Slammers at the Draftby Pat Booth | March 30, 2014, 6:25 PM ET
With recent talk about the importance of the draft we decided to look back at the Slammers record and see how the team has fared in it's ten drafts. The Ottawa Slammers have made 62 draft selections out of a possible 76 with the largest hits in 08 and 09 in the quest for the cup all but 4 picks were dealt. In the last few seasons we've seen the Slammers put a renewed focus on the draft, but a couple of recent deals and a few surprisingly unmatched offer sheets have the Slammers lacking top picks in the next couple drafts. We're taking a look back to see where the slammers may go in the next few seasons.
The early years produced very little at the draft, The Slammers were a competitive team out of the gate and this hurt their draft position, and an in-experienced team of scouts lead to some major mistakes. Indeed from their first three drafts with 27 picks the Slammers have but two players over 100 games and perhaps one more who may get there. Centre Patrik Berglund who was moved this off-season was picked at the end of the first round in 2006 and goaltender Cory Schneider in 2004 who was the Slammers first ever draftee.
The next three drafts saw the Slammers with only 9 picks, but it was perhaps the stress of so few picks that saw the Slammers best work at the draft table. 2007 saw current 2nd line centre Mikael Backlund added as well as Carl Gunnarsson who was chosen with the 10th last pick in the draft. He was a true steal and in fact only 4 players in the entire draft have seen more SICHL action. 2008 has not quite had the success of 2007, but with only two picks Joe Colborne looks to finally break into the SICHL next season and goaltender Peter Delmas may see minor league action next season. 2009 may be the best draft the Slammers have seen the results of. Top 4 defensemen Jared Cowen was taken 7th overall and looks to be an anchor on the Slammers blueline going forward. Marcus Kruger was selected 151 overall and has the most games played of any forward picked after pick 33. The Slammers appear to have drafted two top 4 dmen, two top 6 centres and a checking line centre Not a bad job but what could have been? When you look at who was taken with the picks that were moved Mason Raymond, Nicklas Backstrom (who finally rejoined the team who could have drafted him) Jamie Benn, Carl Hagelin and Robin Lehner could have all been Slammers. Now it's highly unlikely the Slammers would have made the same choices, but it's clear the Slammers cup cost them.
Beyond the 2009 draft it becomes difficult to accurately judge players for what they are, they simply haven't had enough time. This gives us a good break to reflect on the Slammers strategy through their first 6 drafts. The Slammers produced 6 SICHLers and 3 fringe players. 4 in the first, 1 in the 2nd, and 4 from the 6th back. They say if you average one player a draft you should be happy but producing just 2 players through 3 drafts and 27 picks and with only 2 players having played more than 2 seasons we feel it was pretty poor drafting.
2010 saw the Slammers hold on to all but their 2nd round pick. The Slammers were in financial and on-ice turmoil. A bloated payroll bleeding red ink, an empty farm system and the team itself not performing with just one playoff appearance the Slammers needed to change directions. It began by selecting Jarred Tinordi and Tye McGinn as potential top 4 D and Andrew Yogan a potential bottom 6 Centre. It was a start and was the first test for a new Slammers scouting staff.
With the Slammers moving most of their overpaid UFAs to go in a new direction they found themselves with their highest number of picks since the 2006 draft. 2011 and 2012 found them with 16 picks, 5 in the top 50 and 10 in the top 103. Too early to tell for sure but there is hope for all but one or 2 players to be in Ottawa or Kanata by 15-16 and 10 next season alone. With a solid young defence in place in Ottawa, the Slammers felt confident they could look to the middle of the ice picking 6 centres. Colton Sissons is projected to be in Ottawa within 2 seasons and to be capable of top 6 play. Shane Prince, William Karlsson and Reid Boucher were project players with a high offensive upside, all 3 look like they'll compete for top 2 centre jobs in the SICHL but unlikely in the next 2 seasons. Alex Broadhurst despite being the third last pick looks to have forced his way onto the top line of his AHL team and like a solid bet to potentially be a bottom 6 player. Alex Friesen had a rocky campaign but has picked up 9pt in 12 games in March helping his teams playoff push.
