Who the Ottawa Senators should take with their first two picks

HAMILTON, ON - JANUARY 16: Marco Rossi #23 of Team Red skates during warm up for the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game against Team White at FirstOntario Centre on January 16, 2020 in Hamilton, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
HAMILTON, ON - JANUARY 16: Marco Rossi #23 of Team Red skates during warm up for the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game against Team White at FirstOntario Centre on January 16, 2020 in Hamilton, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The Ottawa Senators have two picks in the top five of the 2020 NHL Draft and there are many scenarios they could consider when their name is called.

While the team had the best chances of landing the first and second overall picks, with Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield both on offer, the Ottawa Senators will have a chance to add some top talent when they make selections at picks three and five.

The 2020 NHL Draft is considered to be one of the deepest and most promising in recent memory, with some legitimate NHL-calibre prospects expected to be available throughout the first few rounds.

Landing two picks in the top five will allow the Senators to take two of the very best prospects available and bring them into their deep pool of talent that is expected to turn the franchise’s fortunes around over the next couple of seasons.

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But general manager Pierre Dorion will have some tough decisions to make when the team is on the clock, with two likely strategies he would need to consider to give the team the very best chances of adding two impact players early on in their rebuilding process.

Balanced Approach

There are a number of highly-rated players at both ends of the ice in the 2020 Draft, with a goaltender (Yaroslav Askarov) also expected to be taken in the first round.

If Dorion opts to take a balanced approach to the team’s drafting strategy, he will likely opt for a forward with the third-overall pick, with a truly promising defenceman likely to be available when the team is called again with the fifth pick.

In this scenario, the Senators will need to make a decision on which forward gives them the best potential moving forward.

With Lafreniere and Byfield off the board by this point, as is the general consensus/assumption, the Ottawa Senators will likely opt for German wunderkind Tim Stutzle with the third pick, giving them a player that in theory could be brought up to the professional level immediately.

Stutzle, who is predominantly a left winger but is capable of playing at centre, is being drafted out of Adler Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), one of the stronger professional leagues in Europe, which means that he is not bound by the restrictions that playing in the Major Junior system imposes on players.

The AHL does not allow junior-drafted players to play until they are 20, but any players selected from outside of North America can step up immediately and continue their development playing amongst men.

For Stutzle, he would have a chance to adapt to North American hockey while playing with some of the Senators’ other top young prospects, who could stake a real claim on the Calder Cup in the 2020/21 season.

This would be an excellent opportunity for the young German to get closer to realising his dream of playing in the NHL, giving him plenty of valuable experience and keeping him close enough for the franchise to monitor his progress clearly and ensure he is set on the right path.

With the third pick seemingly clear-cut, a balanced approach would likely see the Senators have a chance at selecting the best defenceman available in the draft: Jamie Drysdale.

Drysdale, a right-shooting defenceman, would require more time in the Ontario Hockey League to continue his development, not being able to make the jump to the professional level like Stutzle can.

He has made great strides over his two OHL seasons with the nearby Erie Otters’s, having been named to the OHL’s First All-Rookie Team in 2018/19 and then to the OHL’s First All-Star Team in this past campaign.

His points totals jumped from 40 (seven goals, 33 assists) to 47 (nine goals, 38 assists), playing 14 games fewer than his rookie campaign, earning almost a point-per-game in the 2019/20 season.

He has also represented Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, winning gold this season, while also winning silver in the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup.

The Senators have some excellent young defencemen in Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom, Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker and adding a player such as Drysdale could give them a young core that can lead them along the blueline for a number of years.

Double Down

With Stutzle likely gone by pick 4, there’s no way the Ottawa Senators can gamble on picking someone else with the third-overall pick, which is what they will likely do.

If Dorion doesn’t take a balanced approach to this year’s draft, then it is more than likely that the team will double down on the abundance of offensive talent available.

The assumption here is that the Detroit Red Wings, who will make their selection with the fouth-overall pick, will take Marco Rossi – a player that is on the rise and has even been considered as a potential with the third selection.

Rossi is an exciting winger who scored 39 goals and had 120 total points in 56 regular-season games, having a league-leading 81 assists.

With the Austrian off the board, the Senators could land the steal of the draft in Swedish winger Lucas Raymond.

At one point, Raymond was considered the clear-cut third-best player in this year’s draft but has seen his stock inexplicably drop in recent months.

Raymond put up ten points (four goals, six assists) in 33 games in the Swedish Hockey League, having dominated Super Elite with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in just nine games.

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The playmaking winger may not have put up big numbers, but he was playing in one of the very best European leagues and is also a player that could join Stutzle over in the AHL early on in his career, getting a headstart on developing in the North American game.

His strong hands and speed could make him a truly threatening winger for the Ottawa Senators long-term and if he is available with the fifth pick, he would be a slam dunk selection by the team and would give fans hope of seeing a line reminiscent of the CASH line of the mid-2000s.