Matt Puempel (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Senators made a spirited charge to the playoffs thanks to their first-year players, which bodes well for the future. Of course, their work isn't done. Help up front, especially at center, is high on the wish list.
When the Ottawa Senators staged their furious charge and made the playoffs against all odds, their freshmen led the way. Andrew Hammond was not a rookie by NHL standards because of his age but was still a first-year player. Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Curtis Lazar? No ambiguity there. That speaks to how well the Senators have drafted over the past few years.
Round 1, pick 18
Round 2, picks 42, 48
Round 4, pick 109
Round 5, pick 139
Round 7, pick 199
SHORT-TERM NEEDS: Some reinforcements in the bottom half of their lineup at forward. The Senators were so bereft of depth that they signed David Legwand in the off-season, and it probably hasn’t worked out as well as planned for both parties.
LONG-TERM NEEDS: Kyle Turris was one of the Senators’ best players down the stretch, winning draws, creating offense and being a force at both ends of the ice. But there’s still the sense he’s not the No. 1 center every team needs to be successful. To be sure, the Senators could use more size and more of a physical presence down the middle.
CAP SITUATION: Bryan Murray has done a masterful cap dance, getting most of his key players under contract, with a bit of wiggle room to spare. The Sens have about $4.6 million in space, with a couple players left to sign, but if Robin Lehner or Craig Anderson are moved, the flexibility becomes even greater.
IN THE SYSTEM 2015-16: Matt Puempel was expected to be a full-time Senator after scoring 30 goals as a rookie in the AHL last season, but he struggled back on the farm this season after being the final cut from the big team. Nick Paul, who was acquired from Dallas in the Jason Spezza trade, is a projected power forward who is a few years away.
DID YOU KNOW: Mikael Wikstrand, who has already signed an entry-level deal and will play in AHL Binghamton next year, was drafted 196th overall in 2012. If he makes the NHL as a regular, he’ll join an impressive list of late-round gems for the Senators that includes Pavol Demitra (227th in 1993), Sami Salo (239th in 1996), Karel Rachunek (229th in 1997), Brooks Laich (193rd in 2001) and Brian Elliott (291st in 2003).