It’s no secret the Ottawa Senators are one of the very best teams in the National Hockey League when it comes to drafting quality players in the later rounds of the draft. These are some of the best Ottawa Senators draft day steals from the ’90s.
The 1990s was an incomplete decade for the Ottawa Senators, as they only started play in 1992. For the most part, it was a decade to forget for Sens fans, up until the 1997-98 season the team was a disaster. It took them a few long years to finally turn the team around and become a true contender.
These draft day steals from 1992 through 1999 played a big part in moulding the Senators’ future core:
Number 5: Karel Rachunek (9th round in 1997)
While there was nothing flashy about him, Rachunek was a solid stay at home defenceman for the Senators from 1999-2004. Making the NHL was a big surprise considering his low draft position, even more so he ended up playing 371 games for the league.
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He put up modest offensive numbers, eclipsing the 25 point mark three times in his six-year NHL career. But what he is better know for is his physicality defending Senator’s netminders from opposing shooters.
Falling to the 9th round of the 1997 draft, then Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Gauthier decided to take a chance with the Czech native. On a sad note, he was one of the members of the horrific plane crash over Russia on September 7th, 2011, and was one of 44 people on the plane that lost their lives on that day.
Number 4: Sami Salo (9th round in 1996)
Although the Turku, Finland native only suited up for four seasons with the Ottawa Senators, he would be a pivotal piece for the Vancouver Canucks in their contending years. He played 878 games in the NHL and produced 339 points for the Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Much like Rachunek, Salo was a defensive-minded defenceman and was a key piece in the playoffs when the Canucks went to the cup final in 2011.
A low-risk high-reward pick, Sami Salo turned into a solid defenceman for 15 years in the National Hockey League.
Number 3: Pavol Demitra (9th round in 1993)
The Senators were still in their infant faze come the 1993 NHL draft, in fact, this was right after their first season in franchise history. There was some significant pressure in the nation’s capital to draft well because of the disastrous result of their inaugural season.
He had a very productive career playing for the Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. The second most skilled player offensively on this list, he finished with career totals of 768 points in 847 games played.
Like Salo, Demitra didn’t realize his potential while playing for the Senators but give credit to the general manager at the time, Randy Sexton for drafting a future NHL star that late in the draft.
Number 2: Chris Neil (6th round in 1998)
Ranking 20th on the NHL all-time penalty minutes list, Chris Neil was one of the most beloved enforcers of all-time, and one of my favourite former Senators. The only member on this list who played the entirety of his NHL career on the Ottawa Senators.
The 15-year veteran posted an astounding 2522 minutes spent in the penalty box. He was the perfect player for the city of Ottawa, keeping fans involved with his physical style of game. He also had a sneaky offensive talent with 250 career points and 16 power-play goals.
He will be remembered as the greatest fighter in Ottawa Senators history and an extremely hard worker who put himself in front of his teammates night after night.
Number 1: Daniel Alfredsson (6th round in 1994)
The greatest player in franchise history, Calder Trophy winner, you would think he would be drafted early in the first round right?
Wrong, he was taken by the Senators 133th overall in the 1994 NHL draft, the single greatest pick in Ottawa Senators history, and one of the best in NHL history.
Another interesting thing about Alfie is most players that are drafted that late in the draft take 3-5 years to develop into full-time NHLers if they make it. Not Alfie, just a year and a half later he would be suiting up to play for the Senators.
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He had an impact right from the get-go, becoming the only player in franchise history to win a Calder Trophy, with his dominant 61 point rookie season in 1995-96.
Too bad he didn’t finish his career in Ottawa, playing his last season in Detroit.