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Silver Nuggets: December Prospect Update

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Players from the organization’s last two draft classes are off to strong starts

NHL: Ottawa Senators at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

I like December as a time to check-in on prospects for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it allows us to get a better look at a solid ~1/3 of a player’s season after setting expectations for them in the offseason. Secondly, as fans, we have a better idea of where the NHL team stands and thus, how much we should care about what’s coming sooner rather than later. Lastly, it’s World Juniors season. The Sens look to have one of their largest contingents in the world’s most exciting hockey tournaments around with ~6 players.

Europe

The Sens quartet playing in the continent of Erik Karlsson have been off to wonderful starts. Timra’s Jonathan Dahlen has been lighting up the Allsvenskan to the tune of 12th in league scoring (17th in PPG; min. 10 games) with 20 points in 25 games. It’s an improvement on his totals from last season, where the slick Swede finished 41st in league scoring, but he’s helped by 2017 draft eligible prospect Elias Pettersson — a player who’s second in league scoring at the moment. It’s safe to say that Dahlen and Pettersson are the league’s top U20 players, and not just because they rank #1 and #2 in U20 scoring but also because of where they rank compared to their peers. Other than AIK’s duo of Karlström and Bratt, the next closest U20 player has 9 points. Even more impressive? Dahlen has 85 shots in 25 games, good for 3.4/game and second in the league (Pettersson is 29th), and plays ~3 more minutes a night on his way to the 17th highest ice-time/game in the league at 18:22, third on Timra. Most of Dahlen’s production is at even-strength as well, with only 3 of his 12 goals coming on the powerplay. In terms of skilled offensive players in the organization, it’s safe to say that Dahlen is up there with Francis Perron and Colin White as the most skilled forwards in the organization. He’ll be one to watch alongside fellow Swede Filip Ahl at the World Juniors later this month.

Finnish winger Markus Nurmi is well on his way to surpassing last season’s point totals as well. In his third year in Finland’s top U20 league, the Jr. A Sm-Liiga, 18yo Nurmi has 27 points in 24 games to lead TPS in both goals and points. Nurmi’s more raw than Dahlen, in that he’s yet to grow into his 6’3 frame and isn’t yet playing among top Finnish talent, who are usually playing among men like Dahlen is. Thus, it’s one of the reasons why I’m not surprised that Nurmi didn’t get invited to Finland’s 2017 World Juniors camp (the Finns decided to go with a 2017-heavy roster), although it is a bit disappointing. As the first Finnish player drafted by the Sens in a decade, look for Nurmi to potentially apply for the CHL Import Draft, especially if he doesn’t get promoted to TPS’ Liiga squad by the end of the year.

Despite being the organization’s only European blueline prospect, the reviews on Christian Jaros from Sens management have been glowing. Jaros’ makeup is what the Sens generally covet: hard-working, shutdown blueliners that are capable of exiting the zone smoothly. At development camp, Randy Lee went on record saying that he didn’t think Jaros was far off, and I think he may be right. A right-shot, Jaros fills a gap on the Sens depth chart and has been showing some offensive flair that many were worried about when he was drafted with the team’s 5th round pick in 2015. Jaros currently is tied for second among Lulea rearguards with 8 points in 22 games — a marker which is nothing to scoff at seeing as it puts Jaros as sixth in D scoring as a U24 defenceman, and the youngest in the top 10. Lulea split their ice-time pretty evenly amongst their defencemen, with all 6 regulars between 17:40 and 22:58; Jaros ranks fourth. There’s been hints that Jaros will be coming over to Belleville next season and he’ll potentially challenge Chris Wideman for a third-pairing spot at the NHL level. You better watch out!

Outside of Chris Driedger, the club’s top goaltending prospect is Linkoping’s Marcus Hogberg. After putting up the league’s 7th best save percentage at .917% in 2014-15, Hogberg had a rougher 2015-16 and started the year splitting starts with 23yo Jacob Johannsson. After securing back-to-back shutouts last weekend, Hogberg has now started 14 of Linkoping’s 23 games and ranks 7th among goaltenders with a .925. When he was drafted with the team’s third rounder in 2013, the organization remarked that they felt that they drafted the best junior goalie in Sweden. With Hogberg likely to come over to Belleville to replace either Driedger or Matt O’Connor next season, we’ll soon see if he can translate his SHL performance to North America.

NCAA

With 9 players refining their trade in the NCAA, the Sens largest contingent of prospects are currently playing college hockey. Frankly, the results have been disappointing overall.

2016 fourth round pick Todd Burgess hasn’t yet played for RPI after suffering an injury in the offseason, and isn’t likely to play again until 2017. This one stings a bit in particular as there were a number of good prospects left on the board when the Sens took Burgess, an overager (he’s already 20 — the same age as Jaros) out of the second-tier U.S. junior league. He did lead the NAHL in points, but it seems like we’ll at least have to wait ~3 more years to see if Burgess is deserving of an NHL contract.

