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Ottawa Senators Prospect Update - March 19

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Two of the newest Sens players stand out in this week’s prospect update

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Some bitter playoff eliminations, wonderful NHL debuts, and more in this week’s prospect update. A general note as we enter playoff season: players highlighted in light red on the stats sheet have officially ended their seasons.

Onto the updates:

Stats Sheet

(Click to enlarge)

Biggest Standouts

Jakov Novak

Bentley was eliminated this weekend in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs to the bitter dismay of Jakov Novak, who put up three goals in three games against Robert Morris after scoring just four in the previous 34.

Novak led the tier-II NAHL in scoring last year, and finished second in scoring on his team among freshman — 8th overall. With three of the players ahead of him in scoring now retired from collegiate hockey, there will be an increased role for Novak next year, and if his first playoff series is any indication, the 20-year-old should be able to step up his play accordingly.

Erik Brännström

Two AHL games and an NHL debut — not a bad week for the young Swede. In TSN1200’s weekly radio hit with Troy Mann, the BSens head coach admitted that while he was impressed with Brännström overall, the young rearguard was disappointed in his play — noting that he could be better. There are some numbers to back it up: Brännström does not have an even-strength point to his name, and still hesitates a little to jump up into the rush even though he has the skills for it.

His play this week was more along the lines of what he — and we — were expecting. All three assists against Laval (below) were on the powerplay, but were a great display of his lateral agility, ability to get shots through, and crafty passing. Moreover, in his NHL debut, Sens coach Marc Crawford wasn’t afraid to play Brännström 17+ minutes — a good sign.

We’ve gotten the sense that he’ll be up and down between Ottawa and Belleville until the big club closes out their season in April, so it’ll be interesting to see which team gets priority if they’re both playing the same night (like next Saturday).

Max Veronneau

The other NHL debutant this week, Veronneau was impressive in both games he played. Against St. Louis, he led all Sens forwards with 5 shots on goal — a quarter of the team’s 20 — and on Saturday night against Toronto, the speedy forward put up his first NHL point on Cody Ceci’s opening tally.

I’ve been impressed by Veronneau. His trademark acceleration has been there, but he also thinks the game at an NHL level and hasn’t looked behind the pace of play, even against the fast-paced Leafs. He’s also a crafty passer, as you can see on his assist, as he could’ve very easily panicked and defaulted to throwing the puck down the boards with multiple defenders on him, but instead, had his head up and looked to make the play into open ice. Yes, like most collegiate players, he could work on his strength to help him win battles (especially on the boards), but I haven’t noticed him shying away from contact or defensive zone battles.

As a rare right-shot right-winger (like Bobby Ryan and Drake Batherson), Veronneau is playing for a regular spot on next year’s team, and honestly looks up to it through two games of hockey — not unlike Christian Wolanin last year.

Silver Linings

  • Speaking of Veronneau, @SensCentral caught Darren Dreger reporting that he received personal calls by both Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot to help him decide on Ottawa.
  • The BSens have a relatively healthy lineup heading into the most crucial stretch of the season. Two playoff-eligible players are in Ottawa (Balcers, Wolanin), and Max Lajoie is out with a minor injury. The only two players who are done for the season? Morgan Klimchuk, an RFA, and Andrew Sturtz, who’s signed for one more year.
  • You might notice an interesting number next to Drake Batherson’s name on the stats sheet this week: 7 penalty minutes! The young forward took exception to a slewfoot on Nick Paul, and dropped his gloves on Friday night. You can watch the incident here.
  • The QMJHL is celebrating 50-years of hockey, and is ranking their top players of all time. Some current and former Senators have made the list, including Vitaly Abramov (#45), Alex Daigle (#38), and Thomas Chabot (#24).
  • Arizona State is still waiting to see if they made the NCAA Tournament, but in the meantime, goaltender Joey Daccord has predictably been named a semifinalist for the league’s top goalie.
  • Want to check out Brännström and Veronneau’s NHL debuts against St. Louis? @SensProspects clipped all the highlights and put it on YouTube, and I’ve embedded the video below.