Trent Mann won’t be listening to the noise.
While some have accused the Ottawa Senators of going “off the board” with their selections in the two-day National Hockey League draft that wrapped up Saturday night, the club’s chief scout wasn’t going to be putting up with any that stuff.
Given the fact the club has a good record at the draft in recent years, why would he?
This wasn’t an easy year for scouting with a lot of league schedules shortened or simply abandoned because of COVID-19, but Mann was pleased when the day wrapped up at Canadian Tire Centre. Under the circumstances, the Senators felt good about the prospects they brought in, starting with the selection of rugged winger Tyler Boucher on Friday night.
“There’s a lot more work that goes into producing our list over a public list,” Mann said. “There’s more details, more things put into a profile of a kid so we know exactly what we’re getting. Sometimes it’s easy to say, ‘Why don’t you just move down?’ If there’s a player you feel will help the organization, you can’t necessarily move back to a certain point. There’s only certain trading partners.
“If we move back eight spots, is Tyler Boucher still going to be there? You know what? He’s not going to be there. I know that, (general manager) Pierre Dorion knows that, and the general public doesn’t know that. They don’t have to know that, it’s not their job. For us, Tyler Boucher is another step in the Senators getting better and being what we want. I know Tyler Boucher is going to go 10 to 20. I know and the public list doesn’t know what we know.”
Mann said this wasn’t the first time the Senators had taken heat over a draft pick.
“That’s just the reality of it. I’m not saying that’s good or bad. I’m living in the reality of what’s going on, and I know what people are telling me what’s available,” Mann said. “There’s certain people you want and you don’t want to chance losing them. The same thing was said when took Shane Pinto: Why didn’t you move back? Why not take him later? That pick worked out for us, and I believe in Shane Pinto.
“We were questioned on Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk. It goes on and on. I have no issue with being questioned and I know why we picked the players where we picked them. We feel like we’re building towards something and we feel like we’re doing what’s best for the Ottawa Senators.”
The Senators wrapped up the draft in rounds two through seven on Saturday by bulking up the ranks with the selections of three more forwards and two defenceman. With the exception of some minor tinkering with draft picks, general manager Pierre Dorion didn’t add any roster players for 2021-22, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the coming days through trades or free agency.
“We’re very happy with the picks we’ve made over the last few years and we think we’ve helped the organization grow,” Mann said. “At the same time, we have to keep moving forward, and we feel like we’re providing depth for the organization for down the road.
“The players we’re drafting are going to play a couple of years of college or junior or in Europe or whatever the situation is. If someone pushes in, two or three years down the road.”
The Senators started Saturday by taking forward Zack Ostapchuk and defenceman Ben Roger in Round 2. By the time the draft was completed, seven hours later, they felt they’d done well.
“We’re really happy. I thought our scouting staff, led by Trent Mann, did a terrific job,” Dorion said. “We targeted some players and we were able to get all of them. It’s a great day for our organization, adding some prospects to our group.
“We were just trying to improve our depth at certain positions, keep bringing in as many prospects as we could and just filling up the cupboards with players we know are going to help us win down the road. Some are longer projects than others, but we feel we achieved our goals today.”
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OFF THE GLASS
Dorion noted the past few days had been focused on the draft, but now attention will turn to signing restricted free agents, and NHL unrestricted free agency opens Wednesday. Trade discussions will heat up in the next few days … Senators head coach D.J. Smith was happy to hear the club had selected Boucher with No. 10 and he wasn’t alone on that front. “Brady Tkachuk texted to say he’s our kind of player,” Smith said Saturday.
THE LAST WORDS
After trading back from No. 42 overall to No. 49 with the Los Angeles Kings, the Senators used that pick to select Roger from the London Knights. Just before the selection was made, Roger received a call from Belleville Senators strength coach Jeremy Benoit. They have been working together for three years, and Benoit helped Roger put on a lot of muscle and strength: from 165 pounds to 200 pounds in the past 12 months.
“We shut down because of the pandemic, but I was fortunate enough to have access to a good little gym,” Roger said Saturday. “My neighbour had a gym with barbells, a bench, a squat rack, so I really took the time and took it to my advantage by working out twice a day and eating a lot of good food. I was just focusing on my strength and putting on mass and muscle. For the second half of the summer, I really worked hard with Jeremy to keep my explosiveness and my speed up to make sure I could still move.”