Winning hurts' Sens chances

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:23 PM ET

The Senators are actually losing by winning — lessening their chance of picking first in this year’s NHL draft.

While some fans would rather the team fall into the basement, the players are doing everything they can to stay ahead of the Edmonton Oilers. With one game in hand, the Senators, who are on a three-game winning streak, are four points ahead of the Oilers.

Finishing last doesn’t guarantee a team the No. 1 pick in the draft, but it usually works out that way. The last-place team gets most balls in a weighted lottery.

“We want to win a lot of games down the stretch and try to make ourselves better,” said Senators centre Jason Spezza. “We’re not going to watch the standings every day. We just want to worry about ourselves.

“You don’t want to be in last place. The organization obviously wants to pick as high as they can, but as players we want to try to win as many games as we can. That’s going to be our focus.”

A poll of NHL scouts says there are some strong candidates for this year’s draft.

A lot of teams have Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson ranked No. 1 on their depth charts, but the indications are he’s not head and shoulders above the rest.

Kitchener left winger Gabriel Landeskog, Drummondville centre Sean Couturier and Red Deer centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are also turning heads as junior hockey’s regular season winds down this month.

“If you canvassed 20 scouts, you wouldn’t end up with the same top five from anybody,” said one Eastern Conference scout. “You’re going to hear all kinds of different names. The Top 10 just isn’t clear cut. Anything could happen.

“All you know is that there are going to be a lot of players in that group that bring a lot to the table and you’d love to have one of them. I know that if you’re drafting No. 1 overall, the guy you want is going to be there. So that’s the bonus.”

Franchise defencemen are difficult to find and some are saying Larsson could step up at the next level.

“I still think Adam Larsson is the guy you’ve got to take No. 1. I just don’t think there is a consensus No. 1. There’s no Steven Stamkos in this draft. There’s no sure bet here,” said another NHL insider.

“Larsson in that group of players in the Top 5 is probably the safest bet to really produce. He’s got the size, the poise and the hockey sense. Every team is looking for the Adam Larssons of this world.”

Senators assistant GM Tim Murray and top scout Pierre Dorion always insist you can’t have enough defencemen and they’ll take the top player available.

Another defenceman?

But, do they need another blueliner?

NHL all-star Erik Karlsson has a lot of good years ahead. Prospects David Rundblad and Jared Cowen will be here next year. Patrick Wiercioch is in Binghamton and will push for a spot here next season.

Top-heavy in high-end young forwards, Edmonton would likely prefer a defenceman with its top choice.

“Ottawa is going to get really good piece to the puzzle,” said the scout. “Whatever player they take, that’s going to solidify that spot on the team. If they take Landeskog, they’re going to get a power left winger who will play for them for the next 15 years.

“If they take Larsson, they’re going to get a minute-muncher, top four defenceman that’s going to be there for 10-15 years. If they take Nugent-Hopkins, they’ll have an electrifying centre. He’ll be a No. 1 or No. 2 centre and a leader.”

It looks like a no-lose situation — for the Senators and their fans.


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