16. Gabriel Gagné (Reader Rank: 16, Last Year: 18)
Belleville’s leading goal scorer, Gabriel Gagné, comes in at the 16th spot in this year’s rankings. Jumping two spots from last year, Gagné put to bed a few of the worries that his rookie pro year brought to light.
Two seasons ago, Gagné amassed six points across 42 games in the AHL and spent 19 games in the ECHL. It wasn’t a fantastic way to kick off his pro career. Many were questioning why the Ottawa Senators traded up to select Gagné 36th overall in 2015 - some still are. After a poor rookie season, Gagne came into his sophomore year a different player. This past season, Gagné led the Senators in goals with 20.
In last year’s T25U25 profile, the expectation was set that Gagné needed to show the Senators something. While there are still things to work on, nobody can say the strides Gagné made over the past 12 months haven’t been impressive. One of the two main knocks on Gagné has been that he needs to fill out his frame and use his size to his advantage. A common theme last season was losing battles and getting knocked off the puck more than someone of his stature should. The second issue many critics have with Gagné is his lack of mobility. He’s a fine skater, especially for someone his size. But adding an extra hop to his step would do wonders in terms of his ability to take his game to the next level. This is one of the reasons this tweet from @SensProspects was fantastic to see. Gagné clearly knows this is something he needs to improve upon. We’ll be watching closely to see how far his skating comes next season.
Great to see Gabriel Gagné has been putting in some serious, tedious work to improve his skating this offseason with Shelley Kettles (via @ edge.maker on Instagram) ⛸ pic.twitter.com/Rb7eSae2DF— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) August 7, 2018
One aspect of Gagné’s game that you can’t knock is his release. He easily has the best shot of any Belleville Senator to date (small sample size, I know) and you can see why he scored 20 goals in 2017-18.
If he can learn to use his size properly, improve his skating and continue filling the net in the AHL, there could very well be a regular spot in the lineup for Gagné in the nation’s capital. The question of whether that’s in the top six or not will be answered in the next few seasons. My guess is his ceiling is on the third line with some powerplay time, but we’ll just have to wait and see. I know Gagné will be a player I’ll be watching even more closely this year.
What a difference a season makes.
Here are his highlights from the 2017-18 season, courtesy of the wonderful @SensProspects.