No. 15: Max Lajoie (Reader Rank: 18th, Last Year: 25th)
The Senators’ 133rd selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft has a strong chance at moulding into a quality NHL defenseman in the coming years. His body, skill and hockey IQ is completely in line with the characteristics of the league’s modern-day blue liner.
Above all else in 2017 is the ability to distribute, carry and shoot the puck. Long gone are the days where size and toughness is what teams first look for in a Dman. Lajoie does have some of the latter, but his talent and eyes for an unravelling play are what will make him successful.
In October of 2016, the 19-year-old arrived to his first training camp in Ottawa, and there were few he did not impress.
Displaying his speed, confidence with the puck in both ends and overall awareness, Lajoie had his named tossed in with Thomas Chabot and Andreas Englund as the better, mature young players on the backend.
Though his departure was rather quick - cut in the opening exhibition games - the Calgary native went back to the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL with a whole lot of positive reinforcement from Senators management, ready to take yet another step in the direction of professional hockey.
Lajoie had career highs in assists, points and plus-minus whilst wearing an ‘A’ on his chest for the second season in a row. The Broncos were a year removed from there hasty rebuild and primed for a convincing playoff run.
Lajoie would play in two Game 7’s, winning one, and recorded nine points in 14 postseason games this past Spring.
The Senators signed him to a three-year entry-level deal in early October. Lajoie is certainly going to play in the AHL this year, but don’t count out a full-time NHL gig in the coming two or three years.
A highlight from Lajoie’s 2016-17 regular season (47 seconds in):
Also, some of his work in the community:
You can read Silver Seven’s 2016 in-depth piece on Lajoie including an interview with him and former coach Mark Lamb here.