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Senators sought infusion of young talent

by John McGourty

OTTAWA -- After a decade at or near the top of the Northeast Division, the Ottawa Senators struggled last season, narrowly qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs following a midseason coaching change and dissension in the dressing room that led this week to the waiving of goalie Ray Emery.

The Senators were 43-31-8 last season for 94 points, only two points from failing to qualify. They were swept in the first round by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Add those four straight losses to the 3-6-1 regular-season finish, and it's evident a shakeup is needed.

General Manager Bryan Murray took steps earlier this month to squelch problems by hiring no-nonsense coach Craig Hartsburg. While the Senators are not an old team, they could use an infusion of young talent.

Here is a look at Ottawa’s 2008 NHL Entry Draft class:

No. 15 Erik Karlsson, D, Frolunda (Sweden Jrs.) -- The Senators traded up from the No. 18 pick to get a light, puck-moving defenseman that they really like. Karlsson has trained with captain Daniel Alfredsson and is a great admirer of the team leader. In fact, it was Alfredsson who made the announcement from the stage in front of the hometown fans.

Karlsson led the Frolunda junior team to the league championship while scoring 13 goals and led all defensemen with 24 assists.

He attracted a lot of attention at the 2008 World Under-18 championship where he had seven assists, was plus-8 and was named best defenseman. He also played seven games with the parent club and will likely return there again next season.

Karlsson is clearly an offensive defenseman in the mold of a Petr Svoboda or Kim Johnsson. He has great mobility and vision and handles the puck with confidence. He gets a lot of points on the power play. He will need to add size and strength to play in the NHL.

No. 42 Patrick Wiercioch, D, Omaha Lancers (USHL) -- Wiercioch is that rare Canadian who plays American juniors so that he can maintain his NCAA eligibility. He hails from Burnaby, British Columbia, more famed for developing centers like Joe Sakic and Cliff Ronning. He broke his thumb early in the season and that hurt the Lancers. They made a strong run when he returned to the club.

Wiercioch appears to get by on cleverness and experience of playing against better Canadian players when he was younger. He is a mobile offensive defenseman but scouts question his skating and say he needs to add size and strength. He'll have time to do that this fall at the University of Wisconsin.

No. 79 Zack Smith, C, Swift Current Broncos (WHL) -- With their third pick, the Senators added beef in Smith, a 6-foot-2, 202-pound center who can handle himself. Smith scored 22 goals and had 70 points in 72 games with the Broncos this past season while being called for 136 penalty minutes. Smith was very effective in the WHL playoffs, getting 10 points in 12 playoff games against the Regina Pats and the Calgary Hitmen.

No. 109 Andre Petersson, F, HV 71 (Sweden Jrs.) -- It seems that no matter who is the general manager in Ottawa, they love drafting Swedes and Murray is proving no exception. He took talented HV 71 winger Petersson, who had 16 goals and 38 points last season. He's similar to Karlsson in that he's only 5-foot-9 and 169 pounds. Petersson made perhaps the biggest jump this season when he went from the No. 154 European skater to No. 19.

No. 119 Derek Grant, C, Langley Chiefs (BCHL) -- Grant has good size and skills and has planned his career so that he can play NCAA hockey. He's going to Michigan State in the fall. Grant is 6-foot-3 and was one of the most dominant players in the BCHL, scoring 24 goals and adding 39 assists for 63 points in 57 games. Not only did Grant move up from the fourth line to the first line, he jumped from No. 106 North American skater at midseason to No. 4 at year's end, the biggest jump of any player in the top 60.

No. 139 Mark Borowiecki, D, Smith Falls Bears (CJHL) -- Here Murray took another Tier II who intends to play American college hockey. Borowiecki will be going to Clarkson University in the fall where he will join Smith Falls teammate Nick Tremblay. Borowiecki is 6-foot-1. He was named the best defenseman in the CJHL.

No. 199 Emil Sandin, LW, Brynas (Sweden Jrs.) -- Sandin is an average player who wasn't selected a year ago. He is 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds. He had 10 goals and 35 points in 28 junior games last year but only four assists in 19 Elite League games.


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