Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators: The Maple Leafs Are Coming!

Let’s take a look at what the Ottawa Senators have done so far in free agency. 

Ceci/Zaitsev Swap

The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs finally completed the Zaitsev trade. I am a little confused at this one. Ottawa paid Toronto to take on a bad contract, shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t like Cody Ceci as a player whatsoever and the Sens management finally answered longtime prayers from the fanbase by trading the struggling defenseman.

I believe that if Ceci were used in the right capacity, he could be an effective top 4 defenseman in the NHL. However, he was never used in the right capacity in Ottawa. Ceci is a puck moving defenseman who was used as a shutdown defenseman and he simply does not have the skill set to be a shutdown defenseman. Let’s see what happens with Ceci next, does he re-sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs? Or does he move on?

Ron Hainsey

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Next, the Ottawa Senators signed Ron Hainsey to a one year contract at a 3.5 million cap hit. I like this signing, he can help mold guys like Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom into high caliber defenseman. While Chabot and Brannstrom are remarkable talents, it doesn’t hurt having a guy like Hainsey in the locker room to help them mature.

Hainsey is a decent defenseman, but he brings a lot more to the table than his on ice play. Remember, this guy won the cup his first two times playing in the postseason. He knows what it takes to win, he is a voice in the locker room and he can mentor everyone. As much as I think Ottawa overpaid for him, we need to get to the cap floor, and I think the signing is actually a pretty good one.

Tyler Ennis

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The next move was signing Tyler Ennis. Ennis signed with the Sens at 800k for one year.

I don’t know how to feel about this signing. He has jumped around the league recently and I don’t really get the point in this signing. Tyler Ennis went from Buffalo to Minnesota and then he went to Toronto. Does this show that he isn’t the most coachable player? Or does it mean that new Sens coach, D.J. Smith likes him a lot and just wanted him to come along?

Former Sens coach Guy Boucher had a few players like this, Tom Pyatt and Nate Thompson to name a few. I think Tyler Ennis is the same type of signing that Pyatt and Thompson were a few years back. Let’s see what happens.

Sticking To Rebuilding

Instead of using the massive amount of cap space the team to sign superstars, Pierre Dorion sticked to his rebuilding plan and made a few depth signings. I do not believe that Dorion is done yet tho, he has a few more things up his sleeves. For example, he needs to sign Colin White and he should sign Thomas Chabot as quickly as possible to avoid a situation like in Toronto where it took half the season to sign Nylander.

stats from hockey-reference.com

research from CapFriendly.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators: Depth Up The Middle & The Upcoming Draft

Even though the Ottawa Senators found themselves at the bottom of the 2018-19 National Hockey League standings, the prospect depth is quite pleasing.

 

Especially for the young Ottawa Senators center prospects or roster players. It’s easy to point out the weak center depth this past season but Ottawa still boasts a wealth of young talent up the middle. It’s well known that successful Stanley Cup contending teams must possess quality centers.

Where exactly do the Senators stand in this? While the Senators don’t yet possess a true number one center, they do own a bevy of young centers with true top-six upside. That list includes Logan Brown, Colin White, Josh Norris and to a lesser extent Filip Chlapik. White has already established himself as a capable top-six center. However, it’s hard to see him ever becoming a true number one center who can carry such a workload.

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On the flip side, Chlapik lost a lot of hype this past season. After playing 20 games with the Sens during the 2017-18 season and collecting four points, he was limited to just five games this past season, scoring just one goal. He also had competition in Belleville as Brown outplayed the young Czech forward to earn the number one center spot.

The point being that Chlapik did not meet expectations in his second pro season, and it seems as though fans and management have given up on the idea that he could ever become a solid second-line center. I included him in the list because I still feel as though he’s a quality prospect, but he’s going to have to step it up big time next year if he ever wants to reach that ceiling.

