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  1. Part 20 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great. Current Rankings List: 11. Ottawa 12. Minnesota 13. Colorado 14. Phoenix 15. Detroit 16. Toronto 17. Boston 18. Washington 19. Winnipeg 20. Tampa Bay 21. Carolina 22. Los Angeles 23. Philadelphia 24. Nashville 25. New Jersey 26. Dallas 27. Calgary 28. Vancouver 29. Columbus 30. San Jose ------------------ #11: Ottawa Senators Top Fws: Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek Top Ds: Erik Karlsson, Sergei Gonchar Top G: Craig Anderson Top 3 Under-23s: 1. D Erik Karlsson (22) 2. F Kyle Turris (23) 3. D Jared Cowen (21) Top 5 Prospects 1. F Mika Zibanejad (19) 2. F Jakob Silfverberg (20) 3. G Robin Lehner (21) 4. D Cody Ceci (18) 5. F Stefan Noesen (19) Prospect Pool Rating: Depth: B Bluechip Talent: B Diversity: B Overall: B Organizational Strengths: The Sens have built a diverse group of skilled blueliners. Even with the loss of Filip Kuba (who led the team in +/- and was third on the team in points by a defenseman) they have an offensive dynamo in Erik Karlsson, a veteran offensive leader in Sergei Gonchar, a veteran shutdown defender in Chris Phillips, and a burgeoning two-way blueliner in Jared Cowen. Jason Spezza is a true number 1 up the middle and Craig Anderson is a competent, if unspectacular, option between the pipes. Organizational Weaknesses: There is a lack of proven top 6 scoring wingers and scoring forwards in general. Milan Michalek can be counted on for at least 20 goals a season, but Daniel Alfredsson isn't getting any younger, Guillaume Latendresse has played 27 games in two seasons, Colin Greening is still young and the rest of the players on the flanks are depth and role players. Depth up the middle is lacking; Kyle Turris is pencilled in as the number 2 pivot but he hasn't shook off questions about his consistency and his overall game. Prospect Strengths: Ottawa's prospect pool strength lies in a few high-quality prospects. Mika Zibanejad looks like he'll be a force up front as early as next season. Robin Lehner has been knocking on the door to the NHL. Jakob Silfverberg was one of, if not THE, best player in the SEL last season. They have at least one highly skilled prospect at all positions; new arrival Cody Ceci on defense, Silfverberg on TW, Lehner in net and Zibanejad and Stefan Noesen can play all forward positions. Prospect Weaknesses: The organization lacks depth in goal and on the wing. Lehner is the only goalie prospect in Ottawa's professional system, and recent draftees Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard are still a few years away. While they have a good number of defenders in the system, most of them (besides Ceci) pan out as depth defenders at best. The center position is deep, but many of the forward prospects are boom-or-bust, including Matt Puempel, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Nikita Filatov. Outlook: Easily one of the biggest surprise stories of the 2012 NHL season, Ottawa, a team many had thought of to be in full-on rebuilding mode, forced its way into a playoff spot and pushed the top-seeded New York Rangers to a 7th game before bowing out of the postseason. The Senators rode a hot start to start the season and looked to be right up against the Bruins' rear bumper before letting up a bit and sneaking in as an 8th seed. The team got valuable contributions from all over the roster: JAson Spezza returned to form, Erik Karlsson followed up a breakout season with an even better one, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson managed to remain healthy for the most part and they got a wave of contributions from both rookies and veterans alike. Optimism runs high in the nation's capital, and for good reason. The team still has captain Daniel Alfredsson and star center Jason Spezza. Erik Karlsson is just 22. Jared Cowen is just 21. The future faces of the franchise are all in for the long haul and still have plenty of room to improve, and they'll be supplemented over the next few years by incoming prospects such as Swedes Mika Zibanejad, Robin Lehner, and Jakob Silfverberg. The Sens will again look to compete for a playoff spot come next season. and with Bryan Murray's eye for the future, the team will look to contend in the playoffs in the near future.
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