This could be one of the bigger weeks in the franchise history of the Ottawa Senators.
While the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee will meet virtually Wednesday to determine whether former Senators’ captain Daniel Alfredsson and winger Marian Hossa will be part of this year’s class when the inductees are announced around 4:30 p.m, all eyes in Ottawa will then turn to first phase of the NHL draft lottery which will be held Friday night at 8 p.m. on Sportsnet.
As the Senators enter what’s a pivotal phase of this rebuild, the club will have a combined 25 per cent odds of winning the lottery. Though the Detroit Red Wings hold the best odds at 18.5 per cent by virtue of their 31st place finish, the Senators have a 13.5 per cent chance at No. 1 with their own pick and another 11.5 per cent opportunity with the first-round selection they received from the San Jose Sharks in the Erik Karlsson deal in 2018.
With the NHL pause because of the novel coronavirus expected to resume next month, the lottery has been modified to determine the order of selection, but the rules haven’t been changed. Fifteen teams will participate in the first phase of the lottery and three draws will be held to determine the order. The first draw is to select No. 1, the second to pick No. 2 and the third, naturally, for No. 3.
There will only be a second phase to the lottery if one of the unidentified clubs involved in the 24-team play-in round in the summer wins one of the draws. The Senators have three picks in the first round of the draft because they also have the New York Islanders top selection from the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade in February, however, that one is lottery protected.
Up for grabs is a shot at top-ranked winger Alexis Lafreniere of the Rimouski Oceanic and he was ranked No. 1 by TSN’s Bob McKenzie when he released his list of the top 93 players Monday morning. Lafreniere finished with 35 goals and 112 points in 52 games with the Oceanic this season and is widely-regarded in NHL circles as a difference-maker in every aspect of the game.
“He’s a franchise-changer,” Craig Button, TSN’s director of scouting, said of Lafreniere on the rankings show. “If you go back for the last 10 first overall picks, I have him just a notch behind the three M’s; that would be (Connor) McDavid, (Nathan) MacKinnon and (Auston) Matthews.
“In his rookie season I think he’s capable of contributing 60 points or more. You consider how he plays the game we know that the skill level is very high but it’s his ability to tap into those competitive moments. It’s not just knowing them, it’s knowing how to contribute, and he’s done that time and time again. He brings high level skill, the competitive spirit and the knowledge of what needs to happen.
“I have no doubt in my mind he’ll change a franchise and he’ll be the future captain.”
That’s why Ottawa fans have been waiting all season with bated breath to see where the lottery balls will fall for the organization. Under the rules, the Senators can go back no further than No. 5 and No. 6, and this is considered a strong draft in many circles.
Forward Tim Stutzle of Mannheim in the Deutsch Elite League in Germany was ranked No. 2 by McKenzie while TSN had centre Quinton Byfield of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves at No. 3. Defenceman Jamie Drysdale of Erie and winger Cole Perfetti of Saginaw rounded out the top five. Stuzle is interesting because he’s got a strong ability to handle the puck.
“For everybody young out there who doesn’t know what stick handling in a phone booth is that’s exactly what Stutzle does,” said Button. “He’s dazzling with his ability to control the puck.”
First up, though, is a decision from the Hall of Fame committee on Alfredsson and Hossa.
This will be the fourth time Alfredsson, 47, will be eligible to be selected after being passed over for the first three years. Those who follow this closely believe he’s on the verge of being selected, however, it’s hard to predict what might happen. If this decision were made exclusively by people in Ottawa, it would be an automatic, but the committee hasn’t seen in that way.
Selected No. 12 overall by the Senators in 1997, Hossa, 41, who’s on the ballot for the first time, has a strong chance. He played seven seasons with the Senators before he was dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers in August, 2005 because of a contract dispute with former GM John Muckler. Hossa went on to win three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks in a career that ended in 2017.
His playoff numbers are incredible with 52 goals and 149 points in 205 games. He went to the Cup final with three different teams: Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago before winning with the Hawks in 2010.
So, there could be celebrations on a couple of fronts for Ottawa fans this week. One to honour the possible induction of one or two players into the Hockey Hall of Fame and another to mark the Senators having the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
BOB MCKENZIE’S TOP 10 PROSPECTS
1 .Alexis Lafreniere, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)
2. Tim Stutzle, C/LW, Mannheim (Germany)
3. Quinton Byfield, C, Sudbury (OHL)
4. Jamie Drysdale, RD, Erie (OHL)
5. Cole Perfetti, LW, Saginaw (OHL)
6. Lucas Raymond, RW, Frolunda (Sweden)
7. Marco Rossa, C, Ottawa (OHL)
8. Jake Sanderson, LD, USA (Under-18)
9. Alexander Holtz, LW/RW, Djurgardens (Sweden)
10. Jack Quinn, RW, Ottawa (OHL)
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