Another fact to remember is the Senators currently own two fantastic third-line centers in Chris Tierney and J.G Pageau. My guess is, if the Senators center prospects do make it to the big club in the next two seasons, that one of Tierney or Pageau will be dealt to make room for the youngsters. Barring any trades, the Sens could have a center core consisting of Brown, White, Tierney and Norris/Pageau in the near future.

The possibility also exists that general manager Pierre Dorion could trade for a center with the multitude of draft picks he was able to acquire this past season. However, if he decides to follow this path, he should only trade for a center who can slot inside the top-six.

 

Acquiring A Potential #1 Center In The Draft

Let’s also take into consideration the fact that the Sens could own as many as 17 draft picks in the first three rounds from 2019 through 2021. Dorion has a chance to acquire multiple new center prospects with high upside. They may also be able to find their coveted number one center of the future with the possibility of drafting Quinton Byfield in the 2020 NHL draft.

The Senators also have a chance to draft a top-end center in the upcoming 2019 draft. With intriguing names such as Ryan Suzuki, Connor McMichael and Alex Newhook who could all still be available at the number 19 draft position. It’s safe to say, the Sens should continue to stockpile on center depth as they continue their rebuild.

Like many others, I believe that a rebuild needs to start on the back end and make its way to the center position. The Sens already boast an established top pairing defenseman in Thomas Chabot as well as an up and coming star in Erik Brannstrom. These two defensemen are no doubt the most important pieces in this rebuild, considering that it took Mark Stone to land the slick swedish defenseman Brannstrom.

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Nonetheless, fans should be optimistic with the young defensemen in the Senators system as they also own a nice supporting cast as well. Christian Wolanin, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Christian Jaros and Max Lajoie all seem to be trending in the right direction.

 

Who Could The Senators Select With The 19th Overall Selection?

The possibilities are endless for Dorion and company, and it all begins this June at the NHL entry draft. There are a few players I would like management to target. The first player being Newhook.

He is a dangerous centerman who can set up plays as well as finish them. He fits the speed movement the Senators are trending towards perfectly. He also seems like a guy the Sens would target as they’ve shown a tendency to draft players out of the British Columbia Hockey League in the past.

The next player management should target is bulking right winger Arthur Kaliyev, who played with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Ontario Hockey League. His finishing capabilities are some of the best in his draft class. He put up 51 goals and 102 points in his sophomore season in Hamilton. If he improves his defensive game, he’s going to be a dynamic forward for years to come.

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To keep the forward trend going, Dorion and co should also be taking a good look at Barrie center Suzuki. It’s tough to get a good read on Suzuki’s ceiling as many scouts have varying opinions on the young forward. I believe he’s worth the risk. The young playmaker could be a staple in the Senators top-six and help set up players like Drake Batherson and Brady Tkachuk for years to come. I would like management to target these particular players if they’re available at position 19 in the draft. Of course, the possibility exists that they are all nabbed before that selection however.

The Senators also own the 32nd overall selection this coming draft. A few key players I would like them to target with that pick are Bobby Brink, Spencer Knight and Lassi Thomson. If they are still available, of course.

The next two drafts are crucial for Dorion and the Senators. They need to select a few gems in order to build a contender. As I’ve touched on before, Dorion and the scouting staff need to find a number one center in the next two drafts. It should also be of interest to look at highly touted goalie prospect Knight, who could very well become an elite goaltender in the NHL.

All we can hope for as sens fans is for Dorion to draft the best player available with the 19th overall selection.

Statistics provided by hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

 

Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators: The Cody Ceci Predicament

The Ottawa Senators have to determine what they will be doing with Cody Ceci.

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Ceci will be an RFA on July 1st and will be expecting a contract extension. But, the question is should the Ottawa Senators give him one?

It’s no secret that Ceci hasn’t been effective for the Senators. He’s been atrocious. He’s a liability. Let me throw some stats at you and see if you’d sign Ceci.

