No. 1: Thomas Chabot (Reader Rank: 1, Last Year:1)
I could probably count on one hand all the positive things that happened in the 2017-18 Ottawa Senators season, and Thomas Chabot’s transformation into a legitimate NHL defender was definitely one of those things.
For the second year in a row, and in a unanimous decision by our writers, Chabot tops our Top 25 Under 25 list. At only 21 years old, the Canadian defenseman has already made quite the impression in the NHL.
At the beginning of this season, it was unclear how much time Chabot would spend in Ottawa. The Sens don’t like to rush defensive prospects, and Chabot still had yet to play a single game in the AHL. Not to mention that prior to this season, he had only played one game in the NHL and had looked a bit out of place.
It came as no surprise, therefore, when Thomas Chabot was sent to Belleville to start the 2017-18 season. He made the most of his time in the American Hockey League, with 2 goals and 5 assists in 13 games. He was leading all Belleville defensemen in scoring at the time of what would end up being his last call up.
Chabot got a small taste of NHL action very early on in the season, as he joined the team for a three-game road trip through Western Canada. He got two assists during the road trip and played well enough that it was a bit of a shock when the Sens announced that he would be the defenseman sent down to make room for Erik Karlsson upon the captain’s return from injured reserve.
It wasn’t until the end of November that injuries to Chris Wideman and Mark Borowiecki gave Chabot another shot at an NHL roster spot. Even though Guy Boucher made it pretty clear that Chabot was only there to replace Borowiecki, the young defenseman ended up staying with the team for the rest of the season.
And for good reason. Hotsam Batcho posted 9 goals and 16 assists in 63 NHL games, good for second on the team in points by defensemen (three guesses who was first). He was also tied for second in goal scoring among rookie defensemen, and fifth in scoring. He ranked in the top 30 in both points and goals by all rookies in 2017-18. His defense could still use a bit of work, but he proved this year that his shot from the point and his puck handling abilities are NHL-caliber.
He finished his season playing for Canada at the World Championships in Denmark, where he got one assist in 6 games.
To top it all off, he also became one of the biggest memes in Sens fandom, which is of course the highest of honours.
Looking ahead to 2018-19, it certainly looks like Chabot will be given a full-time NHL role to start the season. With Fredrik Claesson out of the picture, it seems like the spot is his for the taking.
Just as Chabot was one of the few bright spots last season, he’s also one of the few things fans can get excited about going into 2018-19. Watching him develop in the NHL will almost certainly be a lot of fun, and I, for one, am extremely excited to see what he does this season.