The massive rebuild of the Ottawa Senators took a big step forward last night, as the club drafted three players, including two among the top five selections, in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft. In Ottawa, it is being heralded as one of the biggest nights in the history of the franchise.
As expected, the Senators selected German centre Tim Stutzle with the third pick. With Alexis Lafreniere of the Rimouski Oceanic going first overall to the New York Rangers, Sudbury Wolves centre Quinton Byfield and Stutzle were the consensus second and third picks. The Los Angeles Kings picked Byfield second, leaving Stutzle for the Sens. Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion, however, said the playmaking German is by no means a consolation prize.
“We had great internal debates whether Tim Stutzle was a centre or a left winger,” Dorion said live on SportsNet following the selection. “He’s played a lot of centre in his life up until this year when he played mostly on left wing. Whether we ease him into the NHL on left wing and then move him to centre is something we’ll see if he can adjust, but with his talent, it doesn’t matter if he plays centre or left wing. We know we’ve got a highly-talented forward.”
Stutzle had committed to play college hockey at New Hampshire, and he was also selected by the Seattle Thunderbirds. However, Stutzle decided to stay home and play professionally for Adler Mannheim in the DEL. In 41 games, Stutzle had 34 points, which is the third highest total ever accumulated in the DEL by a U18 player. Stutzle was particularly strong on the power play, which had been an achilles heel of the Sens for the past three seasons.
NHL Central Scouting ranked him as the top European skater heading into the draft. Stutzle joins Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl, picked third by Edmonton in 2014, as the highest German born-and-trained draft picks in NHL history.
Stutzle’s selection was a highlight of the first round of the draft. The Senators’ selection was announced by Jeopardy host and University of Ottawa graduate Alex Trebek.
While there was speculation in Ottawa that they would select forward Lucas Raymond with the fifth pick, the Red Wings took Raymond with the fourth pick. Raymond, a high-scoring winger, would have been an immediate sentimental favourite in Ottawa as he is from Gothenburg, Sweden, which is also Daniel Alfredsson’s hometown. The Senators used the pick to take the top-ranked defenceman in the draft, Jake Sanderson from the US National U-18 Team.
Sanderson, the son of former NHL forward Geoff Sanderson, was listed at 6’2”, 185 pounds heading into the draft. Last night, it was revealed that Sanderson is now 6’3”, 205 pounds. This year, he is playing at the University of North Dakota.
“Obviously, we had no control over what Detroit was going to do at four, but we are elated that we feel we got the best defenceman in the draft,” Dorion said. “We got someone who plays a complete game, who’s a high-character person. We have two of our better prospects at the University of North Dakota in Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto, and they rave about this player. This player’s character, this player’s approach to the game – it’s exactly what we wanted as a player in this draft.”
Sanderson is hoping to become the first player from Montana to make the NHL.
The Senators had a third first-round pick, as they obtained the New York Islanders’ pick in the trade for Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Because of the Islanders’ recent playoff run, which Pageau played a large part of, the pick fell to 28th. The Senators selected feisty winger Ridly Greig from the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Greig had 26 goals and 34 assists for 60 points in 56 games with Brandon last season. The player scouts have used as a comparable is Brad Marchand. He is the son of former NHL player Mark Greig.
The rebuild in Ottawa is far from complete, as they have more picks in the second round and free agency coming later in the week. Forward Brady Tkachuk and defenceman Thomas Chabot are the cornerstones of the team’s rebuild, and there will be a lot of opportunity for Ottawa’s prospects to crack the line-up when play resumes.
With the buy-out of Bobby Ryan’s contract, and with Craig Anderson and Mark Borowiecki departing as free agents, every player from the line-up that took the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins to Game 7 overtime of the 2016-17 playoffs is now gone from the team.
Jeff Morris is a former ESPN.com NHL columnist who is a four-time Ontario Community Newspaper Association Columnist of the Year Award Winner.