The Ottawa Senators had one of the most memorable nights in their history at the 2020 NHL Draft on Tuesday.
The Senators had two of the top five picks and three in the first round, jump-starting a rebuild for a team that has not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2017.
“I think this is one of the biggest nights in franchise history when you add the quality of the three players we added,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said.
The Senators added goal-scoring forward Tim Stuetzle at No. 3 with a pick acquired from the San Jose Sharks in a trade for defenseman Erik Karlsson on Sept. 13, 2018; smooth-skating defenseman Jake Sanderson at No. 5 with their own first-round selection; and two-way center Ridly Greig at No. 28 with the pick acquired from the New York Islanders in the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade on Feb. 24.
Dorion said Stuetzle and Sanderson could be in the NHL next season.
Not only did the Senators bolster a young talent pool that already features 23-year-old defenseman Thomas Chabot and 21-year-old forward Brady Tkachuk, they did it with flair.
Ottawa wanted to make a splash on this special night. So they reached out to Alex Trebek.
Stemming from an idea by owner Eugene Melnyk, the Senators reached out to Trebek, the longtime host of the television game show “Jeopardy” and an alumnus of the University of Ottawa, to reveal their No. 3 pick.
“We all think it’s fantastic to have someone like Alex Trebek announce a franchise-defining pick. It was something special,” Dorion said.
Trebek made the announcement in “Jeopardy” style, saying, “This player was made the No. 3 overall pick by the Ottawa Senators in the NHL Draft.
“The correct response: Who is Tim Stuetzle?”
Sitting with his family at their home in Germany, Stuetzle was pleasantly surprised that it was Trebek calling out his name.
“It’s was nice … all this is a dream come true,” he said. “But my focus is on making the team next year and being a regular contributor.”
Stuetzle scored 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 41 games this season for Adler Mannheim of Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany’s top professional men’s league. He is the highest-selected NHL draft pick born and trained in Germany since forward Leon Draisaitl was selected No. 3 by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Two picks later, Dorion was excited to see Sanderson, the son of former NHL forward Geoff Sanderson, still on the board.
“When you come out of a draft with the best defenseman in it, it’s a success,” he said. “I know forwards are the fancier pick, the sexier picks, but we had this kid on the top of our list for defensemen.”
Sanderson was captain of the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team and scored 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 47 games in 2019-20.
Greig scored 60 points (26 goals, 34 assists) in 56 games for Brandon of the Western Hockey League.
“Our scouts did a lot of hard work,” Dorion said. “A successful night is the result.”
The last time a team had two top-five picks was the 2000 NHL Draft, when the New York Islanders selected goalie Rick DiPietro No. 1 and forward Raffi Torres No. 5. In the 1999 NHL Draft, the Vancouver Canucks took forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin with the Nos. 2 and 3 picks. In the 1997 NHL Draft, the Islanders chose goalie Roberto Luongo No. 4 and defenseman Eric Brewer No. 5. In the 1988 NHL Draft, the Quebec Nordiques got defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn with the No. 3 pick and forward Daniel Dore with the No. 5 pick.