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Silver Seven 2015 Report Cards: Forwards

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The third article in a four-part series of 2014-15 Ottawa Senators report cards. This one looks at the performances of the forwards.

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Nine staff members assigned letter grades for each of the Senators players including the playoffs. Here are the aggregate final grades for the forwards. (Earlier this week we showed the defense and goalies.)

Colin Greening D+

Last season's stats: 76 GP, 6 G, 11 A, 41 PIM, 108 S

This season's stats: 26 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 29 PIM, 39 S

Last season's grade: D

Tough year for Soylent. He only found his way into 26 NHL games, being a frequent healthy scratch, and even passed through waivers to play in 12 AHL games. He just isn't worth the $5.95-million he's owed over the next two years. He will most likely be bought out in the summer, and some team may take a chance on him for their fourth line.

Highest grade: C

Lowest grade: D-

Chris Neil D+

Last season's stats: 76 GP, 8 G, 6 A, 211 PIM, 99 S

This season's stats: 38 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 78 PIM, 23 S

Last season's grade: D+

It's clear that Neil's best years are behind him. Injuries kept him out of all but 38 games this year (and two playoff games) in which he recorded seven points and 78 penalty minutes. His 1.46 minor penalties per 60 minutes played is way down from his rate of 2.76 minors per 60 last year. Maybe it's a sign that he's learning not to take dumb penalties. Still, it's hard to see what he brings to the team at this stage in his career.

Highest grade: C+

Lowest grade: F

Zack Smith D+

Last season's stats: 82 GP, 13 G, 9 A, 111 PIM, 154 S

This season's stats: 37 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 18 PIM, 38 S

Last season's grade: C+

Z. Smith's season was hard to judge, to say the least. It can be seen the wide range of grades he was given. He played the first 27 games of the season, then got injured, and missed most of the year. He only got into 10 more games at the end of the year, then three playoff games. It seems Dave Cameron also didn't know what to make of him, both playing him on the second line and making him a healthy scratch down the stretch. He finished with three points in 37 games, and 18 PIMs (all minor penalties). A couple years ago, Smith carved out a couple niches for himself: third-line centre, and penalty-killing forward. In his absence, those roles were taken over by players with much higher upside. Smith's grittiness seems to have been usurped by Mark Borowiecki. It isn't clear if Smith has a role on this team next season.

Highest grade: B

Lowest grade: F

Alex Chiasson C

Last season's stats: 79 GP, 13 G, 22 A, 38 PIM, 144 S

This season's stats: 76 GP, 11 G, 15 A, 67 PIM, 105 S

Last season's grade: N/A

Chiasson came over as the only NHL-ready piece in the Jason Spezza trade. His season was a disappointment, as his points per game dropped from 0.44 last season to 0.33 this season. He scored 15 points in his first 27 games, but then only put up 11 in the final 49. This was in large part because Stone and Hoffman got more time in the top six and on the powerplay as the season progressed. He's an RFA this off-season, but it's unclear what his role will be moving forward. This season did nothing to show Sens' brass they should invest in him long-term.

Highest grade: B-

Lowest grade: D

David Legwand C+

Last season's stats: 83 GP, 14 G, 37 A, 61 PIM, 146 S

This season's stats: 80 GP, 9 G, 18 A, 32 PIM, 91 S

Last season's grade: N/A

Legwand was signed as an insurance second-line centre in case Zibanejad couldn't live up to the role. He finished the season being a healthy scratch for Zack Smith in the playoffs. At the start of the season, he played with offensive-minded wingers and got significant time on the powerplay. By the end of the season, he was stuck on the fourth line with Chiasson and whoever was in Cameron's doghouse. He finished with only 27 points in 80 games, the worst points-per-game of his career by far in any season in which he played more than one game. Still, he finished with 1:41 shorthanded per game, fourth among Senators forwards. He wasn't signed to play mop-up duty, but he did the job well.

Highest grade: B-

Lowest grade: C

Matt Puempel B-

Last season's stats: N/A

This season's stats: 13 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 8 PIM, 14 S

Last season's grade: N/A

A first-round pick of the 2011 draft, Puempel got his first taste of NHL action this year. He was the second player (after Shane Prince) called up as part of Ottawa's audition of their best AHL forwards. His call-up happened to correspond with the start of the Sens' California road trip. As part of the philosophy of not changing a winning lineup, Puempel stayed up for 13 games, even though Prince only got two. He recorded three points, including two goals, in those 13 games. He likely would've stayed up longer, but a high-ankle sprain put him out for the rest of the season. In his audition, he showed that he has a great shot, but needs to play with linemates who can carry possession. It's also hard to gauge his audition because he averaged only 8:01 per game. Next year he will definitely be given a shot in training camp, but could very well find himself in the AHL again to start the year.

