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Senators add future building blocks

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The future isn't quite now for these lucky seven.

But the Ottawa Senators are confident they've obtained some key young talent to strengthen the depth of the organization for years to come.

When the proceedings at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft came to close Saturday afternoon at Scotiabank Place, the Senators scouting team walked off the floor satisfied with the seven new prospects they'd manage to grab over two days. The group includes defencemen Erik Karlsson (Frolunda juniors, their No. 1 overall pick), Patrick Wiercioch (Omaha, USHL, second round) and Mark Borowiecki (Smiths Falls, CJHL, fifth round); centres Zack Smith (Swift Current, WHL, third round) and Derek Grant (Langley, BCHL, fourth round), and forward Emil Sandin (Brynas juniors, seventh round).

None are likely to make an impact with the big club for at least two seasons, but general manager Bryan Murray believes he's landed a good group of young prospects going forward.

"Off our (scouting) list, I'm really satisfied," he said. "I hope the list is absolutely right on but I know we've got several real good players. Once you get beyond the third round, you hope a little bit, but there's a real feeling among a couple of our (scouts) that there's a chance for a couple of other (draft picks) to be real strong prospects."

Size is an issue for some, most notably Karlsson, the highly skilled No. 1 pick that rose sharply in many scouts' eyes in the second half of his season in Sweden. That's where development is key, Murray said, adding his pleased the most of the draftees will be on hand for the team's conditioning and development camp that begins Tuesday at the Bell Sensplex.

"Now we want to see if we can do some development," said Murray. "It takes time with young players and young people, and they're going to get stronger, hopefully all of them.

"We didn't get bigger in several areas but I think we got some skill and hopefully, we can develop that."

Assistant general manager Tim Murray said the plan heading into the draft was to stick to his scouts' rankings for at least the first round. As it turned out, the Senators got the highest-rated player left on their board with virtually every pick they made.

"You know what, these (scouts) worked hard all year," he said. "They made the list and I think you should show them respect and go off their list as much as you can, and I think they did a good job.

"Usually, we stay with (the list) for the first round and then you can veer off it. But is as close as I've had (to following it throughout the draft) in my 15 years."

Tim Murray said that's also a credit to a scouting staff that the Senators have worked hard to strengthen in the past few years. Every prospect the club picked the past two days had been watched extensively by at least one member of the group.

"I think we've really upgraded the staff here," said Tim Murray. "I think our coverage is much better. Most teams have increased their coverage because of the cap. So you're seeing guys (drafted) from Langley that you didn't see as much before, where maybe (in the past) we would have taken somebody out of Peterborough, just because of lack of coverage.

"Lack of coverage is not an excuse anymore. You can't go to your GM and say 'we didn't see this guy' or didn't see him enough. We have the resources, we have close to 13 full-time amateur scouts and there's no reason to say we didn't have the coverage. So guys like Derek Grant and Borowiecki are being seen more by everybody."

The sleeper gem of that effort might be Smith, a 20-year-old who was bypassed in two previous drafts because of size concerns. But he's grown into a strapping 6-foot-2, 202-pound centre who captained the Swift Current Broncos last season and led the team in scoring and penalty minutes.

"I think he's grown five or six inches and gained 40 pounds since he was (draft) eligible," said Tim Murray. "They tell me he's a real gritty, tough kid who has some skills and is a real character kid who will do whatever it takes to be a player."

While there were cheers when the Senators selected Borowiecki, a Kanata teen who suited up for the Smith Falls Bears, Tim Murray said the pick wasn't made to give something to the home folks.

"We love our fans but we're taking what we consider the best player available," he said. "I can honestly tell you that Borowiecki was the next guy on our list. He wasn't taken just because he played in Smiths Falls and he's from Ottawa.

"He was 67th on our list (the Senators got him 139th overall) and that's why we took him. That's the right thing to do."

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