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Ottawa Senators Prospect Update: Let’s talk about Jakov Novak

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Markus Nurmi also starred this past week

NHL: JUN 29 Senators Development Camp Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While some of the team’s prospects in the junior ranks and overseas have quieted down, the pros playing in Belleville and Ottawa have ramped their game up. It’s part of what makes covering such a deep system fun — there’s something to talk about every week, and a new player to highlight that many may not have read about before! Onwards to your weekly update of standout performances, prospect news, and tidbits of relevant information.

Pro (NHL, AHL, ECHL)

- - - - - Since the last prospect update - | - T O T A L -
- - - - - Since the last prospect update - | - T O T A L -
PLAYER POS AGE LEAGUE GP G A P PIM SOG SH% | GP G A P PIM SOG SH%
Alex Formenton LW 20 AHL 2 2 0 2 2 7 29% | 22 11 5 16 22 53 21%
Drake Batherson RW 21 AHL 2 1 3 4 2 4 25% | 23 10 21 31 14 76 13%
NHL - - - - - - - | 2 0 0 0 2 0 0%
Jonathan Davidsson RW 22 AHL - - - - - - - | 11 2 2 4 6 13 15%
NHL 1 0 0 0 0 0 0% | 3 0 1 1 0 3 0%
Josh Norris C 20 AHL 2 1 1 2 2 1 100% | 23 10 10 20 8 61 16%
Max Veronneau RW 23 AHL 2 2 0 2 0 3 67% | 18 5 3 8 2 25 20%
NHL - - - - - - - | 4 0 0 0 0 3 0%
Michael Carcone LW 23 AHL 2 0 1 1 2 4 0% | 23 3 4 7 23 49 6%
Morgan Klimchuk LW 24 AHL 2 0 1 1 0 3 0% | 19 5 3 8 6 29 17%
Parker Kelly C/RW 20 AHL 2 0 0 0 0 2 0% | 21 1 0 1 4 19 5%
Rudolfs Balcers LW 22 AHL 2 2 1 3 0 2 100% | 10 6 9 15 2 16 38%
Vitaly Abramov RW/LW 21 AHL - - - - - - - | 18 8 9 17 14 48 17%
NHL - - - - - - - | 2 1 0 1 2 3 33%
Andreas Englund LD 23 AHL 2 0 0 0 0 0 0% | 10 0 0 0 15 12 0%
Christian Jaros RD 23 AHL 2 0 0 0 0 1 0% | 19 1 8 9 4 23 4%
NHL - - - - - - - | 1 0 0 0 4 0 0%
Maxime Lajoie LD 22 AHL - - - - - - - | 17 0 5 5 14 21 0%
NHL 1 0 0 0 0 0 0% | 3 0 0 0 0 2 0%
Filip Chlapik C 22 NHL 1 0 0 0 0 0 0% | 18 2 3 5 10 17 12%
AHL 2 0 1 1 2 3 0% | 8 1 1 2 8 17 6%
Jean-Christophe Beaudin C/RW 22 NHL 1 0 0 0 0 0 0% | 15 0 1 1 7 12 0%
AHL - - - - - - - | 5 0 1 1 0 7 0%
Logan Brown C 21 NHL 3 0 0 0 0 6 0% | 15 1 5 6 4 18 6%
AHL - - - - - - - | 5 3 4 7 6 9 33%
Erik Brännström LD 20 NHL 1 0 0 0 2 4 0% | 23 0 2 2 12 24 0%
AHL 2 0 1 1 4 3 0% | 2 0 1 1 4 3 0%
  • Rudolfs Balcers had three goals and six shots in two games to start his season.
  • Josh Norris and Drake Batherson continued on their hot-streak, with four point weeks for both.
  • Alex Formenton continued his point-per-game pace, and is now tied for sixth in AHL rookie scoring with eight points.
  • After slow offensive stars, the duo of Christian Jaros and Max Lajoie both picked up two assists in three games this past week.
  • Vitaly Abramov continues to showcase his skill, scoring two goals — including this highlight reel one from a Jaros’ stretch pass:

Canadian Hockey League

- - - - - - Since the last prospect update - | - T O T A L -
- - - - - - Since the last prospect update - | - T O T A L -
PLAYER POS AGE TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM SOG SH% | GP G A P PIM SOG SH%
Johnny Gruden LW 19 London Knights OHL 3 4 1 5 0 14 29% | 44 21 28 49 21 112 19%
Maxence Guénette RD 18 Val-d'Or Foreurs QMJHL 3 0 2 2 4 2 0% | 45 8 22 30 20 100 8%
Mark Kastelic C 20 Calgary Hitmen WHL 2 2 3 5 2 8 25% | 39 23 22 45 59 143 16%
  • A ho-hum week for this trio, with Kastelic and Gruden continuing to put up points (two each) on strong teams.

