The pain of trading away Mark Stone will never really go away but sometimes a consolation prize makes that pain softer. In our case, that prize was top prospect Erik Brannstrom, who scored 32 points in 50 games played in the AHL in the past season.
Erik Brannstrom is touted as a speedy and smart two-way defenseman who all fans have every reason to be excited about. Golden Knights fans were extremely reluctant to give him up in a rumoured trade for Karlsson and some were extremely enraged he was part of the Stone trade—and he hadn’t played one NHL game at that point. His offense will complement that of Thomas Chabot and hopefully jumpstart the offense of the forwards as well. If you still haven’t joined the Brann hype yet, I invite you to see some of his magical skills and mesmerizing plays:
He is being compared to none other than Erik Karlsson who was also drafted 15th overall and made his NHL debut at the age of 19 years. To refresh your memory, Karlsson started his rookie season in the AHL but ended up playing 60 games in Ottawa. While I am reluctant to simply place him in the same class as Karlsson, I think he has a good chance to outplay many of the defensemen on the current roster.
While he is not the most physical player, he is known for disciplined play and is a power play specialist. This asset in particular may give him quite the advantage to make the team especially with the way the power play has operated the past few seasons.
Brannstrom will turn 20 before the season starts, still in need of development. iI is probably a wiser decision to keep him down in Belleville. However, this season is not an ordinary season; it’s a rebuilding season where much of the big club roster will be developing. It will also be a tough season to sell to the fans, and introducing a player like Brannstrom may at least draw some more crowds for the entertainment factor.
The issue with Brannstrom’s roster spot is the fact that the Sens have created a bit of a log jam with players who will not necessarily deserve a spot. However, in a season where the Sens will surely be in a development phase; I expect them to be sellers throughout the season. Freeing a spot for Brannstrom via a trade may be unattainable the first few months of the season but the Sens’ season fate will become clear by Christmas.
Another hump in getting Brannstrom to Ottawa would be a successful Belleville Senators season. If the young team looks to be doing well, does management jeopardize Belleville’s success to showcase the players in Ottawa in a losing environment?
The upcoming season is filled with so many unknowns but we know enough to know that there will be many spots open for prospects who really impress management in Ottawa. Brannstrom is the Sens’ most prized prospect; will they be overprotective of him and his development or will he be used to inject some excitement into this drained team?