PROSPECT REPORT: Senators strong at center, in need of game-changerLogan Brown is Ottawa Senators’ top prospect. Photo: Daniel Lea/CSM/REX
The Ottawa Senators made a lot of noise this season. Just not the right kind of noise. Coming off a 2016-17 campaign in which the franchise reached its third ever Eastern Conference Finals – a 4-3 series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins – it was expected the Senators would provide a strong encore. Instead, they floundered. And the noise they did make? Well, it consisted of a regular season start in Sweden, a misjudged trade in which they parted ways with Kyle Turris and 2017 1st round pick Shane Bowers and finally – an underwhelming season that quickly sprung trade rumors around captain and superstar Erik Karlsson.
Having said that, teams like the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils proved this year that it is possible to course-correct in the span of just one season. Let us take a look at the future of the Senators.
5. Aaron Luchuk, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
The undrafted Luchuk, 21, won the Memorial Cup last season and put up 115 points (50+65) in 68 games for Windsor and Barrie this year. Signed by Ottawa in December, Luchuk could be a real dark horse to climb the Senators depth chart in the near future.
4. Filip Chlapik, C, Belleville Senators (AHL)
It really could have gone either way between Chlapik and Colin White here. Both 1997-born forwards played around two dozen games on the Senators roster while spending the bulk of their seasons in the AHL. Chlapik gets the edge here due to his scoring prowess in junior hockey. After all, once a scorer – always a scorer. At least that is the hope for Chlapik.
3. Filip Gustavsson, G, Belleville Senators (AHL)
By many considered the Senators “goalie of the future”, Gustavsson put up strong numbers (91.8%, 2.07 GAA) as he started roughly half the games this past season for Luleå in the Swedish top league – SHL. Gustavsson finished the season with Belleville Senators in the AHL where he again put up solid numbers for a young goaltender. Not yet 20 years of age, Gustavsson has a bright future ahead of him.
2. Drake Batherson, C, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
There are primarily two things that made me put Drake Batherson (121st overall, 2017) as high as second in these rankings: one, his overall strong showing at the WJC tournament with seven goals in seven games and two, his ongoing playoff performance for Blainsville-Boisbriand with 22 points (8+14) in just 13 games.
1. Logan Brown , C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
As I have decided to categorize Thomas Chabot as an NHL player (the defenseman is unlikely to return to the AHL), the honor of featuring as the Senators top prospect – at least for now – falls to Logan Brown. A 2016 1st round pick (11th overall), Brown has had some injury troubles recently but his tremendous two-way abilities are enticing. Is currently enjoying a terrific playoff season for Kitchener in the OHL with 24 points (4+20) in 16 games.
Filip Gustavsson. Photo: Bildbyrån/Simon Eliasson
The Ottawa Senators has built terrific depth up the middle as four of five “top prospects” are listed primarily as centers. While not all are likely to enjoy NHL playing time at the position – instead being converted to wingers – it is worth noting that a slew of the Sens prospects that just missed the cut are also listed as centers.
In short, Ottawa should be set at center – at least for now.
It is a good thing then that the 2018 NHL Entry Draft isn’t exactly overflowing with franchise centremen, nary a top-10 natural C in sight according to a number of different draft rankings.
What the draft does feature an abundance of is natural wingers with NHL-level finishing abilities (Andrei Svechnikov, Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk) and offensively gifted defensemen (Rasmus Dahlin, Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard). Either player type should suit the Sens just fine as wingers Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone could certainly use some scoring help on the wings and Erik Karlsson likely wouldn’t mind a stud defender to mentor. To be fair, Cody Ceci is still coming into his own and Thomas Chabot turned out to be a nice surprise this season but more help on the blueline is needed. Should Karlsson be traded at some point in the near future all bets are of course off, but for now, drafting a Boqvist or Dahlin for Karlsson to mentor should be in Ottawas best interest.
Having finished with the 30th best record in the NHL this season, Ottawa is guaranteed a solid pick in a 2018 draft deep with top-level talent. The organizational needs are primarily at defense and wing which lines up perfectly with this particular draft. Regardless if Erik Karlsson stays on with the Sens or is moved at some point, the franchise is in need of a game-changer. Someone that will make the opening night roster and get the Senators faithful excited again after an abysmal season. Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina are all guaranteed to do just that. I’d even wager Tkachuk, Bouchard and Boqvist could do the same. The Senators prospect chart is in decent shape, especially at center, but it’ll look a lot stronger with an upcoming top pick on it.