The Danger of Prioritizing Players from Ottawa

With the NHL Draft Lottery set to take place on June 2nd, there is a lot of talk in the city of Ottawa around which player they should take.

Which player should they take if they keep the 10th pick, and who should they pick if they jump up to first or second overall? There are local names high in the rankings, but the Sens need to be careful not to be overeager to pick local players.

The Ottawa Senators Draft Cody Ceci and Trade for Erik Gudbranson

It’s no secret that NHL GMs love to bring in local players when they can to bolster their team. They believe it provides an extra connection between the team and its fans. That is not just an Ottawa Senators thing, it’s something that happens league-wide. That being said, the Ottawa Senators have a history of over-committing to players from Ottawa and the surrounding area.

The most obvious example of a player from Ottawa that the Sens over-committed to in recent years is Cody Ceci. He was a highly-touted prospect, and the Sens drafted him 15th overall in 2012. Now, at the time Ceci was projected to be a high-end defenceman with lots of offensive upside. If the Sens didn’t draft him, he would have been drafted very shortly after. This is all to say that the Sens didn’t go off the board to draft a player from Ottawa.

However, it’s interesting to think about whether he would have been who they picked had he not been born in Ottawa and played for the Ottawa 67s. The four players drafted after him were Tom Wilson, Tomas Hertl, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. All four of those players have had significantly better careers than Ceci, and the Sens could have had any of them.

More recently, the Ottawa Senators traded for Erik Gudbranson. Gudbranson was brought in for veteran leadership. However, it would not surprise me to hear if where he was born influenced the decision to trade for him.

Sticking with Mark Borowiecki for Too Long

Senators fans might not want to hear this, but another glaring example of a bias towards Ottawa-born players is how long they kept Mark Borowiecki. They drafted him in the 5th round in 2008 and then gave him every opportunity to play for the team. He made appearances with the team from 2012 to 2014 before becoming a staple on the backend starting in the 14-15 season. He would remain a regular player for six seasons for the Sens.

I’m not going to sit here and say that Borowiecki had no value. He was a serviceable third pairing guy who provided some toughness. That being said, there’s a reason when the playoffs came around in 2017, he only played two games. He was very poor defensively, and non-existent on the offensive end of the ice.

Some fans will point to the fact that he was a great member of the community and a fantastic person, but that is not enough. Being a good person should be the baseline, not something that gives you a spot on the Ottawa Senators. If it turns out that Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, Thomas Chabot, or Tim Stützle is a bad person, that really doesn’t matter to me because they’re all fantastic hockey players. As long as they aren’t horrible in a racist, homophobic, or sexist way, it should not matter to fans how good a person a player is.

Going back to the Ottawa factor, Mark Borowiecki wasn’t really any better than Erik Gudbranson, Braydon Coburn, Ben Harpur, or any other big, slow, tough defenceman that the Sens brought in over the last few years. The only reason fans like him more is that he’s from Ottawa, he played for the Sens for a long time, and they got emotionally attached.

You Can Have Good Players from Ottawa

With all that said, it’s ok to bring in players from Ottawa to play for the Ottawa Senators. It’s just important that where they are from isn’t a significant factor. Jean-Gabriel Pageau was born in Ottawa, as was Marc Methot.

Pageau was one of the best playoff performers Ottawa has ever seen, and Methot was the perfect d-partner for Erik Karlsson during his prime. So, bring in players from Ottawa if they fit your needs and are good players, but where a player is from should have zero impact on whether you sign or draft them.

Ottawa Born Players in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft

There are two players projected to be draft in the top 10 this year that are from Ottawa. Those players are Brandt Clarke and Mason McTavish. McTavish has been a riser this year as he was not projected to be a top 15 pick until a few months ago, but now there are rankings that place him as high as second. The center could be a great pick should he fall to the Sens.

The other Ottawa-born player is defenceman Brandt Clarke. Clarke is less likely to fall to number 10 as he has consistently been ranked in the two to seven range in draft rankings over the past year. With the Sens potentially in the market for a right-shot defenceman, Clarke could be an enticing pick-up should he slide on draft day.

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Alex O'Reilly Written by:

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