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Senators like entry draft prospects

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators don’t feel the need to make a splash with a blockbuster deal at the first NHL entry draft ever held in their home arena.

Especially, general manager Bryan Murray believes, with the price of moving up from the No. 18 position in the first round being almost impossibly high to even consider.

“The few teams I talked to at this point weren’t very interested in giving up a pick unless they got a real top-end player, and we don’t have that kind of player that I want to give up,” Murray told reporters today on the eve of the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place.

“For 40 seconds applause, it doesn’t do me any good because I know what will happen during the winter if we don’t have a good player that fits our lineup because I got a first-round pick that’s back somewhere playing junior hockey. So there’s no splash that’s required by the Ottawa Senators.”

That being said, the Senators believe this particular draft is strong enough that they’ll land a top-flight prospect in the No. 18 slot – a position, by the way, that Ottawa has never occupied in 16 previous entry drafts.

“It’s a very good draft… 2003 was a great draft,” said Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray. “That (one was) a once in 10 years, once in 15 years draft. But I would consider this a very good draft, way deeper and way better than we’ve had the last couple of years, for sure.

“We’ve got four or five guys that we have (ranked) from 10 to 15 that we think will be there at 18. We’ve done our homework and seen them lots and (they’re) guys we’d be really happy with.”

There’s some history to support the Senators’ thinking. The No. 18 pick has yielded such future NHLers as Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh, 2000), Dmitri Kalinin (Buffalo, 1998) and Petr Sykora (New Jersey, 1995), to name three.

“I think we all feel we can get a good player, no matter where you’re sitting in the first round,” said Bryan Murray. “Certainly, sitting at 18, we think we’re going to get a player that we like and will play in the league and will be a good fill player for us.”

While forward Steven Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting is a virtual lock to go first overall to the Tampa Bay Lighting, this is a draft top-heavy with defencemen. But the Senators plan to take the “best player available” route, with no specific position being targeted.

“I don’t think it would be a shock if we took a goalie with our first pick,” said Tim Murray. “It’s not like we're sitting here going ‘we need lots of D men, so we’re taking one.’ We need lots of everything. Like most teams today, you don’t rush your kids but they play earlier because of the (salary) cap.

“You’re always looking to replenish your cupboard.… The top guy on our list, regardless of the position, that will be the guy we take.”

It’s also likely to be a player Senators fans won’t see in the team’s lineup for at least two years. While a handful of the top prospects could make an immediate impact on their NHL teams, Bryan Murray said it’s “a little far-fetched” to suggest that the 18th pick in the draft could step in the Ottawa lineup as soon as next season.

“Any player that we feel will have an impact on our team down the road (is what we’re looking for),” he said. “It doesn’t matter in the first round, you should just take the best player, whether it be a goaltender or a (defencemen) or whatever it may be, we should probably do that. And that’s the message to our staff.”

The Senators even feel good about the possibility of landing a future contributor with their second-round pick (42nd overall).

“You never know for sure who’s going to be there, but we’ve got five or six guys we think are first-rounders – that are on our list are first-rounders – that we think will have a chance to be there. Actually, there’s one or two that, realistically, we think will be there and we’re hoping they’ll be there.

“It certainly depends on the (teams drafting) in front you. You can only pick what they leave, but sometimes they leave good things.”

The draft proceedings get under way at 7 p.m. Friday. Rounds 2-7 will be held on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. At this point, the Senators own seven picks, including a pair of fourth-rounders. They aren’t scheduled to make a selection in the sixth round.

Check out our photo galleries from today's Top Prospects Media Luncheon and Top Prospects Clinic here.

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