The 2018-2019 Ottawa Senators season yielded much in the way of pain. In a year that seemed eternal, Erik Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, and Mark Stone were all cast into the abyss, as the team plunged down into last place once again.
Remarkably, it wasn’t all bad though. The Senators have a wealth of prospects in their system, and even got some great performances from players already on their main roster.
Like anything good in this world, we should rank them, because we’ll surely all agree and no one will get upset about differences of opinions. So, with that in mind, here are the Ottawa Senators’ Three Stars of 2018-2019.
- Thomas Chabot - In a season where Sens fans sorely missed Erik Karlsson, Thomas Chabot provided a glimmer of hope that they may have yet another generational defenceman on their hands. While Karlsson is irreplaceable, Chabot made his own case for a future Norris trophy, the 21 year-old notched 14G and 41A for an astounding 55 points in 70 games, earning his first All-Star nod in the process. Injuries, and the mass exodus of Ottawa’s star players provided some struggles for the young defenceman, but at the top of his game, he was far and away the Senators’ best player this season.
2. Brady Tkachuk - This might come as a shock to a lot of you, but none of us are experts, by any means. So, the next time we become enraged by a draft pick we don’t agree with, we should all hear the disembodied voice of Andy Sutton in our heads, asking us that all too important question. Brady Tkachuk, who I myself said was a bad pick, proved everyone wrong this season, tallying 22G and 23A for 45 points in 71 games. Perhaps more impressive than his physical play, and talent for pissing off the opponents, was Tkachuk’s leadership down the more difficult stretch of the season. He elevated his game following the Stone trade, and emerged as the Senators’ undisputed on-ice leader. He was really a treat to watch this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing him continue to prove me wrong in the future.
3. Colin White - If you recall our prospect ranking at the beginning of the season, I was one of the few people to rank Colin White ahead of Logan Brown. I said that I didn’t see White playing any lower than the Top-9, so you all need to bow down to me now, as I am your King. With 14G and 27A for 41 points in 71 games, White quietly emerged as a budding star for the Senators. He looked solid in both ends of the ice, and his line with Tkachuk and Mark Stone was my personal highlight of the season. Colin White, to me, was the most underrated player on the squad this year, and I would look for him to have a complete breakout campaign next year.
- Christian Wolanin only had a 30-game look, but emerged as, at worst, a Top-3 defenceman on this team. His offensive skills are impeccable, and he’s beginning to round out his game in the defensive zone as well. I think Ottawa has a really good player here, and he needs to spend all of 2019-2020 in the NHL.
- Anders Nilsson was a breath of fresh air in net, despite struggling through February. In 24 appearances, he posted the best numbers of any goaltender on the team, and showed flashes of upper-tier goaltender play. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have a Nilsson/Hogberg tandem next year, and allow Filip Gustavsson and Joey Daccord to play big minutes in Belleville.
- Dylan DeMelo was the surprise of the Erik Karlsson trade, having a really good season playing on Ottawa’s top pairing. His steady play provided some stability for Chabot, allowing the youngster to flourish offensively, and was pretty reliable in the Ottawa zone. I liked DeMelo’s year, and hope his game continues to grow as he’s only 25.
- Mikkel Boedker is yet another one of Pierre Dorion’s trades gone horribly awry. Ottawa didn’t get nearly enough in return for Mike Hoffman, as the newly-minted Panther doubled Boedker’s point totals on the year. The forward was invisible for most of the season, except when he was inexplicably taking big minutes from better, younger players. He has to go this offseason, no question.
- Zack Smith doesn’t have it anymore. That’s tough to say, because I love the energy and leadership he’s brought over the past few years, but the time to flip him for a decent draft pick was two years ago. Now, with Smith even clearing waivers at the beginning of the year, his slower legs and inability to finish in the offensive zone will be nearly impossible to move. If he’s going to be in Ottawa next year, Smith needs to be lodged firmly on the fourth line, allowing the rookies to play the lion’s share of meaningful minutes.
- Cody Ceci has been the most maligned player in Ottawa for I don’t know how many years now. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but Mary Mother of God, I am sick of watching him. I am sick of the missed assignments, I am sick of the mind-boggling lack of puck management, I’m sick of his inability to play two-on-ones, and I’m just sick of Cody Ceci in general. He can likely be a solid player somewhere else, in the right role, but this experiment in Ottawa has run its course. It is long past time to move on.
Who to Watch in 2020
Rudolfs Balcers turned in a solid first pro campaign, so expect him to take on a larger role offensively next year, and put up some more numbers. Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, and Nick Paul all tore up the American Hockey League this year, and will likely all see some type of role in Ottawa next season. Factor in the likely emergence of Alex Formenton, who I think will have a surprisingly big year, as well as the development of Josh Norris, and the Senators look super exciting at forward next season. Erik Brannstrom provides cause for excitement on the blueline, too. While it will likely be another tough year in the standings, the young guns provide some intrigue for the new season.
Only five more months!