There you are, scrolling through your phone thinking to yourself... I wonder which of Ottawa’s AHL players have had the largest impact for their team? You’re wondering, if you were to create an All-Time All-Stars squad for the Binghamton and Belleville Senators, who would make it?
If that’s you, then you’re me.
I took a look at the BSens over the years and have compiled a
perfect, indisputable list of the best BSens, by position, and created a First Team All-Star squad, with some honourable mentions. You’re welcome.
The criteria for the All-Time All Star team here is simple:
- One player from each position is selected.
- A player must have played a minimum of two seasons with one of Ottawa’s AHL affiliates, in which he appeared in at least 30 games in each season.
- A player gains the esteemed honour of All-Time All Star for his contributions for the BSens, regardless of where his career progressed following his time in Binghamton or Belleville.
That’s it, that’s the criteria. Let’s dig in.
First Team All-Star, Centre
Selection: Jason Spezza
Inarguably the best centre in franchise history, Jason Spezza is a lock for the All-Time All-Stars. Spezza joined the Binghamton Senators in 2002 as a rookie and put up 54 points in 43 games. Over the course of two seasons, Spezza’s 1.39 points per game is the best scoring output for any BSen ever. In his second year, Spezza compiled 117 points, including 85 assists. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Spezza had 85 assists in 80 games. This led him to receiving the Les Cunningham Award for Most Valuable Player and the John B. Sollenberger as Top Point Scorer.
Interestingly, if Spezza were to host a press conference thanking me for his selection to this prestigious team - which he should - he’d have to name Gary Bettman as one of the main reasons for his success. Why? During the 2004-05 season, where Spezza set the franchise single season record for assists, was the year of the lockout. Had it not been for the lockout, Spezza would have certainly spent the entire season in Ottawa. Thanks, Gary.
Honourable Mentions: Antoine Vermette, Stephane Da Costa, Chris Kelly
Antoine Vermette and Stephane Da Costa are our first honourable mentions with incredibly similar careers in Binghamton. The former posted 0.84 points per game through 161 games while the latter compiled 0.83 points per game in 159 games. Seriously, have you seen them both in the same room? While Vermette had a long, successful career as an NHLer, Da Costa had to take his services overseas where he’s been one of the KHL’s more reliable scorers for the better part of three seasons.
Serving as captain from 2003 to 2005, Chris Kelly was a close second for first All-Star team. Before becoming a mainstay in Ottawa and Boston’s middle/bottom six, Kelly was busy posting 0.52 points per game in Binghamton while being an incredibly reliable defensive presence. While his offensive output wasn’t as impressive as the other honourable mentions, his all around game and leadership certainly have earned him a spot here.
First Team All-Star, Right Wing
Selection: Drake Batherson
I know what you’re thinking, classic recency bias. Batherson is, as far as we’re concerned, still an AHL player until he secures a full-time spot with the big club so how can he possibly make the All-Time All-Stars at right wing?
It’s simple. Batherson’s rookie and sophomore campaigns have been the most impressive for any right winger in BSens’ history. As a rookie, Batherson cleared a point per game. As a sophomore, he did it again. As mentioned in my recent post about Batherson, his production also compares favourably to many current wingers at the NHL level. Thanks to some great constructive comments on that post, I dug a bit deeper to compare Batherson’s production, for his development year, to others at the same point.
Of the F's in the AHL during their DY+4 season (Batherson's development year last season), Batherson’s 0.9318 primary points per game ranks him:— Spencer Blake (@spencerdjblake) October 29, 2020
16-17: 2nd (Guentzel)
15-16: 2nd (Vatrano)
13-14: 1st (Stone is 2nd)
12-13: 1st#Sens https://t.co/WY1xmxwFsS
This information is for all forwards, not just wingers. His DY+3 production also lists him at the top of virtually every season for DY+3 players - only to be topped by some guy named Josh Norris. In his rookie season, Batherson was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team while he made the Second All-Star team in his sophomore campaign.
Needless to say, while Mark Stone also suited up as a right winger for the BSens for multiple seasons, Batherson’s two seasons at his age give him the age.
Honourable Mentions: Mark Stone, Jeff Heerema
During his two seasons in Binghamton, Mark Stone’s contributions were quite impressive. In his rookie season, Stone compiled a modest 38 points in 54 games and followed that up by eclipsing the point per game mark in year two on his way to a full-time position with the big club. In his second year in Bingo, Stone’s 1.11 points per game was good enough for sixth in the league for players who suited up for 30 or more games.
