but the Senators will want to see better improvement this coming year as he will begin his 3rd season in junior, primary as the starter. Again just like his draft year counterpart, in his last year of junior he will need to prove he is a legitimate prospect and out up nice numbers in order for the Sens to grab notice of him. If both goaltenders perform well this coming year, they could both very well be splitting time in Binghamton next year.
At the age of 25, Hammond is much older than all the other Senators prospects and will have much less time to prove his worth. The product of Bowling Green state will begin his pro career as a player of the Binghamton Senators this coming season. He was signed as an undrafted player by the Ottawa Senators last season after he completed his 4th year at Bowling Green State University. Hammond is from Surrey, B.C and finished his NCAA with respectful numbers of 2.47 GAA average and a .917 SV%. Barring quite a few injuries at the NHL level, I don’t believe we will ever see him at the NHL level. Although he does have some potential and apparently improved at the Sens development camp, he will need to have a great off-season and blow away the Sens brass to have a shot at the big club in the future, seeing as he has 2 much younger goaltenders that were drafted by the club right behind him.
Högberg was drafted by the Sens in this years draft in the 3rd round, 78th overall. He is a big body at 6” 4′ 194 lbs and has some similarities to fellow countrymen Robin Lehner. In order to become a better goaltender he will have to fill out his big frame, he will also have to improve his rebound control. He impressed the Sens at their development camp and has really impressed in Sweden’s WJC camp. He is known to step up his game in big games and did compete in a couple of games at the SEL level and did not look out of place. In 2011-2012 he played in 35 games for Linköping J20 posting good numbers with a SV% of .919 and a GAA of 2.48. But going back to him playing well in big games, he had a SV% of .939 and a GAA of 1.64 in the playoffs. Last year he posted very similar numbers than the previous year. this year will be his big test as he will most likely move up and play in the SEL, or at least more than 3 games. Högberg is a prospects with a good amount of potential and if he continues to impress like he is right now, Brassard and Driedger might end up looking over their shoulders and see the young Swede pass them in the depth chart, unless they also start posting good numbers and impressing the Sens.
In the next edition I will look into the Sens prospects at center. Keep checking in for part 2!