The Belleville Senators’ season came to a close this week in heartbreaking fashion as they were beaten by the Rochester Americans in Game 76, while the Cleveland Monsters triumphed over the Toronto Marlies.
Although the promising seasons of Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, Marcus Hogberg and co. were cut short, and there are a number of issues that Belleville can work on, there’s space to congratulate the team for their tremendous effort over the second half of the season to even put themselves in the picture. If the playoffs were important to get the team playing “must-win” games, then you can consider almost all of 2019 as a giant playoff run of sorts.
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Drake Batherson and Rudolfs Balcers
Belleville’s offence stuttered down the stretch in March and April, but a couple of players remained relatively consistent. When the going got tough last week, Drake Batherson and Rudolfs Balcers showed why they’re likely full-time NHLers next year, with Batherson putting up four points in three games, and Balcers contributing at a point-per-game pace.
The two even found themselves playing together at some points, with Troy Mann splitting up his big line in an attempt to generate multiple waves of offence.
Strong outlet by Batherson to Balcers leads to a beauty feed by Balcers to Rodewald - it's now a 2-2 game down in Belleville!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) April 14, 2019
That's assist #40 on the season for Batherson pic.twitter.com/aHQL3p29k4
I’m still sort-of surprised that Wolanin wasn’t given a full-time opportunity from the start of the season, because Belleville leaned on him like he was Erik Karlsson in his prime. The 23-year-old played 25+ minutes on multiple nights down the stretch, quarterbacking Belleville’s top powerplay unit and tasked to transition offence with his ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone with control.
Balcers' 2nd of the game from Wolanin and Batherson! 2-2 with 8mins left in the 3rd.— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) April 13, 2019
That's point #60 for Batherson and point #30 for both Wolanin and Balcers. pic.twitter.com/ZUA07bcy8V
We always knew that Wolanin was a crafty offensive player, and although his age makes his production stand out less, his performance across the organization, especially compared to his peers, has helped Wolanin cement a spot. A restricted free agent heading into the offseason, I wonder what type of deal he gets. He’s likely the organization’s second or third-best defenceman.
Formenton’s London Knights had a 3-0 series lead against the Guelph Storm, and a 3-1 lead in Game 7, but still managed to lose. Yeeeeesh.
It’s hard to put the blame on Formenton, though, with points on two of London’s three goals and 18 points (and 49 shots!!!!) overall. The Knights loaded up this year with internal acquisitions Evan Bouchard and Adam Boqvist, while relying heavily on the play of Jackets prospect Liam Foudy at centre. Once again, Formenton was able to elevate his play in the playoffs — something the Sens brass will take note of — especially as he turns pro and will either apply his trade in Ottawa or Belleville next season.
Alex Formenton's 3rd of the playoffs— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) April 13, 2019
Formenton scored London's only goal in a 3-1 loss on Friday night giving him 16 points (3-13-16) in 9GP. The Knights still lead the series 3-2 and Formenton has points in 3 straight. pic.twitter.com/KCLjc6D1gS
- Belleville has a lengthy free agent list, with Wolanin, Englund, Rodewald, Tambellini, Klimchuk, Paul (RFAs) and Archibald, Balisy, O’Brien, Elliott, Goloubef, Falk, Burgdoefer (UFAs). That’s basically every defenceman, outside of Brannstrom and Lajoie, and with no real defence prospects of note turning pro next year, expect the BSens to feature a veteran-heavy back-end.
- Another important RFA? Marcus Hogberg, who ended the year ranked 8th in AHL save percentage (0.916%).
- Speaking of prospects turning pro, Pierre Dorion had this note on TSN1200: “hopeful of signing Josh Norris this off-season and placing him in Belleville next season. Jacob Bernard-Docker is likely to go back to school for one more year.”
- The lone junior prospect remaining in the playoffs is forward Parker Kelly, whose Prince Albert Raiders defeated the Saskatoon Blades to advance to the third round. Kelly is already signed to an entry-level deal, and will be joining Belleville next year, too.
- It’ll be interesting to see who was injured down the stretch in Belleville. The team was already missing Brannstrom, Lajoie, Klimchuk, and Sturtz, and Nick Paul played against the Marlies despite receiving an IV earlier in the day. Colin touched on the offence drying up last week, and it’d be curious to see if Logan Brown and Filip Chlapik were dealing with something.
- Aaron Luchuk is another player who is expected to get an increased role next season. He’s over in Brampton as the Beast are playing the Newfoundland Growlers, Toronto’s ECHL affiliate, in round one of the playoffs.
Thank you, the readers, for following along with our updates for another season! Colin and I have a couple of recap pieces planned for the next couple of weeks, including end-of-year awards and looking at the tiers of prospects that exist within the organization. Stuff to look forward to, even if it might not be a deep Belleville playoff run.