NCAA

- - - - - Since the last prospect update - | - T O T A L -
- - - - - Since the last prospect update - | - T O T A L -
PLAYER POS AGE TEAM GP G A P PIM SOG SH% | GP G A P PIM SOG SH%
Angus Crookshank LW 20 Univ. of New Hampshire - - - - - - - | 16 8 2 10 8 67 12%
Chris Wilkie RW 23 Colorado College 2 0 0 0 2 7 0% | 14 9 7 16 11 56 16%
Jakov Novak LW/C 21 Bentley Univ. 1 0 1 1 2 1 0% | 17 9 8 17 25 41 22%
Luke Loheit RW 19 Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth - - - - - - - | 16 2 1 3 6 13 15%
Shane Pinto C 19 Univ. of North Dakota - - - - - - - | 17 8 6 14 10 47 17%
Todd Burgess C/RW 23 RPI - - - - - - - | 16 4 2 6 12 31 13%
Jacob Bernard-Docker RD 19 Univ. of North Dakota - - - - - - - | 17 3 11 14 8 31 10%
Jonny Tychonick LD 19 Univ. of North Dakota - - - - - - - | 12 3 4 7 2 8 38%
  • Angus Crookshank is averaging 4.3 shots a game, and scored again this week.
  • Christopher Wilkie raises Crookshank 0.2 shots, and is up to 4.5 a game.
  • Another quiet week for Shane Pinto, who started hot, but is experiencing his first (and not his last!) dry spell of his collegiate career.

European Leagues

- - - - - - Since the last prospect update - | - T O T A L -
- - - - - - Since the last prospect update - | - T O T A L -
PLAYER POS AGE TEAM LEAGUE GP G A P PIM SOG SH% | GP G A P PIM SOG SH%
Markus Nurmi RW/LW 21 TPS Liiga 3 1 1 2 2 5 20% | 43 9 11 20 22 91 10%
Lassi Thomson RD 19 Ilves Liiga 2 0 0 0 0 6 0% | 27 6 4 10 8 90 7%
Viktor Lodin C/LW 20 Örebro HK SHL - - - - - - - | 22 0 4 4 2 20 0%
HC Vita Hästen Allsvenskan - - - - - - - | 10 3 2 5 2 26 12%
Olle Alsing LD 23 Djurgårdens IF SHL 2 0 0 0 0 1 0% | 36 4 16 20 20 55 7%
  • Interesting note: since Lassi Thomson was injured on October 19th, his team has won seven straight. Hopefully it isn’t too hard to get him back into the lineup once he’s 100% healthy..
  • Olle Alsing returned from the Karjala Cup and continues to lead Djurgårdens in scoring. He also did this in the Champions League:

Goalies

- - - - - Since the last prospect update - - | - T O T A L - -
- - - - - Since the last prospect update - - | - T O T A L - -
PLAYER AGE TEAM LEAGUE GP W L OTL SOL SA GA SV% | GP W L OTL SOL SA GA SV%
Filip Gustavsson 21 Belleville Senators AHL 1 1 0 0 0 26 2 92.3% | 10 7 3 1 0 318 38 88.1%
Marcus Högberg 25 Belleville Senators AHL - - - - - - - - | 15 7 6 0 0 408 42 89.7%
Ottawa Senators NHL - - - - - - - - | 2 0 1 0 0 40 3 92.5%
Joey Daccord 23 Brampton Beast ECHL - - - - - - - - | 12 7 5 0 0 342 34 90.1%
Belleville Senators AHL 1 1 0 0 0 35 1 97.1% | 2 2 0 0 0 62 2 96.8%
Kevin Mandolese 19 Cape Breton Eagles QMJHL 3 0 2 1 0 102 9 91.2% | 16 8 5 1 0 426 39 90.8%
Mads Søgaard 19 Medicine Hat Tigers WHL - - - - - - - - | 19 11 6 1 0 516 49 90.5%
  • After a solid start to the year, Filip Gustavsson was pulled again this past week.
  • Joey Daccord hasn’t had a good run of things either, posting an 0.860 sv% while facing 59 shots this week.
  • The one goalie who rebounded? Mads Søgaard, who stopped 32 of 33 shots to hem his wounds. With 7th rounder Dustin Wolf (CGY) improving his save percentage up to a 0.939%, he’ll be a constant comparison to the high-second rounder the Sens used on the Dane.

Biggest Standouts

Jakov Novak

Colin highlighted Novak’s play in the stats sheet last week as the team’s first collegiate prospect to hit double-digit points this season. With a group that includes Pinto, Bernard-Docker, Crookshank, and more, Novak has been a forgotten prospect. We even rated him as such in our end-of-season prospect tiers list after he put up a modest 15 points in 37 games during his freshman year.

Part of the reason why we’ve been so down on Novak in the past is due to his age — he’s only in his sophomore (‘second’) season, but just turned 21 — whereas the other three prospects mentioned above are turning 20 this season. Novak has scoring pedigree after leading the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in scoring as a 19-year-old, but if you remove the years that the USNTP played there in the 00s, the league only has 29 alumni who have played in the NHL over 43 seasons of operating.

