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Ranking the Senators 1990s 1st-Round Picks

The 1990s saw some of the very best NHLers in history get drafted. Some teams set themselves up for years with their picks in the first round. The New Jersey Devils drafted Martin Brodeur 20th overall in 1990. The Calgary Flames picked Jarome Iginla 11th overall in 1995. Shane Doan was taken by the Winnipeg Jets in 1995 as well. Even the ageless Jaromir Jagr was taken fifth overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990.

The Ottawa Senators came back into the league for the 1992-93 season and had a few high picks in the first rounds. As every team in the league can attest, drafting young players is not an exact science. That was the case for the Senators, although they did fairly well through the 1990s but there were a couple of big misses. With that in mind, here are the Senators’ eight first-round picks from the 1990s ranked.

8. Mathieu Chouinard (1998, 15th Overall)

NHL games played: 1 (0-0-0)

By far the biggest disappointment of all the Senators’ first-round picks in the 1990 was goaltender Mathieu Chouinard who never played a game for the team. What’s worse, the Senators actually drafted him twice. They picked him 15th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft and then after being unable to work out the terms of a deal, Chouinard re-entered the draft in 2000 when the team drafted him again, this time in the second round, 45th overall.

Chouinard seemed promising when the Senators drafted him the first time, coming from the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes. He lost just 60 of 173 games in his QMJHL career and in back-to-back seasons (1998-99 and 1999-2000) was awarded the Michel Briere Trophy as the most valuable player in the league. In 1998-99, he also won Defensive Player of the Year and was named a QMJHL First-Team All-Star and CHL Third-Team All-Star.

Drafting him the second time didn’t seem to work either, as a deal once again could not be reached. The goaltender played less than one period of NHL hockey, making two saves for the Los Angeles Kings, when he signed as a free agent in 2003.

7. Bryan Berard (1995, 1st Overall)

NHL games played: 619 (76-247-323)

Bryan Berard came into the NHL looking like he was going to be a superstar. He did have a solid career in the league. In fact, it could be argued that he should be higher on this list. That may be valid, except that Berard never played a game for the Senators. Instead, he requested a trade.

Through two seasons with the OHL’s Detroit Jr. Red Wings, Berard put up 164 points in just 114 games. He added 49 points in 48 playoff games. This is all as a defenseman. He was a CHL All-Rookie and First-Team All-Star, CHL and OHL Rookie of the Year, OHL Most Outstanding Defenseman and an OHL Champion. That was just his first season. In his second season, he collected the CHL and OHL defender of the Year honours, he was a CHL First Team All Star and had the most goals, assists and points by a defender.

After being drafted by the Senators first overall in the 1995 draft, the organization couldn’t sign the young player and instead traded him to the New York Islanders as a part of the Wade Redden deal. Berard went on to win the Calder Trophy with the Islanders, scoring eight goals and adding 40 assists. He was traded again, this time to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1999. With the Maple Leafs, he was playing against the team that drafted him when a stick from Marian Hossa caught Berard’s eye, ultimately changing his career.

Related: 3 Best Trades in Senators History

Despite doctors telling Berard that he wouldn’t be able to see again, he returned after missing the 2000-01 season with what he believed to be 65-70% vision in his right eye. Luckily, his vision just met the league minimum of 20/400 and he was cleared to play. He went on to play for the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets and once again the Islanders before heading to the KHL. He came into the league strong and many wonder, including Berard, what could have been if not for his eye injury and a back injury that required two surgeries.

6. Alexandre Daigle (1993, 1st Overall)

NHL games played: 616 (129-198-327)

Alexandre Daigle is a name that Senators fans know too well. Daigle was coming into the NHL as the “next Mario Lemieux” after putting up 247 points in 119 games for the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL. He was the CHL and QMJHL Rookie of the Year and won a gold medal in 1992-93 with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. Everything was looking great for the Senators’ first ever first-overall pick. The team even signed him to a controversial five-year contract worth $12.25 million deal right after drafting him.

Alexandre Daigle Ottawa Senators
Alexandre Daigle never lived up to his first-overall hype. (Photo by Barry Gossage via Getty Images)

Even when he started in the league, things were looking good for Daigle. In his rookie season, he put up 20 goals and 51 points through 84 games. His second season was shortened due to the NHL lockout, but he continued to impress, putting up 16 goals and 37 points in 47 games. He also played at the WJC, collecting 10 points in seven games.

