The Best Draft Class in Ottawa Senators History

Ottawa Senators best draft class

NHL teams build their teams in many different ways. Some construct their clubs via free agency while others do it through trades. However, the main way teams create a roster is through the NHL Draft. Most years have maybe one or two players make the roster, but some years the general manager gets it right and gets a cornerstone or two for the franchise. The Last Word on Hockey is doing the best draft class for each team with the exception of the Seattle Kraken. Today we look at the Ottawa Senators best draft class.

Ottawa Senators Best Draft Class: 1994

There have been draft classes where Ottawa has picked more quantity, but the Ottawa Senators best draft class in history is 1994 because of the quality they received. Ottawa selected Radek Bonk with their first pick, third overall. He was the team’s best centre between the departure of Alexei Yashin and the arrival of Jason Spezza. In the second round, they picked Stan Neckar, a defensive defenceman who played 510 games in the NHL. The crown jewel was found in the fifth round when Ottawa selected Daniel Alfredsson, the greatest player in franchise history.

Radek Bonk (3rd overall)

The Senators selected the big 6′-3″, 215 pound Czech centremen third overall. Radek Bonk‘s size, power, snarl and skill had scouts debate him at first overall. He scored 87 points and racked up 208 penalty minutes in 76 games, playing against men with the Las Vegas Thunder in the IHL. It took five years before Bonk reached his potential thanks to a fortunate series of events for him. The team’s top centre, Alexei Yashin, sat out the 1999-00 season because of a contract dispute and that opened an opportunity for Bonk to be the team’s top centre. He took advantage of it, leading the team in scoring with 60 points.

Bonk continued his strong play, scoring 227 points over the next four seasons. He was an NHL All-Star in 2000 and 2001. Bonk was a driving force for the Senators making it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2003. He finishing second on the team in playoff scoring with 11 points in 18 games.

With Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher emerging as the team’s future at centre, Bonk was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. He played the next four years in the NHL, two in Montreal and two with Nashville Predators, scoring around 20-29 points a season. He played the next five seasons with Trinec Ocelari in the Czech Republic and retired in 2014.

Bonk’s 399 points as an Ottawa Senator is the sixth most in franchise history. Between 1999-2004, the Senators had the fourth-most wins in the NHL; it is the team’s best five-year run. Without Bonk driving offence as their top centre, the Senators wouldn’t have been as successful as they were.

Stan Neckar (2nd round, 29th overall)

This draft is the best because Ottawa drafted both Bonk and Alfredsson, but Stan Neckar is also a notable player. He played 198 games for Ottawa between 1994-1999 as a big, physical defensive defenceman. He joined fellow Czech countryman Radek Bonk and jumped immediately into the NHL, and was named the team’s best defenceman and top rookie for the 1994-95 season. The following season he scored a career-high 12 points and looked to be a future cornerstone on defence. However, foot and knee injuries limited Neckar to 65 games between 1996-1998 and he was passed by Wade Redden and Chris Phillips.

In November 1998, the Senators traded Neckar to the New York Rangers, but he soon found a home with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Neckar played for the Lightning from 2000-2004 with a short stint in Nashville at the end. He won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. Neckar played one more season in Sweden before retiring. He now lives in Tampa.

Daniel Alfredsson (5th round, 133 overall)

The Ottawa Senators picked first overall three times, second overall twice and picked third once during their first 10 years. Yet, their fifth-round pick in 1994 would become the franchise’s greatest player. Daniel Alfredsson leads the franchise in goals (462), assists (682)  points (1,108), and playoff points (100). He trails Chris Phillips in games played by one game. Alfredsson was also the team’s captain for 14 seasons from 1999-2013. He’s currently tied with Sidney Crosby and Shane Doan as the longest-serving captains in the 21st century. Deservingly, Alfredsson was the first player of the modern-day team to have his number retired by the organization.

Alfredsson emerged onto the scene in his first year in the 1995-96 season, scoring 26 goals and 61 points to lead the team in scoring by 22 points and win the Calder Trophy. The next season he scored 71 points to lead the Senators to their first playoff berth. They wouldn’t miss the playoffs again until 2009. His best seasons as a Senator were between 2005-2007. During the 2005-06 season, he scored a career-high 103 points and finished fifth in Hart Trophy voting and fourth in Selke Trophy voting. The following year he scored 22 points in 20 playoff games, including the overtime winner to send the Senators to their only Stanley Cup Final.

Alfredsson left the Ottawa Senators during the 2013 offseason because of a contract dispute and played his final year with the Detroit Red Wings. Outside of hockey, Alfredsson was heavily involved in charitable causes in the city, including mental health advocacy. For his work on and off the ice, he was awarded the key to the city in 2015. He still lives in Ottawa.

Other Draft Classes

1996

There are only two modern-day Senators to have their number retired. Alfredsson and the player they took first overall in this draft, Chris Phillips. Phillips played the most games in Senators history at 1,179. He was an excellent defensive defenceman and formed formidable shutdown pairings with Zdeno Chara and Anton Volchenkov. The Senators drafted Andreas Dackell 136th overall. He was a reliable middle-six right-winger for five seasons in Ottawa. With their last pick, the Senators drafted offensive defenceman Sami Salo. Salo played his first four seasons with the Senators and scored around 18 points a year as a top-four defenceman. The Senators traded him to the Vancouver Canucks for Peter Schaefer.

2001

In that draft, the Senators acquired the second overall pick in the Alexei Yashin trade and selected Jason Spezza. Going from the greatest Senators centre at the time in Yashin to the greatest centre of all time in Spezza. Jason Spezza played 11 seasons as a Senator and is second in every franchise scoring record behind Alfredsson. They also drafted Ray Emery, the only goalie to lead them to a Stanley Cup Final. They drafted Christoph Schubert and Brandon Bochenski, who are depth players. They also selected Tim Gleason and Brooks Laich, who both played over 700 games in the NHL but made their marks with other teams.

1997-2000

In four straight drafts from 1997-2000, the Senators selected two impactful players in each draft. They took Marian Hossa and Magnus Arvedson in 1997, Mike Fisher and Chris Neil in 1998, Martin Havlat and Chris Kelly in 1999, and Anton Volchenkov and Antoine Vermette in 2000.

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