With the possibility that the entire first line will be moving on in the offseason and given the realities of an internal budget, the Senators will have openings for Top 6 forwards, and will look to fill some of those openings internally.
Thankfully, a few candidates emerged and spent time in Ottawa in 2013-2014. Mika Zibanejad, Mike Hoffman, and Mark Stone are all realistic candidates to fill Top 6 openings. Which forward is most likely to hit the 20 goal plateau in 2014-2015?
In some ways, Zibanejad is the most likely candidate to hit the 20 goal mark, having played the most of the trio at the NHL level (120 games). If/when Jason Spezza is traded, Zibanejad will likely find himself as the centre of the second line with increased ice time and wingers with more offensive ability. He scored 16 goals in 69 games this season and that puts him on track to hit 20 over a full season of 82 games.
After tearing up the AHL competition with the Binghamton Senators for most of the 2013-2014 season, Hoffman got an extended look with Ottawa to finish the year. While he started a bit slow with Ottawa, his offensive ability was apparent in the final weeks as he found a role playing the point on the power play. He scored just three goals in 25 games with Ottawa, but scored 30 in 51 games with Bingo.
Stone's season was once again disrupted by injury, but he still managed to score four goals in 19 games with Ottawa. It's a small sample size, but over a full season is a scoring rate that would put him within striking distance of 20. Like Hoffman, he looked more comfortable in the final weeks of the season and also had decent numbers with Binghamton (15 goals in 37 games).
Who plays on the first line? Who plays on the second? Which forward is most likely to hit the 20 goal mark?