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Senators 'like where we are' at top of NHL draft

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
There may yet be some last-minute wheeling and dealing at the draft table.

But even if the Ottawa Senators don't make a move with any of their high picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, general manager Bryan Murray is confident is team will bring home some top-end building blocks for the future during the proceedings this weekend at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

"I really like where we are," Murray said today with an eye toward the pair of picks — No. 6 and 21 — that the Senators currently hold in the first round. "Obviously, if you’re picking (at) one or two, it’s better. But I really think we’ll get two good players in the first round and (we have) the possibility of using our second-round picks to get players who, down the road, will play for us.

"Our (scouting) list is good, the depth in the draft is real good and there’s a lot of teams that are doing to benefit from this. And I think we’re one of them. We know when we get that (top) pick and the guy comes down and we meet him at the table, we’ll be happy that we were able to get him. We assume we know where a lot of players are going and where we stand, we’ll be fine."

It's widely believed that if the Senators stay at No. 6, their odds of landing highly-coveted forwards Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers or Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs aren't good. But a wealth of talent is available beyond those two and Red Deer Rebels centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who's expected to go first overall to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.

The Senators could have their pick of centres Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs (ranked No. 6 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting), Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs (No. 8) or Mika Zibanejad of Sweden's Djurgarden (No. 2 European). Blueliners Adam Larsson of Sweden's Skelleftea (No. 1 European) or the IceDogs' Dougie Hamilton (No. 4 North American) could also factor in the top five.

"There are a couple of top defencemen there and there are five or six real good forwards in the (top) grouping," said Murray. "The top 10 are good players. There’s a little bit of difference from one to 10, but it’s not that drastic this year. So we’ll end up with a good player."

While Murray has tried to move up to possibly have a shot at the likes of Landeskog or Huberdeau, there have been no takers so far. And he isn't hopeful that'll change.

"Nobody is willing to move at this point," he said. And I understand. "When you’re picking in the top five, it’s very difficult at draft time to move away. Maybe a month ago, they might have thought differently but when you get here and you see the kids and you get around your scouts, it’s hard to give up that spot. I thought we made considerable offers to a couple of teams but at this point, anyway, they’ve said no.

"I think what always happens in the draft is you have certain targets and if one that you really like is not there, you might then move. But when you’re picking one to five, the likelihood of getting a top player is very strong, so I don’t know that a lot would happen with our pick in particular."

Ottawa enters this weekend with a dozen picks, more than any team in the 2011 draft. Included are a trio of second-round picks, which the Senators could possibly use as ammunition to move up from the No. 21 spot — a pick Ottawa acquired in the Mike Fisher trade in February.

"We talked about that scenario today," said Senators assistant GM Tim Murray. "Could we get up to 10 — maybe not that high — but could we get up to 15? And we’ve got three names (on our list) there that if we could do that, it would be exciting."

Two of the second-rounders were obtained from Chicago and Boston in trades for defenceman Chris Campoli and centre Chris Kelly, respectively. The Blackhawks confirmed today that they're giving the Senators their own second-round (48th overall) as part of their deal with Ottawa.

While the draft becomes more of a crapshoot beyond the first two or three rounds, the Senators believe the bounty of picks they currently own should yield some significant gains for the future.

"I would hope three (future NHLers), for sure," said Tim Murray. "I’d like to say four or five but in a seven-round draft, if you can get two players that are NHL players, you’re a little ahead of the curve. So with 12 picks, I’m going to say I’d be happy with three real good, competitive NHL players. We may be able to do a little better than that, depending on moving up or moving down. But that scenario kind of changes it."

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