Ottawa Senators winger Kaspars Daugavins was relied on as an offensive player in both the OHL and the AHL, but he settled into a checking role in his first NHL season in 2011-12. Is that where Daugavins maxes out at hockey's highest level, or is there more he can do for the Ottawa Senators?
In last year's ranking, Kaspars Daugavins settled in at 18 overall, which was pretty good considering the very low expectations placed on his shoulders heading into the season. He was used in a checking role in the regular season, but was bumped in favour of more experienced and versatile players when the post-season came around.
So why, after nearly a full season as an NHL player, has Daugavins fallen five full spots in Silver Seven's rankings? It may be partially a result of the fact that we haven't heard of him for a while--during the lockout, he was largely out of sight and out of mind while playing for Riga Dynamo of the KHL despite scoring 14P (5G, 9A) in 35GP. It's also due in part to the addition of a few players from last year's draft class, further improving Ottawa's group of prospects working their way through the system.
More than anything, though, is the increasingly evident probability that Daugavins' ceiling is limited as an NHL player. He was used effectively as a fourth-line penalty-killing specialist last season, and it seems likely that he'll be used in that capacity once again. He's a valuable type of player for every team, certainly, but there are a lot of round pegs out there that can fit in the spot Daugavins currently occupies.
One thing in Daugavins' favour is that he's the potential to be at least somewhat dynamic offensively, and he's shown it in short flashes in the past. He's not top-six material, but with a bit more production offered more consistently he may be able to climb up into a third-line spot with more responsibility. For this season, that's got to be his goal.
The Senators and Daugavins signed a one-year, one-way contract extension in the off-season, meaning that Daugavins is going to get another season to differentiate himself from the other fourth-line role players that are regularly available. While it's important to remember that last year was his rookie season, he's also just months away from his 25th birthday. While it would be a shame to see him leave the team since it's so enjoyable to watch him play (the guy always looks like he's having the time of his life out there), opportunities are finite. Daugavins will have to stand out to stick around with this team, or he'll be bumped down and eventually off the depth chart by one of the up-and-coming players in the Senators' system.