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Sens Prospect Preview: Setting Expectations for 2016-17

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Get to know the prospects in the Senators organization and their expectations for the 2016-17 season in our Silver Seven Prospect Preview!

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As the World Cup of Hockey starts, we're less than a month away from the start of the 2016-17 NHL season. Instead of focusing on the NHL squad, let's go through the team's junior-aged prospects. The purpose is simple: to set some expectations to look back on at the end of the season.

Left Wing

Centre

Right Wing

Defense

Goaltender

Filip Ahl (Regina -€” WHL)

Colin White (Boston College -€” Hockey East, NCAA)

Robbie Baillargeon (Arizona State -€” Big 10, NCAA)

LD - Miles Gendron (UConn -€” Hockey East, NCAA)

Marcus Hogberg (Linkopings -€” SHL)

Filip Chlapik (Charlottetown -€” QMJHL)

Chris Leblanc (Merrimack -€” Hockey East, NCAA)

LD -€” Thomas Chabot (Saint John -€” QMJHL)

Joey Daccord (Arizona State -€” Big 10, NCAA)

Logan Brown (Windsor -€” OHL)

Shane Eiserman (UNH -€” Hockey East, NCAA)

RD -€” Kelly Summers (Clarkson -€” ECAC, NCAA)

Jonathan Dahlen (Timra -€” Allsvenskan)

Gabriel Gagne (Shawinigan -€” QMJHL)

LD -€” Christian Wolanin (North Dakota -€” NCHC, NCAA)

Todd Burgess (RPI -€” ECAC, NCAA)

RD -€” Christian Jaros (Lulea -€” SHL)

Markus Nurmi (TPS -€” SM-Liiga)

LD -€” Max Lajoie (Swift Current -€” WHL)

There's a couple of things to keep in mind with a prospect depth chart compared to an NHL club's depth chart. Different leagues have different "graduation" policies. For example, if a player is drafted in their draft eligible season in the CHL (ages 17-18), they're likely stuck playing two more CHL years (~ age 20) unless they're good enough to make the NHL due to the CHL-NHL agreement. For example, Thomas Chabot was drafted two years ago (2015) in his draft eligible season, and played last year (draft+1 season) with Saint John. This year, he can either play with Ottawa, or go back to Saint John -- Binghamton is not an option. A minor exception to this rule is for import players like Filip Ahl, who was also drafted in 2015 but can play in Binghamton next year despite being under 20.

The NCAA is completely different in that although the average drafted prospect spends 3 seasons in college, they can choose to go pro after their first or second year and can play in the AHL or NHL. This is the route that Patrick Wiercioch and Derek Grant took, and is likely what Colin White is going to do. If a drafted prospect spends all four NCAA-eligible seasons in college, they can forgo to sign with the team that drafted them and become a "college free agent" like Quentin Shore (2013 6th rounder) did this year. With the non-Russian European leagues like the SHL, Allsvenskan, and SM-Liiga, the individual player can decide when they want to come over to North America and can play in the AHL or NHL.

With that in mind, let's move onto the preview! Instead of breaking it down by position, I thought it'd be funner to break it down by league.

Canadian Hockey League (CHL)

You can safely say that the system's stars in even position other than goaltending will be refining their trade in the CHL (or NHL) this year. Saint John Sea Dogs blueliner Thomas Chabot headlines this group after putting up 45 points in 47 games for a PPG mark that ranked 4th among all QMJHL defenders. The 2015-16 second team all-star will certainly look to make the first-team and pace all defenders on pace to helping Saint John excel during an extended playoff run if he's sent back for a final junior year. As the only returning rearguard for Team Canada's U20 squad, Chabot will look to play first pair minutes and help the squad rebound after a disappointing 2015 campaign.