Highest grade: B

Lowest grade: C

Curtis Lazar B-

Last season's stats: N/A

This season's stats: 67 GP, 6 G, 9 A, 14 PIM, 92 S

Last season's grade: N/A

Lazar entered the year with tonnes of hype, having won the Memorial Cup the previous year with Edmonton. It was unclear whether or not he'd stay up for 10 games to burn the first year of his ELC, but showed enough promise to get the chance. He was released to captain Team Canada to a gold medal at the World Juniors in December. Shortly after his return, he got his first NHL goal. It was a little bit worrisome that his first three NHL goals were all of the garbage, stuff-it-in-from-the-crease variety. Late in the season, he joined Condra and Pageau to form one of the best third lines in the league. Lazar even scored a couple goals on strong wrist shots near the end of the year. Still, most expected more out of the young forward this year, and those expectations won't recede much heading into next year.

Highest grade: B

Lowest grade: B-

Milan Michalek B-

Last season's stats: 82 GP, 17 G, 22 A, 41 PIM, 169 S

This season's stats: 66 GP, 13 G, 21 A, 33 PIM, 130 S

Last season's grade: C

Most Sens fans were surprised when Milo was signed to a three-year, $4-million per year contract in July. Most expected the he wouldn't be re-signed after a disappointing 2013-14. His start to the season left lots to be desired, scoring only nine points in 36 games. However, from January 10th onward, he started to come alive, scoring 25 points in 30 games. When MacArthur was injured, Michalek got the chance to play with Stone and Turris on the top line, which definitely helped his point totals. Injury kept him out of the last 11 games of the regular season, but he played in all six playoff games, scoring one goal. His ice time in the playoffs varied from 10:31 (Game 4) to 20:47 (Game 3), so it's unclear where Cameron will slot him next year.

Highest grade: B-

Lowest grade: C+

Clarke MacArthur B

Last season's stats: 79 GP, 24 G, 31 A, 78 PIM, 159 S

This season's stats: 62 GP, 16 G, 20 A, 36 PIM, 140 S

Last season's grade: A+

In contrast to Michalek, MacArthur's 5-year, $4.65-million per year extension in the summer was greeted with cheers from the fanbase. After all, he'd been a small bright spot in the previous year's disappointing seasons for the team. He started the year hot, putting up 10 points in his first 12 games, and had the game-winning goal in three of those games. From there, his pace fell off quite a bit. In a way, he saved the Sens' season in mid-February, when he crashed into Robin Lehner's crease. Both MacArthur and Lehner were injured on the play, allowing Andrew Hammond to make history and march the team to the playoffs. MacArthur returned from injury to play the final nine games of the season, putting up 10 points. He also put up two points in six playoff games, though he was hampered by an injury in the final playoff game.

Highest grade: B+

Lowest grade: C+

Bobby Ryan B

Last season's stats: 70 GP, 23 G, 25 A, 45 PIM, 190 S

This season's stats: 78 GP, 18 G, 36 A, 24 PIM, 221 S

Last season's grade: B

It took a little while for Ryan to find stable linemates, but once he and Zibanejad were paired with Hoffman, they arguably became Ottawa's top line. There were 43 games before the All-Star break, and Ryan put up 33 points in that span. In the 19 games immediately before the All-Star break, he put up 19 points, earning him Ottawa's lone berth (unless you count Hoffman as a rookie) in the all-star game. In the first 16 games after the break, he put up 16 points. From there though, the offence mostly dried up. He put up only five points in his remaining 19 games, and followed that up with 2 goals in the playoffs, both coming in the same game. He claimed he wasn't hurt down the stretch, but it's very possible his conditioning just wasn't top-notch since he'd had season-ending surgery last year. Ryan made great strides as a leader, wearing the second A when both Neil and Phillips were out. Still, with a 7-year, $7.25-million per year extension kicking in this fall, the Sens will want more of the first-half Ryan.

Highest grade: B+

Lowest grade: C+

Mika Zibanejad A-

Last season's stats: 69 GP, 16 G, 17 A, 18 PIM, 153 S

This season's stats: 80 GP, 20 G, 26 A, 20 PIM, 150 S

Last season's grade: A

Zibanejad's start to the season was oh-so-slow. It took him nine games to get his first point. He had six points in his first 21 games. Part of that was deployment, because Zibanejad seemed to get weak possession wingers like Ryan and Chiasson for the most part. There was even one game early in the season against the Blue Jackets where Zibanejad's line got zero (!!) offensive zone starts. However, once Zibanejad and Ryan were put with Hoffman, that line caught fire. He had his first career four-point night against the Canucks (he'd never even had a three-point night before that). Zibanejad and Turris look primed to give Ottawa a 1A-1B punch down the middle entering next season.

