The NHL Draft is always an important date on the hockey calendar for any team as it defines how the team builds out its player pipeline. For Ottawa Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion, the 2019 NHL Draft this past weekend in Vancouver was a success.
"The draft is always important of course, but for teams like us it's really important," Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion admitted after the festivities concluded. "If you are coming off a Stanley Cup, maybe you are just looking for some quick fixes. When you are growing your team like we are doing, the value of adding good young players is that much greater."
Dorion knows both sides of the equation. Just two seasons ago the Senators came into the draft off a seven-game loss in the Eastern Conference final to the Pittsburgh Penguins in double overtime. You can't get much closer to a Stanley Cup Final than that.
This year the Senators came into the draft with the intention that a successful 2019 NHL Draft would continue to add valuable pieces which will support the bright future of the team.
Dorion feels it was mission accomplished over the two days in Vancouver.
"We feel we've accomplished a lot for the Ottawa Senators over the last two days," Dorion said. "We picked up a lot of skill and a lot of character for our organization, and we really feel we've added to our depth significantly."
First-round pick (No. 19 overall) Lassi Thomson is an example of the kind of player Dorion feels can be an important building block with a young and rising team. The 6-foot, 186-pound Finn was the highest-scoring rookie defenseman in the Western Hockey League with the Kelowna Rockets last season with 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) in 63 games.
"Obviously 17 goals says a lot for a defenceman," Dorion said. "To leave Europe, to improve his game, to come to North America, it says a lot about the kid, that he wants to be a hockey player."
"He's someone that besides his offensive ability brings a high compete level and we feel he'll be a good all-around defenceman."
Scouts felt Thomson adjusted very well to playing in North America and feel he has lots of upsides when he eventually joins a young defense corps which already boasts talented players and prospects like Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom.
There are lots of options for where Thomson can continue his development next season; he can return to Kelowna, go back to Finland and play for his hometown team, or play in the American Hockey League in Belleville. The first stop is this week in Ottawa at what will be a prospect-heavy development camp.
"We're going to sit down with him at development camp and see where we feel it's best for him to develop properly and we'll go from there," Dorion said.
After selecting American centre Shane Pinto with their second-round pick (No. 32 overall), Dorion then traded up to select a goaltender his scouts really had their eyes on - Mads Sogaard, a huge goalie who played with Medicine Hat in the WHL last season.
"We had a couple of goalies that we felt very strongly about and thought there might be a possibility we'd move up to take him," Senators Chief Amateur Scout Trent Mann said. "He was one of them."
"There's a lot of upside there, for a big 6-foot-7 goalie he moves extremely well at this point. We just see a ton of potential there and we're really excited to get him where we did."
The Senators have a lot of depth in goal in the organization - some have suggested the most depth at the position in team history -but Dorion says it's all about acquiring more assets for the future.
"You need depth in any organization," Dorion added. "We want to make sure our young players are well surrounded (by veterans) and that they stay on the right path. We'll give them all the time they need to grow.
Video: Pierre Dorion-End of Round 1