No. 3: Colin White (Reader rank: 3, Last year: 4)
The Ottawa Senators selected Colin White 21st overall in the 2015 draft, using the pick they acquired from Buffalo in exchange for Robin Lehner. Expectations were high for the forward, and he had Sens fans salivating with an impressive 43 points in 37 games for Boston College in his freshman year, plus another 7 points in 7 games at the World Juniors.
Then we arrive at 2016-17, where White had his busiest season to date. First was his regular season in the NCAA. Let’s take a statical look, comparing 2015-16 to 2015-17.
A few categories immediately jump out. His goals, assists and points all went down, even though he was scoring more on the power play. His shots per game went down probably most significantly; not a good sign for someone you’re looking to see develop into a top centre. His faceoff percentage also decreased, but he started blocking more shots.
So although many red flags get raised immediately, it’s worth remembering that his points-per-game still led Boston College, a team that was heavily weakened by the losses of players such as Zach Sanford, Miles Wood, Alex Tuch and Thatcher Demko. They still won the H-East division both years, although they were clearly the stronger team in 2015-16.
A season highlight for White was his performance at the World Junior Championships, where he not only led Team USA to Gold, but was named a top three player on his team. He may have donned the ‘A’ on his jersey, but he didn’t have a lot on his scoresheet. Instead he was scoring more Gs (goals), notching seven in seven games, second most in the tournament and first on his team.
As fantastic an accomplishment as it was, it’s worth remembering that a) it’s a super small sample size and b) you have to consider how the goals were scored. Watching them back, it seems as if a lot of his goals came off of either a bad play from the opposing goalie, a good play from a teammate, or a lucky bounce. Although this may remind some of the World Junior hype built around Curtis Lazar in 2015 playing next to Conor McDavid, rest assured that Colin White can score in many other ways as well, as shown in his full highlight package. Rarely will you find White sniping from the circle or dangling from the hash marks; usually you’ll find him scoring anywhere within three feet of the net.
His NCAA season finished, and both the Ottawa and Binghamton Senators both had games remaining. That prompted the Sens to sign White to an amateur tryout agreement with Binghamton, where he got heavy minutes and scored three points in three games, including an assist in his debut. He received good reports from fans in Binghamton, and the Sens signed him to an entry-level contract on April 2nd to finish the season with the big club.
The one caveat with White’s ELC was that one game would burn an entire year off his contract. The Sens opted to take that route, giving him two regular season games and one more in the playoffs. With Guy Boucher generally tentative to give young players a heavy workload, White was held back to a mere 7:09 in his NHL debut, then given 20:06 in the final game of the regular season with most of the roster players resting for playoff action. His lone playoff game saw him sheltered even more, playing only 2:39 in Ottawa’s game six win in the Eastern Conference Finals over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even when he wasn’t playing, it was good for White to experience the NHL atmosphere, being around the players and training facilities.
Now White will look to secure the first line centre position in Belleville, and bounce back from his production dip in Boston. With Derick Brassard still recovering from off-season surgery, there’s a possibility White may be able to start the season in the NHL. Whether 10-12 minutes next to Nate Thompson would trump 20+ minutes in the AHL, that’s a separate debate to be had. However, this could present a fantastic opportunity for White to prove he’s NHL-ready.
Looking towards the future, White projects as a two-way centre with a ceiling that could take him up all the way to the first line. He can comfortably play either centre or right wing, making him a versatile player. At only 20 years old, White still has ample time to further develop his game. His ELC expires in 2019, a year earlier than Thomas Chabot and the same year as Erik Karlsson.
Here is White’s 2016-17 highlight package, via Sens Prospects (same one as linked earlier):