2018-2019: 74 games, 7 goals, 19 assists, -22, 22:34 ATOI, 142 Blocks, 120 Hits, 20 Take-Aways, 59 Give-Aways, 44.1 Corsi-For Percentage, 44.7 Offensive Zone Start Percentage, 55.3 Defensive Zone Start Percentage

The offensive production isn’t bad and the physicality isn’t bad. But, the defensive and possession numbers are a concern. You are paying Ceci to be a defenseman. You are paying him to ensure that the puck doesn’t go past Craig Anderson. Instead, you can make the argument that the Senators are betting off playing 5v4 for an entire game then having Ceci on the ice.

Entry Defense, Exits, Entries

 

visuals by CJ Turtoro, stats from Corey Sznajder

Per the visuals (above) from CJ Turtoro, it’s evident that Ceci is one of the worst defensemen on the Ottawa Senators. His entry defense and exits per 60 numbers are awful.

When you look at entry defense, Chris Wideman, Maxime Lajoie and Thomas Chabot were more effective than Ceci last season. His breakup percentage was very low, his dump percentage was on the lower end, his carry-in percentage was high and pass percentage was extremely high. If you are coaching a team, you don’t want your defenseman allowing quite a bit of entry passes or carry-ins. You’d rather have your defensemen making more dumps and/or breakups. 

In terms of exits per 60, Ceci tends to make a lot of passes to get out of his own zone. You can’t trust him to carry the puck out of his own zone and drive up the ice. If you are coaching the Senators, you’d lean towards Dylan DeMelo or Chabot to drive the puck from zone to zone. Aside from carries/60, Ceci’s best attribute when exiting his own zone is dumps, but his dumps/60 is still pretty weak when you compare it to the rest of the Senators’ defensive core.

In the entries per 60, you’ll see Ceci was more effective here than Lajoie, Christian Jaros, DeMelo and Wideman. But, Ceci isn’t someone to rely on. He fails to carry-in the puck and is a bit timid about making an entry pass. Instead, he’ll dump the puck into the offensive zone. He lives and breathes by the “Dump and Chase” strategy. That old strategy that your high school coach or midget/bantam coach lectured you on.

Projected Earnings

visual by Sean Tierney, data from EvolvingWild

In EvolvingWild’s projections, Ceci is projected to earn 4 million USD AAV on a 5 year term. If you look at CapFriendly, there are quite a few effective right-handed defensemen that earning roughly 4 million USD per season. Brett Pesce, Josh Manson, Damon Severson, Adam Larsson, John Klingberg, David Savard, Jason Demers and Colin Miller are all earning around 4 million per year and are all more productive than Ceci.

If Ceci truly asks for 4 million dollars a year, the Senators should be giving him a Greyhound bus pass or a Via Rail train ticket and saying you can go now. There is no way that Ceci is worth 4 million dollars a year. He’s worth around 2 million at best. Ceci is a flier. He could surprise folks and have a solid season next year. But, in order to do that, he’d need to be deployed a bit differently. He’d likely need a higher offensive zone start percentage, which would likely increase his corsi. However, that still wouldn’t be a good decision. He’d still be terrible in his own zone.

At this point, if I’m running the show in Ottawa, I’m trading Ceci’s rights. I’d trade Ceci’s rights on the Draft Day and hope for a mid-round pick. Let another team deal with Ceci. It’s clear that he isn’t working out in Ottawa, so why continue to pay him?

stats from Corey Sznajder, Hockey-Reference.com and NHL.com

projections from EvolvingWild

visuals from Sean Tierney and CJ Turtoro

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators Prospect Report

Recently, our official twitter handle posted a poll asking which team had the best prospect pool in the NHL and that inspired me to evaluate the Ottawa Senators prospect pool.

Erik Brannstrom, D, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Brannstrom clearly gets an A+. He’s been outstanding with the Belleville Senators since coming over in the Mark Stone trade. Many scouts around the league compare him to a former Senator, Erik Karlsson. Brannstrom is a skilled puck-moving defenseman and has modeled his game after Karlsson. I believe that he’ll be a top 5 defenseman in the NHL for many years to come. He should be able to crack the full-time roster next season.