Highest grade: A

Lowest grade: B+

Erik Condra A-

Last season's stats: 76 GP, 6 G, 10 A, 30 PIM, 85 S

This season's stats: 68 GP, 9 G, 14 A, 30 PIM, 106 S

Last season's grade: B-

All's well that ends well for Condra. He was a healthy scratch for 14 of the team's first 21 games, but after a strong showing against the Blues, cemented his place in the lineup. He joined Pageau and Lazar to form the team's shutdown unit. He and Pageau also played significant time on the PK, with Condra finishing first among Sens forwards with 2:13 shorthanded per game. Amazingly, his 23 points weren't a career high (25 in 81 games in 2011-12), but his points per game was the highest since he scored 11 in 26 games to end the 2010-11 season. Condra's a UFA, and it's unclear if Ottawa's budget will allow for Condra to be re-signed, but if not, this season pretty much guaranteed he'll get an offer somewhere.

Highest grade: A

Lowest grade: B+

Mike Hoffman A-

Last season's stats: 25 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 2 PIM, 61 S

This season's stats: 79 GP, 27 G, 21 A, 14 PIM, 199 S

Last season's grade: B

After clearing waivers last year, Hoffman had a huge season this year. He took over the rookie goal-scoring lead on January 13th, and his 27 goals were first among rookies at the end of the season. What really helped was his grouping with Zibanejad and Ryan. What surprised most was that it took until well into 2015 for Hoffman to get any powerplay time, despite his team-leading number of goals. Late in the season, Coach Cameron seemed hesitant about Hoffman's perceived defensive issues and demoted him to the fourth line. Still, down three games to zero in the playoffs, Cameron reunited 68-93-6, and both Hoffman and Ryan got their only points of the playoffs when they were together. A pending RFA, it's anyone's guess what kind of contract gets offered to the 25-year-old.

Highest grade: A+

Lowest grade: B+

Kyle Turris A-

Last season's stats: 82 GP, 26 G, 32 A, 39 PIM, 215 S

This season's stats: 82 GP, 24 G, 40 A, 36 PIM, 215 S

Last season's grade: A+

Turris was one of the Sens' most consistent forwards this season. He never went more than four games without a point the whole year. His chemistry with Mark Stone was very noticeable, and the two seemed to play well whether with MacArthur or Michalek or as a twosome in overtime. His career-high 64 points were two more than offensive dynamo Jason Spezza this season. I think it's a testament to Turris how consistent his numbers were from last year. I expect next year will see some improvement provided both he and Stone are healthy for most of the year.

Highest grade: A

Lowest grade: B+

Jean-Gabriel Pageau A

Last season's stats: 28 GP, 2 G, 0 A, 12 PIM, 31 S

This season's stats: 50 GP, 10 G, 9 A, 9 PIM, 97 S

Last season's grade: C-

JGP impressed in training camp, but mostly due to the crunch of one-way contracts, found himself in Binghamton to start the year. After Chris Neil and Zack Smith were the victims of long-term injuries in consecutive games, Pageau got the call-up and never looked back (unless you count the weird time he was sent down for two AHL games, missing only one NHL game, to give Shane Prince a look with the club). His 1:57 shorthanded time on ice was second among Sens forwards. He also finished behind only Erik Condra and Shane Prince in the fraction of the time he was started in the defensive zone at even strength. Pageau became Cameron's go-to guy to win a key defensive zone draw. After last year's disappointment, Pageau showed he is ready for full-time NHL duty, and will most likely get a one-way deal with the club for next year.

Highest grade: A+

Lowest grade: B+

Mark Stone A+

Last season's stats: 19 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 4 PIM, 36 S

This season's stats: 80 GP, 26 G, 38 A, 14 PIM, 157 S

Last season's grade: A-

Stone's season was nothing short of spectacular. His start to the year may have been overshadowed by Hoffman's lead in rookie goals, but Stone's second-half was extremely impressive. He led the entire league in 5v5 points in 2015 with 32. He finished fourth in overall points in 2015 with 47 (sandwiched between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby). In 2015, his 5v5 points-per-60-min were also first in the league, showing that he wasn't just benefiting from an increase in ice time. He tied with Ryan O'Reilly for the league lead in takeaways with 98. His hot finish led him to a Calder Trophy nomination. Despite getting his wrist hacked in the first round of the playoffs, he tied for the team lead in points with four. He figures to be Ottawa's best forward next year, and of all the RFAs Ottawa has to lock up this offseason, Stone should be locked up for the longest term.

Highest grade: A+

Lowest grade: A