It’s been a busy couple of weeks in Sens land. After a couple of quiet performances to start November off, the organization’s brightest talent have taken over. Drake Batherson is in the NHL, and doesn’t look to be going back down anytime soon. Brady Tkachuk continues to play his power-style of game at the highest level, Colin White continues to take steps to make skilled plays with the puck, and Christian Jaros has started to showcase his NHL ability.
This happening at the NHL level is compounded by the return of Logan Brown in the AHL, and the continued improvement from Filip Chlapik, Nick Paul, and Christian Wolanin. Alex Formenton and Parker Kelly are playing key roles for their strong junior clubs, and Jacob Bernard-Docker has started to fill some big shoes in North Dakota.
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We have to highlight The Drake first after a dynamite couple of weeks. Fresh off being named AHL Player of the Week after recording 7 points in 2 games, Batherson was recalled on November 12th and hasn’t looked back. Belleville’s head coach, Troy Mann, has sung Batherson’s praises, noting that “he’s probably the best forward prospect I’ve ever had.” To cool some jets, Mann’s teams in the AHL have primarily been stacked with veterans, but he has coached talents like Jets forward Mathieu Perreault, Vegas centre Cody Eakin, and Caps winger Jakub Vrana.
Friend of the blog, @SensProspects, captured all the magic moments of Batherson’s debut, which you can find in the YouTube video below:
What’s stood out to me has been the details of his game, and it’s fair to say that his linemate — Matt Duchene — likes playing with him too (via Murray Pam):
“He is going to get better and better. You can see he has the “it factor” that’s going to make him an elite player. That pass he makes to give it to me - he had outstanding touch. There’s not a lot of guys who can make that play.”
Here are the plays Duchene was talking about. The first assist is a coach’s dream, with Batherson not only in the correct position for the zone exit, but displaying the hockey sense to bump the puck to Duchene to fly through the middle with speed. The second assist comes off a won puck battle, and is a gentle floater into space that Duchene’s able to pot.
I think we have to give some credit to Guy Boucher for putting Batherson on the team’s first powerplay unit. We all remember his scoring spree for Team Canada at the World Juniors, and Batherson’s showed that he can play a variety of roles with the player advantage — the half-wall, point, or, as you can see below, in front of the net:
Drake Batherson's 2nd goal of the season and 2nd point of the night! He's already got 5 points in less than 3GP! pic.twitter.com/W1LPmkuPuL— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) November 20, 2018
One of the reasons why Chris Wideman may have been seen as expendable is the play of Christian Jaros. A long-time favourite of the team’s development staff, Jaros has been known for his physicality, but actually has some decent puck skills. In the 22-year-old’s final year with Luleå in the SHL, his 13 points in 36 games was good enough for second among all U22 defencemen.
It took a while for him to get comfortable at the NHL level, but after a dozen games, Jaros is looking more confident in the puck and is starting to see some results.
The stretch pass to Matt Duchene (hopefully playing with all these rookies are helping his chances of staying!) was a great offensive read, with Jaros having his head up the whole way and noticing the opposing team going for a line change. The play below also impressed me because it showcases some of Jaros’ best traits — his strength, and his improving puck skills to carry the puck to the net:
With only three natural right-handed defencemen left with NHL potential — Ceci, DeMelo, and Jaros — expect the Slovak to get every chance to prove that he’s a regular NHLer as the season continues.
After 9 OHL games, Alex Formenton has 7 goals, 5 assists, and 43 (!!!!) shots on goal for the 9-0-0 London Knights. He’s, uh, good.
