It's been called the John Tavares draft.
Or, depending on your preference, the Victor Hedman lottery.
But beyond those big names – the dynamic London Knights forward and the hulking Swedish defenceman – is a 2009 entry draft that should yield a bumper crop of potential future stars in the National Hockey League.
“I think it’s a good draft,” said Tim Murray, the Ottawa Senators’ assistant general manager. “It’s not a great draft, but those don’t come along very often. It’s not a great draft for defencemen and goalies but for skilled forwards, it’s a very good draft.”
Much of the top talent lies in Ontario and Sweden, he added. A pair of Team Canada gold medallists at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship – forward Evander Kane (Vancouver Giants) and defenceman Ryan Ellis (Windsor Spitfires) – are among the players eligible for the 2009 selection, to be held June 26 and 27 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
The top eight European skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings are all Swedes, topped by Hedman. So is the top-rated European goaltender, Robin Lehner
of the Frolunda juniors.
Murray said the depth of this draft should extend well into the first round.
“Sometimes, the first round cuts off at (pick number) 12 or 14 as far as getting a player than can be an NHL player,” he said. “Then you’re looking at prospects after that. But this year, you’re looking well down (at close to) 25 players you can really count on to play in the NHL.”
The Senators have a simple philosophy when it comes to NHL entry drafts: pick the best available player. And that’s what they intend to do starting with their initial selection, the No. 9 pick in the first round. Ottawa also owns a pair of second-round picks (39th and 46th overall).
“Under the (salary) cap system, your young players play quicker and contribute earlier, so that’s why it’s take the best player at any position,” said Murray.
Murray and his scouting staff would surely be happy to take another group of players like the ones they acquired at the 2008 entry draft at Scotiabank Place.
"Under the (salary) cap system, your young players play quicker and contribute earlier, so that’s why it’s take the best player at any position." - Tim Murray
“We got an impact defenceman (Erik Karlsson
) in the first round, a big puck-moving defenceman (Patrick Wiercioch
) in the second and a gritty centre ice man (Zack Smith
) who can play in your top nine forwards in the third,” said Murray. “We took a flyer on skilled guys after that and we’ll see what happens with them.”
The 2009 IIHF WJC in Ottawa provided a glimpse of the kind of talent the Senators have reaped in recent entry drafts.
“We had three of our guys at the world juniors,” Murray said in reference to Karlsson (Sweden), Andre Petersson (Sweden, their fourth-rounder in 2008) and Jim O’Brien (U.S., the Sens’ top pick in 2007). “So that speaks to the quality here.”