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Senators confident draft winds will blow their way

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The last time the Senators held the 15th round pick in the NHL draft, they selected blueliner Erik Karlsson in 2008. It's the same slot Ottawa will draft from this year in Pittsburgh (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).

They've mined plenty of gold over the years in the deepest recesses of the NHL draft.

But at the end of the day, it's the glamour pick — that first-round selection — that will make or break the eventual assessment of the Ottawa Senators' work at next week's 2012 draft in Pittsburgh. At least in the eyes of those who scrutinize such things from the sidelines.

"Unfortunately, you're always evaluated by what you do in the first round, whether you like it or not," admitted Pierre Dorion, the Senators' director of player personnel. "You could have some of the greatest second-round picks, or third or fourth or fifth or sixth (rounders). But you're always going to be evaluated by what you do in the first round.

"So the draft is a lot about the first round and your first pick and bringing that big asset into your organization. It's where there's the most pressure. That's why we try to prepare as well as we can."

All that being said, Senators hockey management will head to the Consol Energy Center next week comfortable with the thought that, with the 15th overall pick in the first round, they'll land a quality prospect when their turn comes up on the night of June 22.

"There's no question we're looking to get a good player where we're picking ... who can fill a need down the road," Senators general manager Bryan Murray told an assembly of media today at Scotiabank Place. "Probably not in a year, but somebody who will develop into a good NHL player. That's our hope."

While Murray is open to the idea of trading up and down in the first round, he believes "very definitely, we think we'll be picking at 15. We will allow Pierre and his staff to go about the normal business."

The 2012 draft is considered rich in defencemen and, given the wealth of forwards they acquired a year ago in St. Paul. Minn., it's easy to suggest the suggest might be leaning in the blue-line direction in Pittsburgh. But expect Ottawa to stick with its tried and true philosophy of picking the best player available on their meticulously created pre-draft scouting list.

"It's always been my theory that you take the player that you think is the best player at that time (of your pick), and if you have to move him to get what you need later on, you can probably do that," said Murray. "My instructions to the scouts have always been 'do your job, get the best player and leave it to management (to decide) if we have to make a change at a later date.'

"There's no question that we've got, we think, real good depth up front. We've got two or three young defencemen who look like they're strong candidates to be NHL players. It's a matter of who's there and what happens. But we'll probably lean to the best player overall."

It's also possible that the Senators might even consider a goaltender with their top pick.

"We're never set on a position," said Dorion. "We don't have any young goalies in our system besides Robin Lehner (a second-round pick in 2009), so maybe adding a goalie would be something that we would look at. We will draft a goalie in this draft. Whether it's in the first round or the seventh round ... we don't know what's going to happen."

Four years ago, the Senators traded up to land the 15th selection of the 2008 draft at Scotiabank Place — a pick they used to grab Erik Karlsson, who's grown into a Norris Trophy finalist in just his third season in the National Hockey League. Can Ottawa strike similar gold at No. 15 in 2012?

"We're confident we're going to get a good player," said Dorion. "Maybe not someone with the flash and dash of Erik, but a good player, whatever position he is, and someone that, down the road, is going to help us."

Beyond the first round, the Senators enter the 2012 draft with six other selections — two third-rounders (76th and 82nd overall), and one each in the fourth (106th), fifth (136th), sixth (166th) and seventh (196th) rounds.

Senators still waiting on Alfredsson

Daniel Alfredsson has yet to decide whether he'll return for a 17th season with the Senators. And Murray said today he has no plans to impose a deadline on his captain to finalize his plans.

"When I talked to (Alfredsson), I made it very clear to him that he's the guy making the call and I will not call him," said Murray. "I told him what I thought of his play and what I thought he brought to our hockey club. I mentioned that we had a couple of young Swedes coming that he might help a lot, but I did not give him a time limit. I told him 'you go home, you do what you have to do and think about it.'

"We know going forward that if he's here, he'll really help our club next year. If he's not here, we've got to be prepared to go forward without him. Someday, that happens to all of us, and we just hope it's not this coming year."

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