Why select a forward?
Regularly noted as having a top 5 prospect pool in the NHL, Ottawa has a good amount of depth throughout the roster. What Ottawa has in-depth they lack a bit in terms of star power, especially up the middle.
The Ottawa Senators have one surefire young player at forward and that is Brady Tkachuk, at just 20 years old he has already proven he has a bright future in the NHL through his first two years. As mentioned above Drake Batherson and Josh Norris have been great in the AHL and look like up and coming stars but that doesn’t guarantee NHL success. As well Colin White has tapered off a bit and will unlikely be a lineman that will help Tkachuk thrive.
Ottawa needs more star power upfront, and they can take full advantage of that by taking a second forward in the top 5.
The Senators already have their game-changing defenceman that every team covets, in Thomas Chabot, and have an all but definitive star prospect in Erik Brannstrom as well. While at forward Ottawa has Brady Tkachuk, some depth players but nobody who projects to be a point per game forward. Ottawa can easily fix that by selecting any of these three forward prospects:
1) Lucas Raymond (RW)
The talented Swede who scouts have been drooling over for the last two seasons would be a transcendent talent for the franchise.
Playing in the Swedish Hockey League one of the best leagues in the world, Raymond struggled for ice time, contributing to his underwhelming stat line of 4 goals and 6 assists in 31 games. Raymond only played around 10 minutes per game which makes producing points a greater challenge:
Holtz did outproduce Raymond in points per 60 but played with better players with Djurgardens IF, due to his increased role.
In the U18 men’s gold medal game from last season Raymond out on a show, scoring a hat trick along with the overtime winner, the one goal that stands out is when he put a ridiculous move on the Russian defenceman and finished with a well placed shot:
There are some pundits on Raymond’s game, he is seen as a boom or bust selection due to his lack of size and lesser production in Sweden, but his dynamic play can’t be overlooked. His agility and great hockey IQ should make him a great pick at 5.
2) Marco Rossi
The Austrian center who played in the Ottawa Senators backyard for the 67s enjoyed a phenomenal season. With 39 goals and 120 points in just 26 games for the 67s, his production was off the charts.
Rossi didn’t rely on other teammates to aid his production, he cleared the second leading point producer on the roster by 30 points and was without a doubt the best player on his team.
Rossi also has a proficiency to make players around him better, his teammate Jack Quinn made a jump from 12 goals the year prior to 52 goals this season while playing primarily with Rossi. The Austrians great playmaking would suit perfectly with Brady Tkachuk and other Senators wingers. Batherson can get lost in the fold here, but if Rossi is on the second line he and Batherson could be a match made in heaven.
If Ottawa gets Byfield, Rossi would likely man the second-line center position, giving Ottawa a coveted one-two punch down the middle (Malkin, Crosby). If they end up picking Stutzle, Rossi could form a potential top line with Tkachuk and Stutzle perhaps creating another Pizza line.
Rossi is very strong around the goal line, often finding cross-seam passes setting up his teammates for easy goals, as shown below:
Despite only being 5’9″, Rossi has a very thick lower body which makes him very hard to knock off the puck. His low center of gravity allows him to be very strong in the corners.
3) Cole Perfetti
There have been rumours swirling that the Red Wings have been very high on Perfetti and are considering taking him at fourth overall. Cosentino of Sportsnet draws parallels of there interest being rooted in having Perfetti thrive in their home state with Saginaw.
While the draft has no guarantees, Perfetti could still very likely be in play for Ottawa, and if selected would bolster their play on the wings.
Perfetti is often praised for his great hockey sense, he always tends to make the right decisions, you can never but a value on how much hockey sense impacts the game. Craig Button tried to put a value on his ability and honestly not many would disagree with his take:
While not the greatest skater, he can improve it and he should have no trouble adapting to the big leagues with how well he thinks the game.
Perfetti would be a great fit opposite Tkachuk, he would consistently be able to setup Tkachuk for great scoring chances that not many other players in this draft would be able to do.