With the conclusion of this year's rookie tournament in London, Ontario and the Senators running the tables with a 3-0 record, it only seems fitting that I devote a short blog post to some related prospect news.
Yesterday, Corey Pronman published his list of the top 100 prospects in hockey yesterday for ESPN Insider. (Note: it's behind a paywall.)
Of particular note, no Senators prospect cracked his top 50. Now, part of that has to do with how Pronman determines the qualifications for who's eligible to be a prospect. For him, the cutoff for prospect eligibility is 25 NHL games played last season or 50 career NHL games, and they have to be age 26 or under as of Sept. 15.
Had Mika Zibanejad for example, not surpassed the 25 game threshold, he would appear on the list like some of his peers from that 2011 draft class (cough, Mark Scheifele, cough).
Nevertheless, three Ottawa Senators prospects did make the list. Coming in at number 65 (fittingly), is the 'Pride of Orleans' Cody Ceci. For the sake of comparison , twenty-two other defencemen were ranked ahead of him.
Here's what Pronman wrote about Ceci in an article for Hockey Prospectus in August:
Year in Review: Ceci struggled at the start of the season, but his play picked up after being traded to Owen Sound. He was a second-team OHL All Star.
The Good: Ceci is a very talented defenseman who can put up a lot of points. He skates well, with good acceleration, and the ability to quickly transition the game up the ice. Ceci can flash great offensive skill in terms of his puck movement and his quality puck handling. He has a good shot from the point as well. When he is at the top of his game, his size, mobility, and skill can make him a dominant player.
The Bad: Ceci struggled with play in his own end, and at times, he was caught trying to do too much with the puck. One scout also noted he was not as physical as he was the season before. His defense picked up, however, in the second half.
Projection: He has top pairing tools, but a fair amount of questions come with that projection.
Robin Lehner was the next Senator to make an appearance on the list as the 92nd ranked prospect. He was only one of three goaltenders, Andrei Vasilevski (79th, Tampa) and John Gibson (97th, Anaheim) being the others, to crack the top 100. Historically, Pronman has been tepid in his assessment of goaltending prospects (and for good reason, might I add), so it's no real surprise to see Lehner be featured this low. If there's any takeaway from this low ranking, it's that Pronman felt strongly enough about him as a goaltending prospect to be included at all.
Here were Pronman's comments on Lehner from the same August article I linked to earlier:
Year in Review: Lehner was nothing short of a brick wall at both the AHL and the NHL level. He led the AHL in SV%, with a percentage at or over .940 for stretches during the season.
The Good: Lehner has true plus, if not better athletic tools in net. He is a big goaltender and he moves extremely well in the crease for a man his size. NHL sources describe him as a big goalie that moves like he's 5'10''. To combine with his agility, Lehner is also a very smart goaltender that reads the play well and squares up a lot of pucks while the play is in motion. He covers up the net really well with his angles, and he recovers quickly.
The Bad: Lehner's rebound control could still use some work. He can also try to be too cute at times with his leg saves and lateral movements.
Projection: He could be an above-average starting goaltender.
Ottawa's last entry on the list came in at the 99th spot with Mark Stone. Again, here's Pronman's write-up of Stone:
Year in Review: Stone suffered through some injury issues in his rookie season, specifically to his ribs, and that affected his production. All things considered, he had a solid rookie pro year, and he ended up co-leading his AHL team in scoring.
The Good: Stone is a big forward with pretty good offensive ability. His hockey sense is plus, as he can make a ton of impressive passes, and he generally anticipates the play well. Stone is a quality finisher, with good hands in tight, and he has a solid shot as well. He is a big, strong player who can be hard to push off of the puck, or get away from the crease area.
The Bad: Stone's skating has been a below-average skill, although he has continued to improve in that area. His defense could still use some work as well.
Projection: He could be a quality second line winger.
Curtis Lazar was one of the ten prospects who Pronman identified as having just missed the cut for the top 100.
All things considered, it's not surprising to see Ottawa's prospects so far down the list. Their best young players have already shed their 'prospect' label and a few of Ottawa's better young players like Ceci and Stone were coming off some difficult seasons because they dealt with injuries or played on a poor team.
Although Ottawa's system is deep and management has excelled in cultivating and developing a number of NHL-ready prospects who could make their marks at the game's highest level, realistically speaking, not many of these prospects have the high ceilings that accompany many of the names on Pronman's list. That's not to say that Ottawa's prospects can't positively impact the Senators, they can. Whether it's from a depth perspective in the event of an injury, or a case of management parlaying some of this depth for quality, Ottawa has value in its depth that won't necessarily be recognized in this kind of list.
For what it's worth, seven organizations had more top 100 prospects than Ottawa and eight organizations had fewer than three -- with the Maple Leafs being the only organization who had fewer than two.