Logan Brown, C, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Logan Brown was drafted by the Sens in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He projects to be the ideal middle 6 center in the NHL in my opinion. I grade Brown as a B+/A- prospect. While I do like Brown, I prefer Colin White in a top 6. I believe that Logan Brown needs a bit more seasoning in order to make the full time jump to the NHL. While call aren’t out of the question, I believe that he will start the 2021-22 season with the Senators.

Drake Batherson, C/RW, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Drake Batherson is an A prospect. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a solid play-maker and has been leading the Belleville Senators in assists with 35. In addition, he’s averaging 1.08 points per game this season in the AHL. Those are excellent numbers and he’s clearly shown that he’s ready for the NHL. He projects to be a top 6 centre, but does have experience playing right-wing. 

Vitali Abramov, LW/RW, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Acquired in the Matt Duchene trade, the Russian winger is seen as a high risk, high reward type player. Abramov was drafted in the third round in 2016. He projects to be a top 6 winger. From what I’ve seen from Abramov. he very much looks like a grade A prospect. The best way to describe this player is with the EA NHL game series potential of “low elite”. He is a player who could either pan out to be an elite player in the NHL or be a complete bust and not fail to make it onto an NHL roster. I believe he has a chance to make the NHL starting next season.

Filip Gustavsson, G, Brampton Beast (ECHL)

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This Swedish goaltender was acquired in the three-way trade that sent Derick Brassard to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gustavsson is regarded as one of the better goaltender prospects in the NHL. Gustavsson projects to be an amazing starting goaltender in the NHL. He’s had a rough year in North America as he’s jumped between the AHL and ECHL’s Brampton Beast.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t much success in either league. However, it is his first full season in North America, so I expect him to bounce back next season. Gustavsson gets an A rating from me. I expect him to crack the NHL lineup in the 2020-2021 season.

Joel “Joey” Daccord, G, University of Arizona (NCAA)

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The 22 year old American goalie has been phenomenal this season in the NCAA. He’s posting numbers that are out of this world. Daccord was drafted in the 7th round in the 2015 draft and at the time was regarded by many as a throw away pick. From discussions with my peers and after conducting my own research, I expect Daccord to be a grade A- prospect. I consider him as a low risk, high reward type goalie. He could become elite, but if he doesn’t, he was just a 7th round pick. I expect him to make the jump to the NHL in a few years, possibly in the 2021-22 season as a 24 year old, backing up Filip Gustavsson.

Filip Chlapik, C, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Centre prospect Filip Chlapik was drafted in the second round in the 2015 draft and has been a question mark for the Sens. My opinion varies on this player as he has just been a weird player in my opinion. In 50 AHL games, at the time of this article, he has 33 points. While it’s a respectable season points-wise, I don’t know if Chlapik will be very pivotal in the NHL and my prediction is that Ottawa will trade him for assets as the Sens have a tremendous amount of centre depth. I see him as a B- prospect.

Jacob Bernard-Docker, D, University of North Dakota (NCAA)

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The first round pick of this past draft is an interesting player too. Before the draft, I do not remember ever hearing his name in anybody’s mock draft.  Jacob Bernard-Docker strikes me as a potential top 4 defensemen on an NHL roster. He’s stellar in the offensive zone and tallies points, but he’s solid all around. My prediction is that Ottawa will keep either him or Max Lajoie and trade the other. I see him as a B+ prospect and I predict he will jump to the NHL in a couple years, possibly the 2020-21 season.

Jonny Tychonik, D, University of North Dakota (NCAA)

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Like his teammate Bernard-Docker, I believe he is an ideal top 4 defensemen. I think he will take Cody Ceci‘s spot in the lineup in two years, as he and Bernard-Docker should make the jump at the same time. The Senators need Jonny Tychonik as he is easily the best right handed defensemen in the system. He’s a B+ prospect.