The only other CHL blueliner is Swift Current's Max Lajoie, who's top-pair role for a poor Broncos squad was enough to earn a "2nd to 3rd round" rating before the Senators scooped him up in the 5th round in 2016. Swift Current doesn't look to be that much better this year, but expect Lajoie to try and crack the T15 among WHL defenders in points (he was 30th in 2015-16) and continue to play tough minutes. He's still two more seasons away from seeing pro action in Binghamton.

Playing with Lajoie in the WHL is import Filip Ahl, who was selected by former Sens head coach John Paddock in the CHL Import Draft. Expect Ahl to be a key cog in Regina's system this year as the Pats hope to make the WHL finals off the backs of 2015-16 league leading scorer Adam Brooks, and Ducks first rounder Sam Steel. A success would be putting up a point per game in the WHL, similar to ex-forward Tobias Lindberg who put up 78 points in 67 games during his only OHL season. It's an important season for Ahl in particular, as he could risk not being signed despite making the jump to North America early. Remember, Ahl is seeking stability after having five different head coaches this year, and will surely have some growing pains in adjusting to a smaller ice surface that will challenge is daily work ethic. Having a former NHL bench boss can only help, though, as Ahl can sign with the Senators after this season and join Binghamton for 2017-18, despite being a 19yo. As the only current left-winger on the depth chart, Ahl has top-nine potential and time to spare -- the Senators have strong AHL and NHL depth currently in the system.

Also looking to get signed are the QMJHL duo of Gabriel Gagne and Filip Chlapik. A hulking 6'5 winger with a ton of potential, Randy Lee specifically mentioned Gagne as an intriguing prospect after development camp, stating that the team could've signed him before sending him back but wants to challenge him like they did with Francis Perron last year. Gagne will really be looking to Perron it up in his final QMJHL year. He had an injury filled 2015-16, starting slowly and finishing the year with a similar PPG output to his draft year before putting up a PPG in the playoffs on a strong Cataractes squad. He'll be looking to lead instead of playing support this year, so expect him to at least be above a point-per-game to remain a prospect with top-six potential. Anything lower, and Gagne risks being unsigned, which would be a disappointment for the only right-winger in the system with scoring potential. Chlapik, who only really picked up his play after Pens first rounder Daniel Sprong returned to Charlottetown, is on his last legs. He'll be looking to return and surpass his rookie numbers of 33 goals and 1.17 PPG in order to get signed. The Sens pro depth chart may work in his favour here, as the organization has a bunch of mediocre players or AHL vets currently occupying the centre spot in Binghamton. Every one of the team's allowed 50 contract spots is valuable, though, and Chlapik will also be looking to work on his skating ability like Gagne in order to get to the areas of the ice he needs to be at a quicker pace.

We end the CHL prospect preview with 2016 top pick Logan Brown. If there's a team pushing to win the Memorial Cup this year, it's Windsor. With two 2016 first-round picks patrolling the blueline, the team has the talent to get the puck to Brown. With second rounders Brendan Lemieux and Christian Fischer lost to the AHL, it'll be up to Brown to lead the Spitfires offensively. I really don't expect the Senators to rush Brown to the NHL, so he technically has two more years in Windsor to thrash the league fully, but joining Team USA for the World Juniors will be a big test. Better skating and overall improved consistency will be keys for Brown's development this upcoming year as he looks to crack the top 20 in league scoring.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

With 9 players across 4 conferences, the Sens college prospects are biggest contingent in the system. Right winger Todd Burgess and goaltender Joey Daccord are the rookies of the class. With at least three years of development time likely needed for both, Burgess will be looking to prove his strong Junior-A numbers aren't just a flash in the pan. After putting up their first winning season in 3 years, RPI is hoping the same thing. As an older player, expect Burgess to be injected straight into the top-six and look to be among the team's top point getters. Last year, RPI's leading scorer only put up 26 points in 35 games and the ECAC as a league only had seven players above a point per game. That being said, any NCAA player with a hint of NHL potential makes their league's respective all-star team and is a T20 scorer, so that's Burgess' goal. Daccord's Arizona State team is in a whole other pickle. After winning 3 games in their inaugural season, the Senators are happy Daccord is in Arizona because he'll be seeing a LOT of pucks. It's hard to expect him to be among the league leaders in sv% due to his team's quality, but the hope is that after 3 seasons, Daccord would've developed enough to be a quality NCAA puck stopper.

