The Ottawa Senators’ season came to a close this week, with Brady Tkachuk and Colin White wrapping up impressive rookie seasons. While Belleville is still fighting for a playoff spot, including a huge win this week over the Cleveland Monsters, a few other prospects are battling in their respective leagues for post-season glory. We’ll go over that and more in this week’s prospect update.
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The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles are into the second round of the QMJHL playoffs. And while they trail 2-1 to Alexis Lafrenière and the Rimouski Oceanic, Kevin Mandolese has given them a chance in the series. His team has managed to keep the shots against to a manageable amount (average 27.3 per in this round), although Mandolese hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of the three contests.
What a save by Kevin Mandolese!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) April 8, 2019
Mandolese stopped 29/30 shots in the win, helping Cape Breton tie up their 2nd round QMJHL playoff series 1-1. pic.twitter.com/Sr9T3j7M5Z
The regular season wasn’t too kind to Mandolese, whose 89.5% save percentage was nothing to be excited about. Now he’s stopping 92.7% of pucks coming his way in the playoffs, tied for second best in the QMJHL amongst the seven goalies with eight or more games played. This will be a tough matchup for the 18-year-old goalie, who is currently playing his best hockey of the season.
The emphasis this week is on the goalies, as Marcus Hogberg stopped 74 of 79 shots for the B-Sens. Like Mandolese, he didn’t come away with a winning record, losing twice but defeating the Cleveland Monsters in a must-win game. But it wasn’t for a lack of helping, giving his team a chance in a crucial push for the playoffs. If not for Hogberg, there’s a good chance that Belleville would be much further on the outside of the standings, as they claw towards the end of the regular season.
: Marcus Hogberg turned aside 31 of 32 shots on the night, none finer than this sequence. Giving his team a chance to win each outing, the 24-year-old owns a 1.18 GAA and .956 SV% over his last five starts. pic.twitter.com/vNyORDy8Ja— Joel Vanderlaan (@Joelvanderlaan) April 4, 2019
No one may be in a more interesting position that Hogberg this off-season amongst Sens prospects. A pending RFA, there have been rumours of his hometown team in Sweden trying to recruit him in the SHL. Meanwhile, the Sens need to sort out their plans for a backup goalie next season, and with Hogberg having a breakout year, he’s making himself a case for a one-way deal.
In Pierre Dorion’s end-of-season press conference yesterday, he stated that they “can’t have too many good goalies”, in response to a question about Anders Nilsson. The unfortunate reality is that roster spots for goalies are extremely limited, and the ECHL isn’t exactly a prime environment for developing players. If the Sens decide to roll the beginning of the season with a log jam in net, then it may come at the expense of a blooming goalie prospect.
- Belleville’s issue is that their offence has dried up at the wrong time. They’ve only scored 13 goals in their last eight games, with players like Drake Batherson (3 points in 10GP), Jack Rodewald (3 points in 10GP) and Filip Chlapik (3 points in 13GP) not being of much help. Hopefully the additions of Rudolfs Balcers and Christian Wolanin can spark something.
- Shoutout to Vitaly Abramov, though, for coming in clutch with two goals this week.
- Alex Formenton probably could’ve made the Biggest Standouts section for a third week in a row, as his three assists in three games is still impressive. He no longer holds the scoring lead in the OHL playoffs, although the London Knights have yet to lose a game, up 3-0 over the Guelph Storm.
- The momentum from the Prince Albert Raiders’ dominant season has continued into the playoffs. After sweeping their first round series, they currently have a 2-1 lead in round two, losing their first game last night. Parker Kelly scored twice in game one.
- Not to be forgotten about is the Sens’ ECHL affiliate, the Brampton Beast, who qualified for a playoff spot this week. The Sens haven’t taken advantage of them as much as they did last year (Aaron Luchuk is the only signed player to have spent significant time there), although it’s the first time Ottawa’s ECHL team has made the playoffs since the Elmira Jackals in 2012-13.
- On that subject, Luchuk scored three assists in three games this week. He’s been up and down between the AHL and ECHL all season.
- The Sens made an unusual signing this week, inking Johnny Gruden to an entry-level contract. Hopefully this transpires to him moving to the London Knights, who hold his CHL rights, since his freshman NCAA season showed that he’s not yet ready for the pro game. He signed an ATO with Belleville, but didn’t play in a game as he left to complete his academic studies.
- In another weird tryout agreement, former Sens pick Kelly Summers joined Belleville on a short PTO. They too released him before playing a game, rejoining the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder. The Sens passed on signing the defenceman last-offseason, losing his draft rights.
- Congrats to Joey Daccord for playing in his first NHL game!