In Daigle’s third season, he showed signs that he might not live up to the player the Senators hoped he would be. He had five goals and 17 points in 50 games. Despite reaching his career high in 1996-97 (51 points in 82 games), he had zero points in seven playoff games and stumbled out of the gate in 1997-98, and the team traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers after just four and a half seasons.

For the remainder of his career, he just couldn’t find success, getting traded from the Flyers to the Edmonton Oilers, then to the Tampa Bay Lightning and then again to the Rangers. After taking two year’s off due to “lack of motivation,” Daigle signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins for a season and then had a short resurgence with the Minnesota Wild (he hit his 51-point career high for the third time). He finished his hockey career in the Swiss league after finishing his NHL career as a minus-176.

5. Radek Bonk (1994, 3rd Overall)

NHL games played: 969 (194-303-497)

While numbers six to eight on this list are filled with injuries and disappointment, the top five offers a glimpse at some of the Senators’ best players in history, starting with number five: Radek Bonk.

Radek Bonk Ottawa Senators
Radek Bonk was a two-time All-Star with the Ottawa Senators. (Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE)

Bonk came into the league with a lot of hope after an 87-point performance with the IHL’s Las Vegas Thunder. It took him a while in the NHL to live up to that though. In his rookie season he mustered just 11 points in 42 games, although that did jump to 35 points in 1995-96 through 76 games. That would be his highest total for the next three seasons (18, 16, 32) and many were wondering if Bonk, on top of the already disappointing Daigle, was a bust.

But in Bonk’s sixth season, in 1999-2000, the centre found his game and nearly doubled his career high, collecting 23 goals and 60 points and became a crucial part of the Stanley Cup contending Senators. Over the next four seasons, Bonk collected 59, 70, 54 and 44 points and was constantly used against theopposing team’s top talent. He was a large part of the Senators crossing 100 points in three of four seasons in that stretch.

After that 44-point season, the Senators thought they had got all they could out of Bonk, sending him in a three-way trade to the Montreal Canadiens. He spent two seasons there and then signed as a free agent with the Nashville Predators for another two seasons before taking his talents overseas, playing in the Czech Republic for six more seasons.

Bonk was and remains a fan favourite in Ottawa, and rightfully so. He was a two-time, back-to-back All-] Star for the Senators (1999-2000 and 2000-01) and helped the team to its only Presidents’ Trophy in 2002-03.

4. Martin Havlat (1999, 26th Overall)

NHL games played: 790 (242-252-594)

Through the entire 1990s, the Senators picked Martin Havlat as their lowest first-round pick. This was while they were gearing up for their best seasons in the early 2000s. Despite being the lowest first-rounder, he was one of the best.

After drafting him in ’99, Havlat spent one more season in the Czech Republic and had the opportunity to play for the World Juniors where he won a gold medal. But then he also played in the World Championships, winning yet another gold medal. With the success he was having, the Senators had to play him.

Martin Havlat Ottawa Senators
(Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

Havlat’s rookie season in 2000-01 saw him collect 19 goals and 42 points through 73 games and he was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team at the end of the season and was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy. After his rookie season, Havlat had three back-to-back 20+ goal seasons, hitting his career-high of 31 in 2003-04. He had 50, 59 and 68 points in those seasons and it looked like he was going to continue trending up.

The following season was the NHL lockout and Havlat went back overseas to play. Upon returning for the 2005-06 season, the final season of his contract, he played just 18 games due to a five-game suspension (one of many he had) and a shoulder injury that took him out for 59 games. At the end of the season, he was a restricted-free agent and told the Senators that he only wanted a one-year deal so he could test free agency the next season. Instead, the team traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Havlat played another ten seasons in the NHL, but his best came with the Senators and Blackhawks. He was an NHL All-Star in 2007-08 and hit a new career-high in points in 2008-09 with the Blackhawks with 77. He went on to play for the Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils and two games with the St. Louis Blues before calling it a career. From suspensions to many injuries, Havlat never played a full season in his 15-season career.

3. Chris Phillips (1996, 1st Overall)

NHL games played: 1,179 (71-217-288)

Some people may have Chris Phillips higher on their lists, and they may be right. He contributed all of his 1,179 NHL games to the Senators and holds the Senators record for most games played, which won’t be broken for a long time. In terms of first-round draftees from the 1990s who contributed the most to the Senators, that would be Phillips.