As always, Formenton continues to get breakaways on a per-game basis, and potted his first hat-trick of the season:
Alex Formenton with the hat trick!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) November 19, 2018
Make that 6G in 6GP with OHL London pic.twitter.com/7ziL89j3EC
What’s also impressed me is his offensive creativity — something that was lacking in Ottawa — where he can use his speed to create for others, like the assists below:
Alex Formenton— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) November 24, 2018
Couple beauty assists created by Formenton's speed in a 7-2 win. Formenton has 11 PTS (7-4-11) in 8GP since joining OHL London, including 8PTS (4-4-8) in his last 3GP pic.twitter.com/yLI3mDr5Zn
The other area where Formenton can continue to improve? His strength, which will allow him to play the power-style of game he’s so successful with in junior at higher levels. Here he is absorbing a hit in the annual CHL-Russia series:
From last night's OHL-RUS game. LW Alex Formenton (OTT 2nd/2017) not only absorbs a hit from D Alexander Romanov (MTL 2nd/2018), but knocks him to the ice. pic.twitter.com/zv2eylH8Ya— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) November 13, 2018
A lock to make Team Canada, I’m hoping Formenton can take on a top-line role and be a central part of the offence against the best players in his age group.
JBD may have had a slower start that we expected to his collegiate career, but he’s got all his gears moving now. With five points and 12 shots over his last four games — including back-to-back two point nights — JBD is now tied for the team lead in scoring, all while playing top-pair minutes for North Dakota.
Jacob Bernard-Docker— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) November 25, 2018
JBD's 2 point night helped UND to a 4-3 comeback win. He's got 5 PTS (1-4-5) during a 3-game streak, and has 9 PTS (3-6-9) in 13GP this season. pic.twitter.com/pHkDrs4EnG
It’s rare for collegiate players from Canada to go on to represent the country at the World Juniors, but Bernard-Docker’s play may be enough to get him on the radar. With the Sens in dire need of top-four talent at RD, everyone’s hoping that Bernard-Docker may be the internal answer the team’s been looking for.
- We could’ve probably mentioned Brady Tkachuk in the standouts section, but I think if we do that, he’ll just permanently occupy a spot. Ol’ Brazy’s been excellent, showing off his truculent style of play and pissing off his opponents. This last week featured his first NHL fight, and three goals <5 feet from the net.
- Other NHL talent that stood out includes Filip Chlapik — who had four points and 22 (!) shots in 6 games — and the newly created line of Paul Carey, Nick Paul, and Jack Rodewald. All four of these players have either filled a depth role for the team this season, or have shown that they can do so in the past. If the Sens continue to make moves to trade established players for picks, expect these four to be the first on the list for potential call-ups.
- Initially tapped for a December return, Logan Brown was well enough to suit up a couple weeks earlier for the Belleville Senators, tallying his first professional goal and first AHL assist in the process. Brown has primarily been lined up with Adam Tambellini on the wing, and I’m excited to see what he can do as his role increases.
- With Brown’s return, the only prospects that remain injured appear to be forward Andrew Sturtz and goaltender Marcus Hogberg. Like Colin White, Filip Chlapik appears to be playing through an injury in Belleville.
- Christian Wolanin had two goals, including an OT winner, as he continues to show off his offensive ability in Belleville. His 11 points in 17 games has him fourth among rookie defencemen in scoring. @SensProspects clipped a nice gif below that showcases his unique edgework; Wolanin can turn on a dime and is a deceptive skater.
Nice chance for Christian Wolanin, thanks in part to some smart footwork. Wolanin has a unique skating style that he uses to his advantage, often creating opportunities on average plays. With an assist tonight he's got 9 points, good for 3rd among rookie AHL defencemen in scoring pic.twitter.com/y4WtJtwYXa— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) November 15, 2018
- A contender for best name in the system, Angus Crookshank put up three points over the weekend and was named Hockey East’s Rookie of the Week.
- Joey Daccord may have had a rough two weeks in net — his save percentage dropped from a sparkling .930 to a solid .919 — but his play in net, helping Arizona State enter the NCAA rankings, has garnered some attention.
- 2018 7th round pick, Luke Loheit, currently applying his trade in the BCHL, has committed to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs for next season. UMD has gone to back-to-back NCAA Championship games, losing to Denver in 2016-17 before defeating Notre Dame in 2017-18.
- Our favourite ex-Shark, Josh Norris, continues to lead a talented Michigan team in scoring. He’s got a at least a point in all but one game, and has been dynamic in space.