Today we get to part 2 of our discussion of our Top 25 Under 25 voting. You can read Part 1 here.
Question for everyone: The top of the list is now mostly populated with some pretty firmly established NHLers who likely won’t be displaced. Is there anyone outside of the top 10 that you think has a chance to make a big leap this coming season?
Spencer: I think we’re going to see 2 defenders who we currently have ranked outside the top 10 make big leaps this year. It feels like JBD is going to have a huge second year at NoDak and we’re going to see a solid season out of Lassi Thomson as well in Finland. I know when I was doing the rankings, I was unsure where to place Thomson as he was a bit of an off the board pick. What I’ve seen since is certainly intriguing and I have a feeling we’re going to be surprised with how well he plays against pros in Finland.
Ross: think Jonathan Davidsson could really jump up the rankings if he gets an NHL shot. As everybody says, he almost made the Blue Jackets out of camp last year. If he makes the NHL squad, I think he has the potential to impress a lot of people.
Colin: I’m still a believer in Jonny Tychonick’s skill set. If he can put the demons of last season behind him, I think he has the raw potential to be a dynamic offensive defenceman in the NHL. It hasn’t been a promising start, but hopefully it was just a road bump.
Ary: Others have mentioned Jonathan Davidsson and Vitaly Abramov already, and I agree there. Lassi Thomson has the chance to put himself ahead of Jacob Bernard-Docker with a big season, and like Colin, I think Jonny Tychonick has more to give. Filip Chlapik, ranked 18, is a name that stands out, because heading into last season, he dominated rookie camp and was just beat out by Colin White for an NHL spot. Two seasons before that, Chlapik and White played nearly equivalent NHL games, and it was Chlapik who looked better. Now, White was just signed to a 6-year deal while Chlapik appears to be forgotten. He has a deadly shot, is extremely smart, and has been given defensive minutes in Belleville to develop that aspect of his game. If Logan Brown starts in Ottawa, I hope Chlapik is given his minutes and given full opportunity to showcase his offensive ability at the AHL level. He’s good.
Dewie: I have a lot of hope for Formenton and Lajoie becoming stronger player and surprising everyone this season. With the way this season is set up; there’s a lot of opportunity for prospects to become heroes and really shine especially if the team gets hit with an injury bug.
Brandon: I think Alex Formenton is going to firmly establish himself as an NHL player this season. Going back to junior last year was likely the best thing for him, as he’s now going to be able to finish offensively. We all know he has pro-calibre speed, and when he starts putting up points this year, he’s going to leapfrog up this list in a hurry.
nkb: I’ve been one of Filip Chlapik’s biggest supporters for a while now, so I’m going to choose him. If he’s able to force his way onto the NHL team out of training camp, I could envision him becoming a dependable pro that adds some scoring punch to the third line.
Question for Spencer and Ross: You both had Erik Branstromm as the Sens’ second best player under 25. What convinced you that he should be ahead of more established NHLers like Brady Tkachuk and Colin White?
Spencer: This is always the hard part for me with these rankings - current skill vs. upside and how to weight each. What people tend to forget is Brannstrom’s “decent” 32 points in 50 games was done as a 19 year old defender in the AHL. What I saw from Brannstrom in his stint with Belleville was a player who completely controls the play when he’s on the ice. He’s fast and makes plays at top speed regularly. His skillset is built for the transition game of today’s NHL. I love Brady Tkachuk (don’t pull up my pre-draft tweets) and Colin White but for me the upside for Brannstrom outweighs that the others have established themselves in the NHL already.
Ross: It’s hard to know how to rank potential vs. experience, but in the end, I think Brannstrom deserved to be higher because his ceiling is so high. He has the potential to be among the top defencemen in the league, and most years that would’ve been the player I put at the top of the list. A couple years ago, I had Chabot and White ahead of Pageau and Ceci even though the young guys had no NHL experience, and I did that because I think potential to be a superstar beats a track record of competency. Sure, Tkachuk and even White are better than “competent”, but they won’t fight for best players in the league at their positions. The only reason I kept Chabot higher is because his NHL experience shows that he also could be a superstar, but I think even a year from now, Brannstrom could be #1 on a few lists.
