The Ottawa Senators thought they needed some short-term help on the blue-line, which is why they picked up veteran Andy Sutton from the New York Islanders yesterday for a second-round draft pick.
In the long term, though, things are looking rather promising for the Senators when it comes to their defence corps. Their top two prospects, hulking defencemen Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch, cracked the list of the top 50 prospects outside the NHL in the annual Future Watch edition of The Hockey News.
Cowen, a 19-year-old who played for Canada at the World Junior Championship and is currently playing for the Spokane Chiefs, was ranked 38th. Wiercioch (pronounced WEER-kawsh), a 19-year-old in his sophomore season at the University of Denver, was ranked 43rd overall. Goalie Robin Lehner of the Soo Greyhounds just missed out on the top 50, finishing 58th.
Overall, the Senators group of prospects was ranked 17th overall with a grade of B-minus. Each team was graded on the quality of its top 10 prospects as well as players on the roster who are 21 and younger. For the Senators, that included Erik Karlsson, who is also a defenceman.
So it looks as though a team that for years had most of its success off offensive panache has built its future on defence. Karlsson is the most offensive of the Senators group of young defencemen, but Wiercioch can also put up numbers, as he did last year when he scored 12 goals and 35 points in 36 games, outstanding numbers for a young freshman player in a very tough league, and was named to both the Western Collegiate Hockey Association all-rookie team and second all-star team.
As for Cowen, he probably has some offensive upside to his game as well because he handles the puck quite well and has good mobility for such a big player. He has had some bumps along the way, his season was derailed last year when he underwent season-ending knee surgery and even though he made the Canadian World Junior team, he went long periods without playing and didn’t see a shift for Canada in the semifinal against Switzerland.
Whether Senators GM Bryan Murray is finished shoring up his roster will be known for sure at 3 p.m. today when the NHL’s trade deadline passes. But at least he goes into the final day knowing his future seems pretty bright on defence.