It's time for our penultimate publication in the pre-season prediction panel, people.
Most of our eyes this season will be trained on the young scorers in the Ottawa Senators lineup, rather than the league standings. The kids still have a lot to learn about being everyday NHLers, but lucky for them, they'll be given plenty of opportunities through the season. The openings in the lineup make it difficult to know what to expect, but we won't let that stop us from making predictions.
We'll focus on the second-line centre spot, which seems the most open to discussion: Who will score more points: Peter Regin, Stephane Da Costa, or Mika Zibanejad?
Peter Regin, simply because he's the safest pick to play the most games (injuries notwithstanding). He had an awful year last year, but he's too skilled for that to repeat. I think he's exactly the type of player MacLean will love, and he'll put him in a position to succeed.
Wow, tough question. Peter Regin is the best bet to play the most games (unless his shoulder keeps falling out), but I always find Regin skates around a lot and doesn't accomplish very much. My head say Peter Regin, my heart say Mika.
This is a really tough one to answer, because at this point, it can't be said which one of these will play a significant number of games. Zibanejad and Da Costa could be sent to the Elitserien and AHL respectively, while Regin has his injury issues (though he seems to be okay now). I am going to pick Mika Zibanejad because he is the only one guaranteed top six minutes and linemates if he stays.
As solid as Regin looked in the preseason, and as occasionally beautiful the pass from Da Costa, it was Zibanejad who was driving the net, playing dirty in the corners, and just generally doing what you've got to do to get the attention of the Murrays and Macleans of the world. He also scored timely goals. I think the Sens might start the season with Regin (if he's healthy) but by season's end it's Mika's job to lose.
I guess the real question is whether you believe Zibadnejad will play the whole season here. Despite his strong preseason, I don't. Senators fans should know better than most that a good preseason isn't indicative of a good regular season. The simple fact is that the second line is not a place for an 18-year-old to learn to play hockey, unless you're Crosby playing behind Lemieux. In his first nine games, Zibadnejad will face off against: Valtteri Filppula, Sens Killer Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Cullen, Paul Stastny, Marcus Johansson, Daniel Briere, Nik Antropov (but probably Alexander Burmistrov), Ryan Johansen, and Brandon Sutter. That schedule should be enough to convince GM Bryan Murray to send him back to Sweden. That leaves us with Da Costa and Regin to chose from. I believe Da Costa is more talented, so I'm saying Da Costa.
Petephanika Da Reginejad.
Peter Regin. Because I really want him to. If Regin gets the most, it isn't necessarily because Z-Bad and Da Costa have fizzled. If one of them comes out on top, it's probably because Regin has taken a hard fall down the depth chart.
I was going to say Peter Regin, but I just think that Mika Zibanejad has all the tools to put up points as a top-six player, at least on this sparse Ottawa Senators roster. He's got the right attitude, but it also seems likely he'll get to play with some good linemates (Daniel Alfredsson, for one), and he'll see powerplay time. Stephane Da Costa had a good rookie camp, but I'm not sure he's got the size to stick in the top two lines.
There you have it: A diversity of opinions on who might score the most of our three foremost candidates for the second-line centre position. Who do you think will take the lead?