Chris Phillips, Ottawa Senators
Chris Phillips (Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE)

As the third first-overall pick in Senators history, Phillips came into the league with the bar set high with two WJC gold medals for Team Canada, with one All-Star Team nod, CHL All-Rookie Team and WHL Rookie of the Year, CHL and WHL First-Team Al -Star, WHL Top Defender, a WHL Champion and a CHL Memorial Cup All Star nod made Phillips the obvious first-overall pick.

After joining the Senators, he didn’t disappoint. More of a stay-at-home defender, Phillips never jumped off of the scoresheet, but he was a crucial part of the team’s success, including the Presidents’ Trophy-winning 2002-03 season. In 2006-07, he had the best offensive season of his career, collecting eight goals and 26 points and helped the team to their only Stanley Cup Final in history, losing to the Anaheim Ducks.

Phillips was the team’s alternate captain for 10 seasons, remaining close with the team and as a fan favourite. He also regularly shows up to Senators events.

2. Alexei Yashin (1992, 2nd Overall)

NHL games played: 850 (337-444-781)

Oh, Alexei Yashin. Yashin was the first draft pick for the Senators in their return to Ottawa. He ended up playing seven seasons for the team. He helped the club to its first playoffs and scored an overtime goal that helped them win their first playoff series.

Alexei Yashin Ottawa Senators
Alexei Yashin (Photo by Mike Stobe /Getty Images)

On the ice, Yashin was a star. In his rookie season, he scored 30 goals and 79 points, earning a nomination for the Calder Trophy. He went on to play 504 games with the Senators, going nearly a point-per-game with 491 points. The height of his career came in 1998-99 when he collected 44 goals and 94 points, earning a Hart Trophy nomination.

Related: Alexei Yashin Trade Revisited

Yashin is largely remembered for his off-the-ice headlines though. In the seven years that he was a Senator, he disputed his contract three times, demanding more money. His career reached a low point in 1999-2000 when he sat out the season after he demanded a raise. When the team refused, he asked for a trade but instead of trading him, they took away his captaincy. He refused to report to the team and was suspended for the season.

After going to an arbitrator, Yashin was forced to play one more season with the team. The arbitrator determined that he still owed the Senators one season. After that season, the Senators traded him to the New York Islanders, getting Zdeno Chara and Jason Spezza in the process.

While the contract disputes hinder Yashin’s legacy, there’s no questioning his play on the ice. He’s not even close to being a fan-favourite, but looking at his on-ice performance, the Senators chose well with their first draft pick.

1. Marian Hossa (1997, 12th Overall)

NHL games played: 1,309 (525-609-1,134)

He’s not the highest drafted on this list, but Marian Hossa was the best first-round choice by the Senators in the 1990s. He spent seven seasons with the Senators, playing 467 games, scoring 188 goals and 390 points. He also collected 13 goals and 34 points in 51 playoff games and helped the team to its only Presidents’ Trophy in 2002-03.

Marian Hossa Ottawa Senators
Marian Hossa (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Hossa won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks and was also the first player to get to the Stanley Cup Final in three consecutive seasons with a different team (Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008, Detroit Red Wings in 2009 and the Blackhawks in 2010).

Hossa played seven games for the Senators in the 1997-98 season before being sent to the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. There, he won the Memorial Cup, Rookie of the Year and was a WHL and CHL First Team All Star. Despite missing the start of the following season, Hossa collected 15 goals and 30 points through 60 games and was the runner up for the Calder Memorial Trophy and was an All-Rookie.

Through his career, Hossa played in the All Star Game five times, was a Second-Team All Star in 2009 and hit 100 points once in 2006-07 with the Atlanta Thrashers. He was re-signed by the Senators in 2005-06 and was immediately traded to the Thrashers for star Dany Heatley and Greg de Vries.

He’s the only one on the list to eclipse 500 goals and 1,000 points and he’s the only one to win a Stanley Cup, let alone three of them. He played 19 seasons in the NHL and may have kept going if not for a progressive skin disorder. Hossa had just seven seasons with the Senators but had the best overall career of anyone on this list.

Statistics from Hockey-Reference.

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