No. 18: Gabriel Gagne (Reader rank: 17, Last year: 14)
Sometimes, when a player drops a few spots in our Top 25 rankings it’s because the organization has improved its talent pool. This isn’t necessarily a negative reflection on the players, you can only control so much after all. Unfortunately, the rest of the time that a player finds themselves a few notches below their prior season rank it’s often because of a failure to realize some of their potential. In Gabriel Gagne’s case, his 2016-17 season was very much the latter; thus his fall from 14th to 18th.
A quick refresher on Gagne: he was taken in the second round of the 2015 draft, 36th overall by the Senators after the team traded their second round pick (42nd overall) and a third round pick in 2016 to the Devils to move up. The Senators must have thought quite highly of Gagne at the time, and been quite afraid someone was going to take him in those six picks, because a third round pick isn’t a cheap price to pay to move up six meager spots. Gagne had a successful first season after he was drafted, culminating in a trip to the QMJHL finals while posting 22 points in 21 play-off games. In September 2016, the Sens signed Gagne to an entry-level contract. Last season Gagne played his first season of pro hockey, and that’s where his struggles began.
There are two often-cited criticisms when Gabriel Gagne is discussed by members of the Sens’ organization: firstly that he needs to fill out his frame, he stands at a slight 195 lbs despite being 6’5, and secondly that he doesn’t play with enough intensity. The Sens seems to envisage him as a power forward, something Gagne is keenly aware of:
This is all pretty generic, cliched stuff, but Gagne did struggle at times in his first season of pro hockey; he spent time with both Wichita in the ECHL and Binghamton in the AHL, but netted a mere 6 points in 41 games in his time in Bingo.
Which brings us to where we are today. The Senators’ organization is awfully thin on right wing prospects, so Gagne is almost certainly still a lock to start the season in Belleville. If he can show that he’s progressed, he should even be competing for a top six spot — he’ll be up against AHL vets like Mike Blunden for the chance. That shouldn’t be too much to ask of Gagne.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that Gagne needs to show the organization something this year. He’s got a lot of offensive upside, and by all accounts the tools are there for him to be an NHLer. He’ll be 22 by the end of the upcoming season, and if he’s had another season like the last one it’s hard to see him taking the steps to making the show. That said, all of the disappointment would be quickly forgotten if Gagne puts up the scoring totals the organization thinks he can. this year. Time to see what he’s got.