Joining Daccord in Arizona State after a transfer from BU is 2012 5th rounder Robbie Baillargeon. It's a desperation move for the once highly touted New Englander. Baillargeon has seen his PPG decrease linearly from 0.77 to 0.53 to 0.33, and is hoping that playing top-line minutes for ASU will convince the Senators to sign him so he can continue his hockey career. Merrimack's Chris Leblanc is in the exact same predicament -- entering his fourth NCAA season with only a 0.33 PPG under his belt despite being a 2013 draft pick. Leblanc has size -- he's 6'3 and 205lbs, but doesn't appear to have the skill to go along with it. Looking back at his Junior-A numbers, it's a wonder he was drafted as unlike Burgess or other overagers to lead their league in scoring, Leblanc was always a middling point getter. You can lump 2014 4th rounder Shane Eiserman in this group as well, as despite being two years younger than the other two, he's entering his pivotal third NCAA year and has maxed out at a 0.43 PPG. Granted, UNH only won 4 games last year, but it's almost like this should be a lesson to NHL teams: be wary of players who don't get into top collegiate programs.

UConn defender Miles Gendron and Frozen Four Champion defender Christian Wolanin are the two most intriguing names among the Sens NCAA cohort of "who????" Gendron is a former forward turned defender in his draft year, and had some of the best skating in his draft class. This, along with his size (6'3, 192lbs) were two of the reasons why Gendron was selected in the third round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Now, he only managed to put up 6 points in 27 games for UConn began its second season in the Hockey East conference. As the club's youngest blueliner, it's good that Gendron managed to get into most of UConn's games -- expect him to step it up in a big way to try and showcase his raw potential. Wolanin will try to step up in a completely different way. The 2015-16 champion Fighting Hawks will be looking to repeat as NCHC Champions despite losing top defenders Troy Stecher (VAN), Paul Ladue (LAK), and Keaton Thompson (ANA). Expect Wolanin to play T4 minutes for the entire season and build on his solid 15 points in 32 games, with captain Gage Ausmus and Jets 2013 pick Tucker Poolman getting first-pair minutes. A '95 born player, Wolanin could look to turn pro if he has a big year, but being in a great collegiate program can give the Senators relief if they decide to let him develop further under someone else's watchful eyes.

The last two players on the list are the two that are most likely to turn pro after this season: Clarkson D Kelly Summers and Boston College forward Colin White. Summers, an Ottawa native and former CCHL Top Prospect and Rookie of the Year, put up 14 points in 37 games last year - a mark good enough for 16th in league scoring among defenders. Look for Summers to crack the 20 point mark (and thus be T5 among defenders) to try and prove that he has the ability to potentially be a bottom-pair NHL option. All things considered, Colin White is the star of the Sens NCAA prospect pool. He could've likely turned pro after his rookie year after putting up the 5th most points in the entire conference on route to winning Hockey East's Rookie of the Year title, but will be heading back for a swan song. White was injured in the latter half of the season, so expectations are for him to try and be consistent as Boston College enters a 2016-17 season where they aren't favourites to make the Frozen Four thanks to a ridiculously strong recruiting year for Boston University. White's goal will be to put up 40+ points to lead the Eagles in scoring, while captaining Team USA's World Junior squad to a medal. After that, you can expect the three-zone centre to be in a BSens or Senators uniform in 2017-18 alongside fellow first round pick, Thomas Chabot.

