It's all over but the picking now.
After one final round of meetings today, the Ottawa Senators say they're good to go in terms of mapping out a strategy for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, which begins Friday night (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray, director of player personnel Pierre Dorion and the team's scouting staff met for five hours in the Steel City earlier today to discuss the possibilities for the draft. On Friday, they'll brief general manager Bryan Murray — who was en route to Pittsburgh from Las Vegas and the 2012 NHL Awards — in advance of Round 1, during which the the Senators are slated to pick from the No. 15 slot.
"Pierre's group went through a lot of different scenarios and we're ready," Tim Murray told reporters in Pittsburgh earlier this afternoon. "The draft can certainly go a couple of different ways, but I think we're ready for whichever way it goes. You're at the mercy of 14 other teams, right? It's the amateur group's job to put the list together and be ready for whatever happens."
Like, for example, four years ago, when Bryan Murray engineered a deal to move up three spots to No. 15 in the 2008 draft. The prize? None other than Erik Karlsson, this year's James Norris Trophy winner as the National Hockey League's top defenceman.
"It turned out great for our organization," said Dorion. "I give a lot of credit to Bryan Murray. He moved up from 18 to 15 and if we don't move up to 15 ... we found out (later) we would have never have gotten Erik Karlsson. The easiest part was convincing him, I think. But the hardest part was making the deal and all the credit has to go to Bryan there."
There are varying opinions about the depth and quality of the 2012 draft and Tim Murray believes it could lead to lots of volatility on the draft floor in terms of moving picks.
"We're not convinced this is a great draft," he said. "The teams that have 11 or 12 picks say it's a great draft and if we thought it was a great draft, it wouldn't be hard to get more picks. We probably aren't going to do that. I've been doing this for 20 years and in my estimation, it's an average draft.
"There are some teams that think it's a decent draft and there are other teams that don't. So you have potential partners there in the fact that some teams will want picks and some teams will be happy to give up picks (and say) why don't we wait until next year, when we like that draft a little better. So yeah, I think there could be a little moving and shaking tomorrow."
If the Senators do indeed pick at No. 15 — and Dorion said "unless Bryan or Tim changes their minds," they'll be doing exactly that — it isn't likely they'll land an immediate impact player. Certainly, it's not the scenario of a year ago, when Ottawa selected centre Mika Zibanejad with the sixth overall pick and gave him a nine-game trial at the beginning of the 2011-12 season before eventually deciding to return him to Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League.
"Picking 15th compared to picking sixth last year, I think you're going to look at someone who's going to step in (and play) in a few years," said Dorion. "It depends on the player. Some players are more physically mature than others and might be ready to make the jump as quick as next year. But if we're honest about the process, I think we're looking at someone who's going to play for us about two years from now."
While some suggest it's likely the Senators head into Friday with their eyes on selecting a defenceman — they chose forwards with their first five picks a year ago in St. Paul, Minn. — expect the phrase "best player available" to dominate the thinking at the draft table.
"We have a lot of good kids in the organization that are going to come at different times ... some of them will come next year and some of them two or three years down the road," said Murray. "We do have certain needs, but those needs change. We had what we thought were a ton of defencemen and then we make the (David) Rundblad for (Kyle) Turris deal and now we're not sure if we have enough defencemen.
"That's just the cycle of the situation, so it's always BPA (best player available) at the draft and you hope you do fill a need."
In addition to No. 15 pick, the Senators also hold two selections in the third round (76th and 82nd overall), and one each in the fourth (106), fifth (136), sixth (166) and seventh (196) rounds. Ottawa doesn't currently own a second-rounder in this draft.