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Senators continue to reap benefits of 2008 NHL draft

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Defenceman Mark Borowiecki, who was called up from Binghamton earlier today, is the latest member of the Senators' 2008 draft class to land on the team's NHL roster (Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

Most National Hockey League teams consider it a worthwhile harvest if an entry draft yields two or three future players on their roster.

Clearly, the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is looking more and more like a bumper crop for the team the played host to the event at Scotiabank Place. With the callups of defenceman Mark Borowiecki and forward Andre Petersson to the big club this morning, the Ottawa Senators now have four players from that draft on their current roster. And a fifth, blueliner Patrick Wiercioch, saw eight games' worth of NHL duty last season and is considered one of the organization's top defence prospects.

While head coach Paul MacLean doesn't plan to insert Borowiecki or Petersson into the lineup tonight against the Maple Leafs at Toronto's Air Canada Centre (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), he suggested earlier today that they're likely to see action when the Senators head west for the final four games of their current road trip.

"We brought them up to play them in a game," MacLean said following an optional team skate at the Air Canada Centre. "We’re going to the west for four games and my expectation would be they’re going to play in some of the games."

The fruits of that 2008 draft still figure to be on display prominently tonight. Erik Karlsson, the Senators' top pick (15th overall) in that lottery, is the NHL's top-scoring defenceman (6-38-44) and well on his way toward achieving superstar status. Third-rounder Zack Smith (79th overall) is an emerging force at centre who's on pace for his first 20-goal season in Ottawa.

Assuming Borowiecki and Petersson do see action in the next week, that'll make five out of seven players picked by the Senators in 2008 who've seen time in the NHL. Fourth-rounder (119th overall) Derek Grant, a 6-3, 190-pound centre, was a standout during rookie camp last September and scored a huge overtime goal that helped kickstart the Binghamton Senators' run to a Calder Cup a year ago. Forward Emil Sandin (seventh round, 199th overall) is no longer with the organization.

Given all that, no wonder Senators management considers the '08 draft to be the starting point for the replenishing of the organization's depth under the current regime headed up by general manager Bryan Murray.

"When we took Erik, Wiercioch, Zack Smith, Petersson and Borowiecki ... I think that established we have prospects back in the organization," said Pierre Dorion, the Senators' director of player personnel. "We did that again with the subsequent draft (in 2009)."

Current Senators blueliner Jared Cowen, the ninth overall pick in the '09 draft, has already established himself as one of the NHL's top rookies in 2011-12. That lottery also yielded second-rounders Jakob Silfverberg (39th overall) and Robin Lehner (46th), both of whom could be on the big club's roster as soon as next season. Fifth-rounder Mike Hoffman (130th) made his NHL debut Dec. 21 against the Carolina Hurricanes and rates among the B-Sens' top point producers.

Silfverberg, a 6-1, 187-pound winger, is having a dominant season with Brynas of the Swedish Elite League, racking up 30 points (13-17) in 32 games, while Lehner is the organization's top goaltending prospect.

Borowiecki's callup was made necessary by a lower-body injury suffered by blueliner Brian Lee, who sat out Monday's 2-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets and didn't accompany the team to Toronto. The Kanata native impressed MacLean with his play with the Senators during the pre-season.

"We're going on the road for five games here and four on the west coast, and we needed an extra defenceman," said MacLean. "We wanted to reward Mark for the way that he's played (in Binghamton) ... He's been a real good, hard-working dedicated defenceman and he really competes hard. He's shown a lot of leadership down there with the injuries to their team and the growth he had in last year's Calder Cup playoffs has shown — he's been their best defenceman."

Around the boards

The Senators have little time to ponder Monday's home-ice blanking by the Jets, with a key Eastern Conference matchup against the Leafs at hand. Ottawa (25-16-6) stands fifth in the East, seven points ahead of the Leafs (22-17-5), who have three games in hand. "We all know who we’re playing and we’ve addressed that," said MacLean. "We just have to make sure we come here tonight ready to compete and make sure we’re ready at the start." ... Craig Anderson makes his 10th straight start in goal for the Senators, while James Reimer gets the call for the Leafs ... Ottawa's road trip continues Thursday in San Jose against the Sharks (10:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200) before heading to Anaheim (Saturday), Los Angeles (Jan. 23) and Phoenix (Jan. 24).

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