(Interestingly, there are multiple current or former Senators on the list, including: Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop, Erik Condra, David Legwand (!), and Chris Wideman)

However, is there something here that we’ve been missing? Our draft day post on him was bare because there was so little information about a player in a lower-tier league, but more has emerged over the last two years.

Playing his midget hockey in Windsor, Novak was passed over twice in the OHL Draft:

“My draft year, I was five-foot-eight and 155 pounds,” said Novak, who had two goals and 11 points in 32 games that season. “A year later, I was six-foot-two and 185 pounds.” Not that his jump in size and 25 goals and 46 points in 34 games for Windsor major midget team got him anymore attention. “I never talked to anyone (from the OHL),” Novak said. “I talked to Halifax in the Q(MJHL), but I always wanted to go the college route.”

He was drafted in the 19th round of the USHL Draft (Muskegon), but opted to play his prep hockey at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire, scoring close to a goal-a-game with 37 (along with 21 assists) in 40 games. His performance got him listed on Central Scouting’s “prospects to watch” list for his first draft-eligible year, 2017, where he ultimately went undrafted by an NHL team. He was, however, made a first round pick — 8th overall by the Janesville Jets.

While the NAHL is a weaker league in terms of competition, Novak made the most of his opportunity. In his second and final season, his 32 goals, 73 points, and +41 led the league in those categories. He finished 13 points up on his next closest teammate, and 30 points up on third place. While he wasn’t rated in any mid-term rankings for the 2018 Draft, he caught the eye of more scouts after a two-game, four-point performance at the 2018 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament. By the time the season was over, he was rated 214 among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s Final Rankings.

Novak noted that he had a few interviews with NHL teams, but that Sens’ staff drove down to visit him two weeks before the draft. Now up to 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds, the Sens liked what they saw in Novak.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch him play, here are two scouting reports. The first is from his head coach at Janesville, Joe Dibble:

“The first thing you notice about Novak is his size,” Dibble said. “He’s six foot three, over two hundred pounds, can skate, and can shoot the puck like a pro. What’s amazing is his release. At a young age, he already has the release of a pro hockey player, which a lot of us got to see this weekend on a couple of his goals. Ultimately, though, Jakov is also an extremely professional human...in the way he carries himself and prepares for his games. He’s a kid with an extremely high ceiling.”

The second is from Sens amateur scout, Bob Janecyk, who often surveys the U.S. for the team:

“He can shoot the puck, he scores and he’s got to get a little bit quicker.” “We’ve always really liked him. He’s been around a few years. He’s developed and he’s getting stronger. He’s got great speed, quickness and agility.”

With the size and tools that Novak has, you begin to wonder why he didn’t catch the attention of a bigger program than Bentley, who only has (another ex-Sen) Cory Conacher as a notable alumnus. When you only read scouting reports and watch highlights, you can miss context into a player’s game. In Novak’s case, it sounds like some of it is the Drake Batherson phenomenon, where he grew late into his body. It’s what makes the collegiate option so enticing, and where we’ll be watching him closely over the next couple of seasons to see if he can sustain this level of play.

Note: For a longer profile on Novak and his story, check out this piece from the Janesville Jets.

Markus Nurmi

Another sort-of forgotten prospect who will be in tight to earn an entry-level contract, Markus Nurmi has rebounded this season. After a strong 21 point (51GP) rookie season, Nurmi had one-goal and 12 points in 60 games in an expanded role in 2018-19.

In 2019-20, he’s been playing 14:55 a night, and his up to 10 points in 21 games. When he’s at his best, he’s playing a defensively responsible, north-south game — using his size along the boards and putting a hard accurate shot on net.

Silver Linings

  • Some health updates to start. First, Logan Brown is back, and recorded an assist in the two contests he suited up for this week:
  • Jonathan Davidsson, who had some injury trouble to end his first NHL stint, and JC Beaudin were sent down to Belleville; as was Rudolfs Balcers. It’s Max Veronneau’s turn in the rotation.
  • Jonny Tychonick missed one of UND’s two weekend games due to an illness, but should be okay for it’s next match.
  • Of the Sens non-pro prospects, the only injuries that remain are Lassi Thomson and Kevin Mandolese, who’s been out since the end of October with a lower-body injury that might last quite some time. Not good news for him in a crucial contract year.
  • Viktor Lodin was loaned to the Allsvenskan after putting up two points in 13 contests with SHL-leading Örebro. He was only averaging around six-and-a-half minutes a night, so it’s not the worst thing for him to go down and play more. He continues to be an extremely puzzling pick, especially in the fourth round.
  • A nice article on Luke Loheit, who hasn’t produced much for the reigning back-to-back champion Bulldogs. The fact that he’s playing regular minutes can be seen as somewhat of a win, though, as he’ll likely be there for at least two more seasons.