Besides adding depth up the middle the Slammers looked for skill on the wings with 5 players selected with top 6 potential in mind. Tanner Pearson, Matt Puempel, Tomas Jurco and Jesper Fast are all within a season of debuting in Ottawa and Brendan Leipsic will be in Kanata by 15-16. The feisty, skilled winger could be in Ottawa very soon after that especially if he can continue his playoff pace of 5g and 9pts in 4 games. Rounding out the Slammers forwards picked is Michael Schumacher who began the season in the 3rd tier CHL was quickly moved up to the AHL where he recorded 13pts in 32 games in his first professional season, he looks to be a player with heart and grit and at 6'5” he is likely to get some time on the fourth line if he can continue to develop his offensive game.
Looking longer term Goalie Chris Driedger posted his best numbers to date and looks to turn professional after his final whl season. Goaltenders have a notoriously long development curve so it is unlikely we see Driedger in Ottawa in the next 3 or 4 seasons. Also the 3 D selected by the Slammers are all on a similar schedule as they all hail from across the seas. The Slammers have 17 prospects or players from Sweden so they are always scouting for hidden gems. Taken in the 5th round Mikael Wikstrand had an impressive debut in the SHL this season 11pts in 19 games. Rasmus Bengtsson who spent a season in the USHL returned to the Allsvenskan and put up a respectable 11pts in 47 games good for 6th amongst drafted D prospects. He likely tops out as a 5,6 but may not be willing to return to North America. Teemu Eronen looks to provide some serious firepower from the back end as well. Eronen rose to prominence last season leading the Liiga in defensive scoring by drafted prospects, this season he came second but only by 3 points despite playing 11 less games. Eronen oozes offensive talent with great two way play he can be a top pairing guy in the SICHL. It remains to be seen however if he can be convinced to come across the pond, or if he is content to just remain a star in Finland.
The Slammers moved a lot of picks around but if they drafted in their original position these guys could have been Slammers Mika Zibanejad, Keegan Lowe, Josh Nicholls, Mike Reilly, Daniil Zharkov and Justin Kea. So losing out on Zibanejad hurts but the Slammers come out ahead.
Last seasons draft saw the Slammers add more wingers. JC Lipon and Sven Andrighetto were both over agers who broke out in a big way last season. Both players were known for solid 2-way play but were questionable offensive talents. If people thought last seasons numbers were a fluke, the 2 players proved themselves in their first AHL seasons, Andrighetto is second on the AHL Bulldogs in scoring and Lipon has put up 36 points with limited ice-time on a talented St. Johns Roster. Emile Poirier had a breakout season with 32g and 70pts in the QMJHL in his draft year and easily led a poor Gatineau team in scoring and to a surprising playoff upset. Many questioned if it was a fluke and after being named captain he put up 43goals and 87pts this season despite being the only offensive threat on the Olympiques most nights and he has continued this into the playoffs with 6 goals in 4 games including a hat-trick which included the game tying and winning goal in game 2. Rounding out the draft was talented Slovak Peter Cehlarik who put up 13pts in his first 18 games in the Allsvenskan. The Slammers shifted picks as usual this year Rasmus Ristolainen, Jeremy Gregoire, Jackson Houck, Grant Besse and Janne Juvonen could have seen themselves in red and black.
So as it stands the Slammers developed 6 full-time SICHLers and 3 guys on the fringe with 36 picks prior to 2010. Not really an awe inspiring performance considering several of the picks they moved turned into solid SICHL players as well. The franchise won a cup and in the end its what matters, but the teams poor on-ice and fiscal performance following this time could be in part due to this. In the 26 picks from 2010-2013 the Slammers are expecting 16 full-time players and 5 more on the fringes. Have the Slammers improved their drafting or just inflated their expectations? Only time will tell, but with only 10 picks their highest being a solitary third in the next two seasons the Slammers are betting its the latter.