Jonathan Davidsson, RW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

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Offensive winger Jonathan Davidsson is seen as a good offensive prospect. Currently playing overseas with Djurgårdens IF in the Swedish Hockey League, he’s a former 6th round selection and was acquired from Columbus at this year’s trade deadline. While he started the season well, he is currently dealing with a concussion. He’s a couple seasons away from joining the Senators full-time at the NHL level.  

Marcus Hogberg, G, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Marcus Hogberg grades out at a B-. Hogberg had a good stretch earlier in the year in the NHL, but he was only in the big leagues due to necessity. Hogberg projects to be an ideal backup in the league and once Ottawa decides on either Daccord or Gustavsson, Hogberg could serve as either’s backup.

Young Guns on the Roster

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Some Senators prospects have made the jump to the NHL already, including Brady Tkachuk, Colin White and Thomas Chabot. All three have had breakthrough seasons in the NHL and they are all regarded as A+ prospects. Tkachuk and White were second and third in rookie scoring for a good chunk of the season and Chabot has been in the top 10 in points for defensemen almost all season.

The Ottawa Senators have a promising future and I hope all the prospects will realize their full potentials. Please tweet me @GrindLikeJags with your opinions and if I missed anyone significant.

All stats and references come from hockey-reference.com, eliteprospects.com and NHL.com.

Feature Image credeit to Nikos Michals

Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators: Brannstrom & Véronneau Making Their Debuts

Earlier today, TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted that the Erik Brannstrom and Max Véronneau will make their Ottawa Senators debuts tonight, as the Senators face the St. Louis Blues. If you are in region, you can watch their debuts on TSN5/RDS2.

Brannstrom

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The Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone chapter finally closes in Ottawa as blue chip prospect, Erik Brannstrom who was acquired in the Mark Stone trade is set to make his NHL debut tonight for the Ottawa Senators.

Last off-season, Ottawa management promised that at least 10 prospects would make the jump to the NHL this season as part of the rebuild. Erik Brannstrom adds to that list of young guns including the likes of Colin White, Brady Tkachuk, Max Lajoie and more to make the jump to the big leagues. As all of those players have had respectable seasons so far, what can we expect of Brannstrom?

Erik Brannstrom is Ottawa’s top prospect and projects to be an elite offensive defenseman in the NHL. Some analysts and scouts compare him to a certain Erik Karlsson… Karlsson made the jump to the NHL at age 19, and so will Brannstrom. The 19 year old Swede could slide into Thomas Chabot‘s spot in the lineup as he is out “week to week” with a broken toe. This means that Brannstrom will get a lot of chances to prove his worth to the team and possibly stay in the NHL even when Chabot returns.

Tonight marks the beginning of a new chapter, a chapter where Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom will lead the Ottawa Senators from the back end. 

Véronneau

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As mentioned above, right-winger Max Véronneau will also make his Senators debut. 

Two days ago, Véronneau signed a two year entry-level contract with the Senators. He had been playing collegiate hockey for Princeton University in New Jersey. Throughout his time in Princeton, he was one of their top point producers. But, his best season was his junior year, in which he scored 17 goals and 38 assists in 36 games played. 

There will likely be a lot of Senators fans who will be skeptical of Véronneau, as he was never drafted. But, as my colleague, Daniel Gagnon mentioned in his post, the Ottawa, Ontario native is an “all around offensive talent”. He’s also quite speedy as well. Based on his skill-set and his numbers in the NCAA, he could turn into a reliable force for the Senators going forward. Plus, there have been a large number of un-drafted college free agents including Tyler Bozak, Torey Krug, Frank Vatrano, Chris Kunitz and Matt Read who have been very successful in the NHL. 

In addition, this contract is a no-risk high-reward deal. Véronneau’s deal is so small and worst case if he doesn’t pan out, he can play in the AHL. No risk what-so-ever.

The Future Is Here

By no means are the Senators done rebuilding. The Senators will continue to invest in young talent and Sens fans will likely see many rookie debuts over the next couple of seasons.

But, there is a lot of excitement around Brannstrom and Véronneau as both players have a lot of potential. With that being said, you should check out their debuts tonight!

stats from eliteprospects.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals