OTTAWA — For the first time in their history, the Ottawa Senators came away from the NHL Draft with two picks in the top five.
And the hockey operations department couldn’t be happier.
The Senators feel they have two franchise cornerstones; one at forward, the other on the blue line, in Tim Stuetzle and Jake Sanderson. And a tough little centre, Ridly Greig, to round out the haul. General manager Pierre Dorion called it “one of the biggest nights in franchise history.”
It was hard to argue with that.
“These three picks tonight are going to be such important players for our future success,” Dorion said, “for when we are going to have long, successful playoff runs.”
Stuetzle went third overall — matching his Mannheim, Germany mentor, Leon Draisaitl. With the fifth-overall pick, Ottawa looked to the USNTDP and the son of long-time NHL forward Geoff Sanderson. At No. 28 Ottawa took the gritty Greig, whose father, Mark, played in the NHL with several teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames.
Here are Dorion’s breakdowns of all three:
“Tim Stuetzle is an elite talent, a dynamic offensive player. “He’s got great speed, great hockey IQ, great skills. At the same time, he just generates offence shift after shift.
“We look forward to having him in our lineup as early as next season.”
Sanderson, Dorion confirmed, will be playing this year at the University of North Dakota.
“When you come out of the draft with the best defenceman in the draft, you feel you have definitely accomplished something."
“I know sometimes the fancier picks are the forwards, they’re a bit more sexy, but we feel Jake is the best defenceman in the draft and we’re elated to take him at five. Jake plays an all-around game, [he's] a high-compete player. He’s someone that defends well, takes the body and he’s highly underrated for what he brings to the table offensively.”
As for Greig, he's competitive and can play at centre or wing. Dorion called him the “cherry on top of the sundae.”
“You’re looking at someone who will impact our hockey club for years to come. He has character and talent.”
Stuetzle, 18, was introduced by Jeopardy game host Alex Trebek, a former University of Ottawa student. Trebek, who is battling Stage 4 cancer, lit up the screen with his Jeopardy-style announcement. Though the German had never heard of the U.S. TV show, he got a kick out of the presentation.
The Trebek idea originated with owner Eugene Melnyk and his girlfriend. Dorion said the group was elated to have someone Trebek announce “a franchise-defining pick.” They taped three segments with the TV star. Stuetzle was the keeper.
The 6-1, 187-pound forward has already shown he can produce against grown men in the DEL. In 41 games last season, the top-ranked European skater produced 34 points, including seven goals. Stuetzle has moves, and is an excellent skater. As Sportsnet prospect guru Sam Cosentino put it: He has feet to match his hands. Patrick Kane and Mitch Marner are the NHL comparables, at least in style.
Past midnight in Germany, Stuetzle was watching the draft from the Mannheim Whistle Sports Club, which erupted when his name was called. “It’s a big honour to play for the capital of Canada,” Stuetzle later said over Zoom with Ottawa media. “Hopefully soon.”
He was beaming through much of his interview, so it’s no surprise he describes himself as a “guy who always has a smile on his face.”
The rest of the Stuetzle on Stuetzle analysis:
“I want to be a leader, I have a very good work ethic… am good at playmaking, skating and skills. I want to win. I hate to lose. I’m a good player, a work ethic player and always work hard on the ice.”
Last week, Trent Mann, Ottawa’s chief amateur scout, said there have been internal debates about whether Stuetzle should line up at centre, where he played his youth hockey, or on left wing, where he plays in the DEL.
“I think I can play both,” Stuetzle said. “It was good for me to start as a pro on the wing but I think in a couple of years I can be a good centre.”
Following fellow Mannheim grads Leon Draisaitl and Moritz Seider as top-10 NHL picks, Stuetzle called his selection at No. 3 “very good for German hockey.”
“What Leon did is unbelievable,” Stuetzle said, of Draisaitl’s Hart Trophy season, “and many young kids look up to him.”
Sorry professor, I’m getting drafted
Jake Sanderson informed his Biology professor at the University of North Dakota that he would was skipping his late-afternoon class Tuesday because, well, he was about to be drafted into the NHL. “I just had to email her… she knows it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Sanderson said. “She was pretty excited.
“I will be in class next week and will talk to her,” Sanderson said, politely.
I think she will understand. Especially working at the hockey hotbed of UND, where two other Senators prospects thrive, defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker (26th overall, 2019) and forward Shane Pinto (32nd overall, 2018).
After he was picked, Sanderson quickly texted those two and posed for pictures with them. JBD, as Bernard-Docker is known, is expected to be Sanderson’s defence partner at UND this season.
“Jacob is an unreal role model,” Sanderson said. “He is so professional with how he carries himself around the rink. He is definitely someone I look up to.”
Sanderson, the first defenceman picked, said it was surreal to be sitting in his own living room (where he’s watched previous drafts) while being selected. “It’s a little bit of a different draft this year but I think it’s kind of special in its own way,” he said.
Sanderson is 6-2, 185 pounds and renowned for his smooth defensive play and uncanny gap control. He is expected to join Chabot to help anchor the Senators blue line for years to come.
Though the defensive side of the game (a Senators need, for sure) is his calling card, Sanderson showed some late season offence, tying for the scoring lead at the U-18 Five Nations tournament.
“I think my offensive game has grown, even since the end of the season,” Sanderson said via Zoom. “It was something I have been working on. My shot, my accuracy. I think I have more offensive upside and I am excited to show it.”
Having his father Geoff, a veteran of 1,104 NHL games, alongside him as his name was called was perfect. “My dad has been huge for me. He’s been with me every step of the way and I’m very grateful for that. Obviously having him here today is very special. He had a great career in the NHL and it’s something I want to do too.”
Greig, chip off the old block
Ridly Greig’s father, Mark, routinely logged more than 100 penalty minutes as a junior in Lethbridge. Ridly, though just 5-11 and 162 pounds, has his dad’s grit, but brings added skill to. Greig had 26 goals, 60 points and 83 penalty minutes for the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings, while drawing comparisons to Brad Marchand and Mike Richards.
“I’m maybe not as nasty or greasy as him,” Greig said of the Marchand comparisons, but did say he loves to hit and play a two-way game.
Greig, who hails from Lethbridge, sat with several key family members, including his great-grandmother and a grandmother holding a pillow with his photo on it. “I was feeling a lot of different emotions,” Greig said, thankful for the family support.
Sens unveil new logo, jersey
When they do join the big club, the new Senators will be wearing Ottawa’s new/old 2D logos and jerseys, based on the look from 1992-2007. The logo was unveiled previously, but the new sweaters were revealed just prior to the draft on local Ottawa television.
The home details pic.twitter.com/nzOSTLjQ3V
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) October 7, 2020
Winger Brady Tkachuk and Chabot modeled the away whites and new black home unis, with virtual images shown online.
Earlier in the day, Tkachuk said in a radio interview the black sweaters are the “coolest, best things” going. Fans are going to love them, he said.
Judging by reviews on social media, they already do.