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Ottawa Senators Prospect Update - March 5, 2019

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A recap of the last two week in Sens prospect land, including the new additions to the organization

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NHL: Preseason-Vegas Golden Knights at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has changed for the Ottawa Senators’ prospect pool in the past two weeks. With the trade deadline having come and gone, the Sens have made their stance clear by acquiring a boat load of prospects and picks this past week. I think it’s fair to say that the prospect updates are going to be especially interesting to follow in the upcoming years.

Instead of the regular Biggest Standouts section, this week we’ll be giving you our scouting reports on the Sens’ newest acquisitions, while also saying adieu to those that were traded the other way.

Stats Sheet

(click to expand)

Introducing Your Newest Sens Prospects!

Erik Brannstrom

It’s a shame that Erik Brannstrom will forever be linked as the player that was traded for Mark Stone. But don’t let that fool you — Brannstrom is still a player worth getting excited about, with the potential to reach elite status.

Drafted 15th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, Brannstrom played his draft-plus-one season for HV71 in the SHL, where he scored 15 points in 44 games. He’s a bit of an undersized player at 5’10”, but his it’s his incredible offensive abilities that make up for it ten times over. He’s a speedy player, both in terms of elite foot speed and fast thinking. His puck control is what will make him a special player, as he’s a confident carrier who can make room for himself. But his smarts also help him out defensively, as his gap control and defensive zone awareness are both solid, albeit not his top traits.

His recent performance at the World Junior Championships gained him significantly more notoriety in hockey circles. Even though Sweden failed to medal while he served as captain, Brannstrom scored four goals in five games, being named a top-three player on his team. He was also named to the WJC All-Star Team, an honour also received by Thomas Chabot just two years ago.

Now he’s in North America playing his rookie pro season, where he scored 28 points in 41 games for the Chicago Wolves, and was given a nod to participate in the AHL All-Star weekend. His point totals in Chicago may even be a bit deflated, as the Wolves’ coach was playing him as their 5th defenceman.

Now in Belleville, it’s expected that Brannstrom will be thrusted into a larger role with the team racing for a playoff spot. We started to see that this past week, where he recorded his first assist in the Sens’ organization, playing on the first pairing next to Cody Goloubef while also getting ample power play time. He also showed some flashes of brilliance, the type that us prospect-lovers crave from defencemen.

Based on Corey Pronman’s rankings of drafted prospects, Brannstrom came in at #42 on his list of drafted prospects at the beginning of the season, and has since risen to #19 as of mid-January. The WJC bump certainly helps, although his smooth transition to North America also bodes well for his future. It helps that he already had experience playing against pros in Sweden.

With Chabot, Max Lajoie and Christian Wolanin already in the fold for the future of Ottawa’s left defence, the addition of Brannstrom bolsters that even more. He has the potential to be a game changer, and now it’s just a matter of time to see how well he can translate his abilities to the NHL.

Vitaly Abramov

Received from Columbus as one of two prospects in the Matt Duchene trade, Vitaly Abramov may be a name already familiar to many Ottawa locals. Coming to North America from Russia at age 17, Abramov played almost his entire junior career for the nearby Gatineau Olympiques, where he became an instant star in the QMJHL.

In his draft year, he scored 38 goals and 93 points in 63 games. That would normally be the type of numbers that a shoe-in first round pick would put up — Pierre-Luc Dubois, for example, scored 99 points in 62 games in the same league that season and was drafted 3rd overall. Yet Abramov somehow slipped down the draft board all the way to 65th, where the Blue Jackets got an instant steal.

Abramov broke the 100-point barrier a year later, with 46 goals and 104 points in 66 games. The Blue Jackets made the questionable decision to send him back for a final season of junior, where scored 104 points in 56 games.

The biggest knock against Abramov is size, which is likely the reason he fell so far in the draft. At 5’9”, Abramov isn’t afraid to get into the corners, but he still needs to gain strength if he wants to do that consistently and effectively in the NHL. His skating still has room for improvement, which makes for a less-than-ideal combo in today’s fast-paced league.

The reason Abramov was able to dominate the Q was because of his top notch offensive skills. Some players are great dekers, and some are great shooters. Abramov is both, as he has the finesse to pull off some fancy moves, and then be a danger to goalies with his shot, especially in the mid-range. He already has all the tools to be an effective power play contributor.

Playing for a middle-of-the-pack Cleveland Monsters team prior to the trade, Abramov’s results were also very middle-of-the-pack. Opposite to Brannstrom, he was given a chance immediately to show what he can do on the top line. And with 22 points in 52 games, it’s been a bit underwhelming. He already has two points in his first three games for Belleville, though, which is hopefully a sign of him trending in the right direction.

It’s been a while since the Sens have had a Russian in the organization in any capacity, dating back to Sergei Gonchar in 2013. Hopefully Abramov can change that, as although he has a high-ceiling offensive toolkit, he still has a couple things to work on before making a full-on transition. In the meantime, he’ll be a fantastic addition to Belleville’s forward corps, which is now one of the AHL’s deepest.

Jonathan Davidsson

The speedy Davidsson was the other prospect heading Ottawa’s way in return for Matt Duchene. Listed regularly as a mid-tier prospect in the Jackets system, Davidsson is a slightly smaller winger (listed at 5-foot-11) but has NHL speed:

Drafted in the 6th round in 2017 after a 12 point, 44 game season (ranked 6th among all U20 players behind the Kings’ Grundstrom, Rangers’ Andersson, Sabres’ Asplund, and the Wild’s Eriksson Ek), Davidsson’s stock rose significantly after his 2017-18 campaign, which saw the winger produce 31 points in 52 games to rank second in team scoring.