Europe

The Senators have a modest European contingent this year, with two SHLers, an Allsvenskan player, and for the first time since 2006, a player in the SM-Liiga. Let's start with the baby of the class and the lone Finn, Markus Nurmi. A player with raw skills and an immature frame (6'3, 168lbs), Nurmi was the last Finn of note remaining in the 2016 Draft. He finished last season in the Top-50 scorers in Finland's top junior league and won a Silver medal while playing bottom-six minutes at the Under 18s. He's set to start the year in the same league (Jr. A SM-Liiga) but will be hoping to make TPS' Liiga team as the squad's youngest forward by the end of the year. That being said, a successful season for Nurmi would be finishing among the junior league's top scorers while making Finland's U20 team. He's very much a project and will likely not be coming over to North America for another 2 years at the earliest.

The other rookie is highly touted centre Jonathan Dahlen - a skilled forward who we've all fallen in love with since development camp. Dahlen plays in the Allsvenskan, a league below the SHL but still comprised of men, similar to European football leagues where there's a Promotion/Relegation format. Last year, Dahlen led Timra in scoring despite being the team's second youngest player and finished 41st in league scoring (second among U20 players). In other words, Dahlen was incredible and will be looking to lead Timra to a promotion spot by increasing his point totals yet again. As with Lindberg and Ahl, I wonder if the plan is to get Dahlen to apply to the CHL Import Draft eventually to get him to adapt to the smaller ice surface as quick as possible, but with White and Brown as high quality centre depth and Paul and Perron as left-wing depth (Dahlen shoots left), the team can afford to be patient with the young Swede. Thus, it's hard to predict an estimated North American date, but he's definitely The Player To Watch in Sweden.

The team's last two prospects are the ones who we'll likely be seeing in North America next year: defender Christian Jaros and goaltender Marcus Hogberg. I'd say that after Thomas Chabot, Christian Jaros is likely the defender with the most potential currently in the Sens system, which is why the S7 staff rated him a spot ahead of current BSens D Andreas Englund despite the latter's earlier progression to North America. After spending the half of his games in each of the last two seasons in the SHL, Jaros has a full-time spot locked down. Initially drafted for his defensive acumen and potential for top minutes with Slovakia internationally, Jaros has shown offensive flair that Englund doesn't appear to have. That being said, he only put up 5 points in 22 games last year, but look for Jaros to take a step forward with Lulea as a 20yo before coming over to Binghamton for 2017-18 to join fellow prospects Macoy Erkhamps and Cody Donaghey on the right side. Marcus Hogberg, a 21yo netminder, is probably the team's best shot at finding a heir to Craig Anderson. At 6'5 and 209lbs, Hogberg has Lehner-esque size and has spent the last two seasons playing 27 and 28 games at the SHL level for Linkopings. Expected to be a starter this year, he'll be looking to be among the T10 in sv%, which in the SHL, is around .915. All the signs from development camp point to Hogberg coming over to Binghamton next year, which amps up the pressure on both Chris Driedger and Matt O'Connor - both RFAs after 2016-17.

Summary

Ultimately, I've tried to set expectations on the goals for each player in the Sens system for the 2016-17 season. I expect a majority of these players not to reach these goals, as they're often set optimistically, but I believe it's still a useful barometer for us to look back on at the end of this season. After all, only the best go onto making the NHL and for a majority of prospects, that involves being one of the best players in your respective league to show that you have the skill to progress to the next level.

To recap, I believe that the following players will all be playing to be signed in order to continue with the Sens organization in the future: Filip Chlapik, Gabriel Gagne, Robbie Baillargeon, and Chris Leblanc. From my understanding, if any of these players aren't signed, they'll either re-enter the draft or become college free agents. That being said, third-year NCAA players like Shane Eiserman and Kelly Summers, along with European import Filip Ahl will be hoping for a contract so that they can progress to the AHL next year. Lastly, I expect Colin White, Christian Jaros, and Marcus Hogberg to be signed to join either the AHL or NHL clubs in 2017-18.