Question for Colin and Ary: You both had Drake Batherson at 3rd. How confident are you that the winger will have an impact season in the NHL this year?
Colin: Nothing’s ever a guarantee, but I feel pretty confident that Drake Batherson will be at least a productive top-nine winger for the Sens this season. The spot is open for him on the right wing, he’s proven that he can score against older competition, and he has a complete set of skills needed to excel in the NHL right away. My only concern is that he’ll get plugged with depth players like Mikkel Boedker, and not have any space to do anything. But he’s shown the ability to drive his own line, which is a fantastic sign for his NHL credentials.
Ary: Like Colin, I’m not sure if he’ll get top-six minutes this year, but I think an NHL spot is Batherson’s to lose and I’m excited to see him work through his consistency kinks against tougher competition on a full-time basis. Batherson plays a style of game where you may not always notice him breaking away with speed or making an elite shot from distance, but he’s winning battles or tipping pucks or setting up his teammates with his smart positioning. I hope he gets to play with complementary line-mates that can match his brain.
Question for everyone: Which one of the players on the list has the best chance to become a first line centre for the team in the next five years? Does Ottawa still need to address that hole through the draft?
Spencer: The guy who’s mostly likely to become a first line centre here has to be Logan Brown, it’s not really a question for me. If he can play in the NHL at the level he attained with Batherson and Paul in Belleville last year, the Sens top line will be in good hands. Josh Norris has an outside chance, I suppose, but I see him as a player closer to Colin White (good two way, second line centre at best) in the long run. Ottawa absolutely NEEDS to address this through the draft, probably this year. Should they be picking top 5 (Top 3? FIRST OVERALL?!) like we expect, someone in the vein of Quinton Byfield should be all over their radar.
Ross: Logan Brown has the best shot, but I also think he’s the only prospect with a realistic ceiling of 1C. Having no backup plan isn’t a great idea, so the Sens really need someone else with that ceiling. I also don’t love the idea of drafting to your need. I think what makes more sense is for the Sens to use their surplus of potential and maybe try to acquire a high-end centre prospect. Maybe the Hurriances would be willing to part with Martin Necas for a combination of stuff for now and the future (think like Chris Tierney and a late 1st). So I don’t love the idea of the Sens trying to fill the hole exclusively through the draft, but yes, the Sens should fill that hole.
Colin: I agree with both Spencer and Ross in saying Logan Brown, given his fantastic well-rounded offensive toolkit. To cheat a bit, though, I keep looking at the 2020 draft, seeing an incredibly dense crop of elite centreman, and envisioning any one of them being a better bet to be Ottawa’s 1st line centre over anyone currently on the list. If any one of Quinton Byfield, Anton Lundell, Cole Perfetti, Marco Rossi or Hendrix Lapierre end up in the Sens’ hands (I’d maybe even go as far as including Connor Zary and Dylan Peterson), I think they’ll be the main centre moving forward.
Ary: Colin’s captured my thoughts perfectly. I wouldn’t be opposed to the team taking a high-end centre if they’re available in 2020 even though the team has a wealth of skill at the forward level, because you can always make room for elite centres.
Dewie: I know everyone is sold on Logan Brown but I’ll withhold my opinion on him until we see some real NHL experience and success. My vote for the time being would be for Colin White, but I don’t think he has the pure skill of handling the pressure of a true #1 centre. Whether through draft or trade, the Sens need to address this issue and probably sooner than later.
Brandon: In the next five years, it’s Colin White. I touched on this in my piece about him for the countdown, but I truly do believe he has the makings of a number one centre. Skill, speed, two-way ability, White has it all. On top of that, he has the benefit of already having the experience, and not only that, but playing with the likes of Mark Stone. If there’s going to be a number one centre from this current class, it’s Colin White.
nkb: Logan Brown’s got the best chance of the bunch, but I don’t think he’s anywhere near a slam dunk; his skating just isn’t good enough yet for me to be sure he’ll make a big impact in the NHL. I’m with Ross in that I think a good way to potentially address this issue is via a trade. The Sens have a real surplus of potential impact NHLers, but very few look like stars; one way to leverage that organizational depth would be to attempt to trade them while they’re still young and full of potential. If the Sens are going to trade for a first line centre, they should try to do it soon.