The Hockey East conference quartet of Shane Eiserman, Chris Leblanc, Miles Gendron (D) and Colin White have been up and down. Eiserman and Leblanc, entering their third and fourth years of college hockey respectively, have been disappointing in that their production looks eerily similar to previous years, even when you look at the shot numbers. Both were drafted with the “power forward” mentality that seems to fool NHL teams every now and then, and haven’t been put their complete game together. Miles Gendron, a gamble pick in the third round of the 2014 draft, has been a bit better. He’s surpassed his rookie point total at UConn in 10 less games and is their leader in scoring amongst defencemen. He’s not near the league leaders, though, and his shot rate is <1.0/game, which is worrying. For a player highlighted by his skating ability, you’d think Gendron would be able to find space to use his shot more. Unlike the former two, Gendron still has at least a year of NCAA hockey left before the Sens look to sign him, as most drafted prospects are signed in the offseason between their third and fourth years of college. Colin White, the player from this group we’re most excited about, started off the year slow after being hampered with an injury for most of the offseason — the same one that kept him from playing during development camp. White has since rebounded with points in his last seven games (10), climbing his way back into 12th in conference scoring and 1.00 PPG. Unlike the others, I haven’t been worried about White’s ability to create offence because he shoots a lot — 3.29/game — and he’s likely to get a prime role as the U.S. looks to medal at the World Juniors later this month.

Another player the Sens will have to make a decision on this offseason is local rearguard Kelly Summers. Like Jaros, Summers fills a hole on the team’s org. chart by being a puck-moving, right-shot defenceman. Drafted in the 7th round in 2014 — right before Francis Perron — Summers has only seen marginal point improvements in his three years in Clarkson (10, 14, on pace for 16) but may still find himself signed because the team has something to work with. Summers’ strength is his hockey IQ while his weakness lies in his skating ability — something that’s more correctable than if the two were flipped. The other intriguing defender is NoDak’s Christian Wolanin. With the stars of the Hawks championship D corps off to pro hockey, Wolanin has found himself more minutes — although it hasn’t yet translated into points as the entire North Dakota team has struggled to regain form this season. With no goals and 6 points in 14 games, I’m expecting Wolanin to try and have a stronger second half to the year to prove to his team, and Sens management, that he was worthy of being the team’s fourth round draft pick in 2015.

We’ll end this section with two players that are hard to evaluate, purely because they play on independent Arizona State — a second-year college team in the desert that plays teams from all the conferences. Robbie Baillargeon — the organization’s fifth round draft choice in 2012 (!) is fighting for a contract. He transferred out of Boston University in the offseason so he could gain more ice-time at Arizona State, and is leading his team in scoring with 15 points in 15 games. He’s got a bit over 2 shots a game, with is okay but I don’t think it’s impressive enough to earn him a pro contact. Arizona State is bad so Joey Daccord’s .859 sv% in 8 starts needs some context, but it’s not like he’s facing 40+ shots a night. In fact, ASU has given up around 28 shots a night when Daccord is in net — nothing terrible — although the quality of scoring chances are likely through the roof. The fact that he’s played in less than half of the team’s 17 games is worrying, though, especially for a goalie who the Sens were fine drafting because he was going to see a lot of shots.

CHL

I sandwiched the NCAA in the middle on purpose so that we could save the best for last: the Sens CHL contingent. It’s safe to say that the Sens have clear Memorial Cup favourites in all three conferences: Regina/Swift Current, Windsor, Charlottetown/Saint John. Due to the strength of these teams, we may in fact see some Sens prospects on TV outside of the World Juniors.

Filip Ahl had an inconsistent training camp in Regina, with head coach John Paddock calling out the Swede for his inconsistent play. It’s fair to say that Ahl has responded, as he currently stands second in goals and points (31) among WHL rookies while ranking first on the Pats in goals with 17. Ahl has found a home in front of the net on the league’s second best PP unit with 9 powerplay goals. The WHL (like the OHL) doesn’t track basic stats like shots on goal and time-on-ice, so we can’t garner any additional information on Ahl, but thanks to Prospect-Stats.com, we know that 22 of Ahl’s points have been primary points (goal, first assist) which fares well. After spending time with five different coaches last season, Ahl’s likely happy to have some consistency, and was rewarded with an invite to Sweden’s World Juniors camp. If Ahl suits up for Sweden and continues to run amok in the WHL, there’s a chance that the Sens could sign him as an 18yo in order to give him optimal AHL development time. Like Tobias Lindberg, Ahl isn’t subject to the CHL-NHL transfer rule.

