126th overall pick Fredrik Claesson by the Ottawa Senators poses for a portrait during day two of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 25, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.
Photograph by: Nick Laham, Getty Images
ST. PAUL, Minnesota — To one day boost their sagging offence, which was the worst in the National Hockey League last season, the Ottawa Senators walked away from the annual draft overloaded with forwards.
Their final tally was four centres, four left-wingers, one right-winger and only two defencemen, a commodity of which they already have plenty.
The prize picks came on Friday, when three first-round picks yielded Djurgarden centre Mika Zibanejad, Plymouth Whalers right-winger Stefan Noesen and Peterborugh Petes left-winger Matt Puempel.
However, they were also hoping to hit some home runs with some of Saturday’s later picks, including Shane Prince of Ottawa 67’s and Gatineau Olympiques centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who director of player personnel Pierre Dorion called “my favourite player of the draft.”
Pageau, who was born in Ottawa, has the five-foot-nine, 163-pound dimensions of another small player from Gatineau, Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Briere. Not surprisingly, Briere is Pageau’s role model.
The odds are always longer for a small player wanting to make it in today’s NHL, but Pageau’s performance for Gatineau this season impressed the Senators.
“(Senators general manager Bryan Murray) isn’t the biggest fan of small players,” Dorion said. “But we went to see Saint John against Gatineau in the (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) final, and Bryan said, ‘Just take the two No. 11’s.’ So one was (the Sea Dogs’ Jonathan) Huberdeau, and the other was Pageau.
“He’s a good player. He played his heart out. He’s a really good small player.”
Pageau had 79 points, including 32 goals, during the regular season, but gave a virtuoso performance in the playoffs, scoring 13 goals and 29 points in 24 games.
An incentive, he said, would be to show the Senators that a small, fourth-round pick could make it to the NHL.
“It’s a good motivation,” Pageau said. “You saw a lot of players (drafted) before me, good players, too, but I know I can play with them. I know there are a lot of good players in the first round, second round, third round, but I know I can play with them. So I’m not stressed about it.”
If he makes it to the NHL, the chance to play in his hometown will be obviously exciting.
“It’s very nice,” he said. “My family is close to Ottawa, and my friends, too. They will come (and watch) in a few years if I can make it to the NHL.”’
Unlike the first-round selections, the players drafted on Saturday are expected to have long windows of development in front of them.
Sioux City Musketeers left-winger Max McCormick (sixth round, 171st) and Lincoln (USHL) centre Ryan Dzingel (seventh round, 204th) are headed to Ohio State University this fall.
Pageau and Prince will be back for another year of major-junior hockey, as will two picks from Western Canada, Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Jordan Fransoo (seventh round, 186th) and Spokane Chiefs left-winger Darren Kramer (sixth round, 156th).
Djurgarden defenceman Fredrik Claesson (fifth round, 126th), who one day might be the next Anton Volchenkov as a stay-at-home, shot-blocking defenceman, will be playing in Sweden again next year.
Murray pronounced himself more than happy with the draft, even if the end results won’t be known for years.
“The years we have good drafts is when we walk away from the table and the scouts are happy and exciting and shaking each other’s hand because they think from their particular area they got good players,” he said. “That kind of rubs off on me. I trust these guys. They’ve got proven records and they know what it is to get good players.”
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen