Updated: Jun 23, 2019
Anytime I've interviewed an NHL GM before a draft, it's a question I always ask, even though I generally know the answer. "Are you going to draft the best player available or you going to draft based on what the team needs right now?" 100 times out of 100, the answer is, "We're going to draft the best player available."
For the Ottawa Senators, the appropriate answer this year could be an old line from the Simpsons. It's "A little from column A and a little from column B."
The Sens drafted for need and also claim to have selected the best player available, although most scouts would disagree. The Sens went off the board to take right shot defenceman Lassi Thomson of the Kelowna Rockets 19th overall at Friday’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. Thomson is from Tampere, Finland and scored 17 goals and 41 points for the Rockets this season.
Most draft analysts had Thomson projected to go in the second round. TSN's Craig Button had him ranked at #61 back in January. Of course, a lot can change in 5 months. If a team can go from dead last to Stanley Cup champs in that time span, as St Louis just did, an 18 year old kid can move up 42 spots in the draft. Neither of those things happen very often though.
In Erik Karlsson, the Sens traded away the best right shot defenceman in the NHL. Either they wouldn't pay or Karlsson wanted to leave (go ahead and refer back to the Simpsons quote again). That left the Senators depth chart wafer-thin for right handed D and now they've begun to address it. Christian Jaros, Cody Ceci, Dylan DeMelo are all NHL calibre defencemen but none, along with prospect Jacob Bernard-Docker, is even close to being ready for first line minutes. In fact, one could fairly argue there isn't anyone in there ready or able to properly snare a top 4 role.
In Thomson, it's unclear if the Sens fully addressed their need. There are probably only about 30 people alive who saw Thomson and his many draft eligible peers enough to judge him fairly and I'm not one of them. Yes, the kid is a right shot, so that box is checked, but their whole left side is filled with offensive defencemen who aren't particularly physical - Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom and Christian Wolanin. Now they have another offensive defenceman to add to the right side.
Frankly, the full need to balance things off is a top right shot D who can battle, be a shut down guy, be tough to play against. If Thomson has an edge and prickliness to his game in the NHL, and can replicate his junior numbers, then it's a really good choice.
The New Generation of Ontario GM's
Senators' GM Pierre Dorion and Leafs' GM Kyle Dubas met one-on-one on the draft floor to talk about possibilities on Friday. Presumably, Dorion asked about how he might "help out" with Toronto's Mitch Marner crisis. This discussion happened almost 10 years to the day after the old tried to play let's make a deal in round one. Bryan Murray tried to trade up two spots with Toronto to get Nazem Kadri. Burke knew what he wanted straight away.
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