Front office favourite Maxime Lajoie already has an entry-level deal from the Senators, and has been more consistent while captaining a much better Swift Current team this season. Lajoie has 16 points in 28 games, a mark that ranks him 26th among WHL blueliners. I’d look for him to try and up that number as the season wears on as evidence that he’s getting in regularly on the Broncos attack. Generally, CHL blueliners that score — even those who play defensive minutes in the NHL — have the best chance of success as a regular player.

The organization’s biggest CHL disappointment to date is 2016 first-rounder Logan Brown. He’s been hurt for the Spitfire’s last 10 games, but before that, Brown was struggling to produce at even-strength with only 6 points in 15 games. He’s been exceptional in the high slot on the powerplay with 15 PPP, but after finishing just outside the T20 in league scoring last year, I expected a bit more. Brown’s goal will be getting healed up so he can join Colin White on Team USA at the World Juniors (he was invited despite his injury).

Most of the fuss you’ve heard this season regarding Sens prospects have been due to the team’s QMJHL crop. In particular, 2015 second rounder Filip Chlapik has all but reinvented his game this season. After committing to a strict offseason regimen for the first time in his career, Chlapik had a point streak of 21 games this season and currently sits 6th in league scoring with 44 points in 26 games.

A bunch of other things stand out. Firstly, Chlapik’s 10 points away from his disappointing 2015-16 totals in half as many games, and is currently above 5 shots a game — a mark higher than prime Mike Hoffman and Francis Perron in the QMJHL. Known as a goal scorer in his rookie season that led to his high draft choice, Chlapik has been balanced at even-strength (25) and on the powerplay (19). Sens management weren’t happy at all with him at development camp, but they must love the way he’s responded this season. I’m excited to see him in Belleville next year as I’d be shocked if he wasn’t given a contract. He’ll also be at the World Juniors, playing for the Czech Republic.

Cody Donaghey, trailed to Chlapik’s Islanders in the offseason, hasn’t been a slouch either. The throw-in in the Phaneuf trade, Donaghey ranks fourth among QMJHL D in points and has an evenly split 15 PPP to go along with his 14 EV points to bring his total to just above a point-per-game pace. Donaghey is an overager so he’s expected to dominate if he has any hope of making the pro transition, and is already signed to an ELC for next season. He may join Jaros and Summers on a completely revamped Belleville D corps next season.

Last but not least is the Sens unequivocal top prospect, Thomas Chabot. After being yanked around a bit by Ottawa at the pro level, Chabot has 17 points in 12 games for the streaking Sea Dogs and has three goals this season: 1) improve his defensive game while putting up a great PPG total, 2) win a medal for Team Canada as one of their top returning players at the World Juniors, 3) take the Sea Dogs to the Memorial Cup. He was good enough to be one of the team’s seven defencemen out of training camp this season, so if Chabot gets anywhere close to accomplishing his goals, look for him to play regular minutes in 2017-18.

Sens Links

  • Three game recaps, staring with last night’s history-making win for Erik Karlsson’s Sens against the Sharks [Silver Seven, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
  • Next, the emotional 8-5 rollercoaster loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. [Silver Seven, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
  • Lastly, last weekend’s shutout win over the Florida Panthers. [Silver Seven, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
  • Trevor has two great pieces that put these games into context. The first is on the oft-cited notion of American Thanksgiving and the playoffs. The second previews “Deathcember” [Silver Seven - Thanksgiving, Deathcember]
  • If you want to follow the BSens losing streak game by game, Jeff has you covered. We didn’t think it’d be that much of a mess down there but... yeeesh. [Silver Seven - v. Lehigh Valley, v. Lehigh Valley II, v. Syracuse, v. Providence, v. Bridgeport]
  • Jeff also has some grades for the squad’s first quarter, if you want to get an evaluation of the team at a glance. He also invites some BSens fans to share their grades as well! The more perspectives, the better. [Silver Seven]
  • Peter also checks in on the Sens AHL and ECHL affiliates, while offering his thoughts on the organization’s prospects as as a whole. [Eye on the Sens]
  • Some roster news this week: the call-up of Buddy Robinson and Andreas Englund. [Silver Seven, Ottawa Citizen]
  • In addition, with Craig Anderson going back on leave and Bobby Ryan’s uncertain status, the team called up Andrew Hammond and Phil Varone. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Sens GM Pierre Dorion was on TSN 1200 recently to talk about Englund, Robinson, Guy Boucher’s performance so far, and the “Karlsson window” [6th Sens]
  • Chirp has a piece on longtime fan favourite Chris Neil as he approaches his 1000th NHL game. [SensChirp]
  • Ken Warren has a news and notes column on the Sens improving powerplay, Clarke MacArthur’s health, and other pertinent topics. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Who’s up, who’s down? Ross has you covered! [Silver Seven]
  • In podcast talk, Chet & Luke recap November, Callum & Alec discuss the implications of the Las Vegas Golden Knights (?), and Trevor prognosticates into the future. [Chet & Luke, Battle of Ontario, Cost per Pointcast]