He came over to North America for the Jackets 2018-19 camp, and nearly made the team, but decided to return to Djurgårdens for his third season with the SHL club. He’s battled through some injuries, but has 21 points in 36 games this season with an average of 16:57 a night — a trusted top-six forward. The scouting report on Davidsson appears to be a speedy, playmaking winger who’s willing to go to tough areas. He may not have the skill to be a top-six forward because he can’t dominate a game with his skill and isn’t as consistent of an offensive threat — especially compared to current Jackets prospect and Djurgårdens teammate, Emil Bemstrom — but most see him as an NHLer at some point in the next two seasons.

Expect to see Davidsson in a Senators — Belleville or Ottawa — jersey next season.

The departed: Julius Bergman, Patrick Sieloff, Tobias Lindberg

Three prospects that we’ve been covering have also left the Sens over these past two weeks.

Julius Bergman went to Columbus as part of the Matt Duchene trade, and was promptly flipped three days later to the New York Rangers in exchange for Adam McQuaid. Bergman came over to the Senators in the Mike Hoffman/Mikkel Boedker swap with mild fanfare, but has disappointed this season on a Belleville team that was ripe for opportunity. Coming off of back-to-back 20+ point seasons, primarily due to receiving powerplay time with the Barracuda, Bergman was often the odd-player out on Coach Mann’s blueline despite being a right-shot, and wasn’t given an opportunity on the powerplay over Christian Wolanin and Jordan Murray. With BSens writer Joel Vanderlaan reporting that Bergman was going to return to Frölunda at the end of the season, the writing was on the wall for the Swede with the Senators organization. The Rangers may find a spot for him in Hartford if Bergman is interested, but I expect this to all be because of contracts anyway.

We barely knew ‘ye, Tobias Lindberg. After re-acquiring the ex-Sens prospect from Wilkes-Barre in a mid-season trade, Lindberg was included in the Mark Stone trade to Vegas. It was a strange inclusion, especially because Lindberg had suited up in almost all of Belleville’s games since being acquired — albeit to the tune of just six points in 29 games in primarily fourth line and penalty kill minutes — but he was a useful depth forward for a team gearing up for a playoff run. Given that the team recently acquired a mediocre forward in Austin Fyten, it appears that there was still a need for some forward depth, and it’s not like Lindberg’s contract (RFA at the end of the season) was an issue. Regardless, unlike when he was first traded for Dion Phaneuf, Lindberg is likely not going to make the NHL, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him head back to Djurgårdens.

Lastly, the Sens (finally) traded Patrick Sieloff out of the organization, in exchange for an NHL depth forward in Brian Gibbons. This is the best trade of the three, not only because Dorion got rid of Sieloff — a player that lost any fan support after concussing Clarke MacArthur during a memorable training camp scrimmage — but because an extra NHL body allows the team to let Chlapik, Brown, and Batherson play meaningful minutes in Belleville. I’d expect Rudolfs Balcers and Christian Wolanin to join their squad at the conclusion of Ottawa’s season — both players are eligible despite still being with the Senators now as they were briefly sent down to the AHL on Monday, February 25th as a paper transaction. Gibbons, 31, is an interesting veteran who was a former top scorer at Colin White’s Boston College (including back-to-back 50+ point years), but never cracked 40+ points at the AHL level. An energy forward with a decent motor and solid lower body strength for a small player (5-foot-8), Gibbons put up a career-high 26 points in 59 games for the Devils last season before signing with Randy Carlyle’s Anaheim Ducks and struggling mightily. He’s gotten off to a quick start with the Sens, but I hope they evaluate him properly at the end of the season.

Silver Linings

  • The Belleville Senators continued their incredible point streak this week, and you can read Spencer’s recap of it here. Some standouts: Jack Rodewald (5 points in 4 GP), Nick Paul (6 points in 4 GP) and Marcus Hogberg (3-0-1, one shutout, 0.924 Sv%). Drake Batherson was also named the AHL’s rookie of the month for February, with 18 points in 10 games.
  • Speaking of the B-Sens, the AHL trade deadline was on Monday, and while we only tend to cover drafted prospects and players under contract, the B-Sens traded defenceman Stuart Percy to Providence for forward Austin Fyten. The move is likely to open up more space on the left side for Brannstrom, Lajoie, Englund and the rest, while getting back a sub-par depth forward.
  • With Fyten’s addition, it appears that it’s pushed Aaron Luchuk out of the lineup, who was demoted to the ECHL yesterday. He has nine points in 25 games for Belleville.
  • Playoff season will be starting soon for many of the prospects still playing junior or collegiate hockey. Luke Loheit and the Penticton Vees have already started their first round series in the BCHL.
  • Jacob Bernard-Docker is in a bit of an interesting position with the University of North Dakota, being a healthy scratch for the first time of the season. Jonny Tychonick received similar treatment earlier in the season.
  • Alex Formenton had a rough knee collision with Jan Jenik, and fortunately both players were okay with no suspension given for Formenton. Aside from that incident, he’s still on fire for London, with eight points in his last seven games.
  • One prospect who did end up getting suspended is Parker Kelly, who sat for three games after boarding Brandon’s Marcus Sekundiak.