Selected 11th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 1998, Jeff Heerema’s career didn’t quite end up like scouts expected. All-in-all, Heerema only played 32 games in the big league and most of his professional experience in North America occurred at the AHL level. In the summer of ‘06, Heerema signed with the Senators where he was immediately named captain and posted 0.91 points per game across two seasons before eventually heading to Europe to finish his career.
First Team All-Star, Left Wing
Selection: Denis Hamel
Of all the players named to the All-Time All-Star squad, Denis Hamel contributed far and away the most points to the BSens franchise - he happens to be the BSens all-time leader in games played, goals, assists and points. After 438 games with the BSens, Hamel had 392 points to his name, clearing the 200 total goal mark in his final season with Binghamton. Hamel spent four seasons as Binghamton’s captain and, in his worst campaign, still managed 50 points in 63 games.
While he suited up for Bingo, Hamel’s trophy case filled almost as quickly as his point totals. Hamel twice participated in the All-Star Game and was a First Team All-Star once. He also won the Willie Marsh Award for the AHL’s Leading Scorer and the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as the AHL’s man of the year for service to his local community.
This past year, Denis Hamel was named to the AHL Hall of Fame.
Honourable Mentions: Mike Hoffman, Shane Prince
One of Ottawa’s most prolific goal scorers of the last decade, Mike Hoffman misses the All-Time All-Star team because he happens to play the same position the best player to ever wear the BSens logo. As a member of the BSens, Hoffman scored 71 goals and 169 points during 242 games with the club. He was also a rookie contributor to Binghamton’s Calder Cup Championship in 2011, where he posted 9 points in 19 playoff games. In his final AHL season, he joined the 30 goal club.
Shane Prince, the former first rounder, was never able to stick with the club in Ottawa but while in the minors, he was an important fixture in the BSens’ offense. His 0.72 points per game for Binghamton eclipses that of Hoffman (0.62) while Prince scored at least 18 goals in all three of his seasons, including a 28 goal campaign in 2014-15 that had Sens fans feeling hopeful for the Rochester native.
First Team All-Star, Right Defense
Selection: Chris Wideman
A member of the Binghamton Senators for three seasons, Chris Wideman is your first team All-Star for the right side of the blueline. After a full NCAA career with the University of Miami, Ohio, Wideman’s rookie season with Binghamton was decent. His 18 points ranked him third for blueliners. Wideman’s contributions to the BSens in his first season encouraged the staff to name him an Alternate Captain in his sophomore season, where his offensive production skyrocketed to 51 points in 73 games - good enough for fourth in the entire AHL for defenders. In his third and final season in the AHL, his 61 points led all defenders and led him to an AHL All-Star Game appearance and his selection to the AHL’s First Team All-Stars.
Honourable Mention: Brian Pothier
Brian Pothier, a BSen from 2002 to 2005, is one of the few players listed here who spent an entire season solely in the NHL between the seasons he played in Binghamton. The undrafted NCAA free agent got his start with the Orlando Solar Bears of the IHL before eventually finding his way to Ottawa’s system. In his first season, he amassed an impressive 47 points while adding 10 points in 8 playoff games. He followed that up with another 48 points two seasons later.
On the right side of the blueline, the BSens haven’t had a ton of stars. Outside of Erik Karlsson, who only spent 12 games in the league, and perhaps Erik Brannstrom, if you count him as a full time righty, this position has been filled primarily with AHL veterans throughout the years.
First Team All-Star, Left Defense
Selection: André Benoît
Who can forget about the impact André Benoît had on the Binghamton Senators from 2010 to 2013? After winning a Calder Cup with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Ottawa signed Benoît to a one year deal - one of the best AHL free agent signings the organization has ever made, in my opinion. After missing out on the NHL club in training camp, Benoît was immediately added to Binghamton’s leadership team. He went on to put up the second most points by a defender in the regular season followed by the most points be a defender in the playoffs. Benoît’s BSens won the Calder Cup that year.
The St. Albert, Ontario native split the next season between Binghamton and Ottawa, while donning the “C” for the BSens and contributing his usual impressive amount of offense in the process.
Honourable Mention: Derek Smith
Derek Smith spent four full seasons with Binghamton. In his time with the club, he became the BSens all-timing leading scorer for defenders. In his best seasons in a BSens uniform, Smith cracked the 50 point mark two years in a row before eventually becoming an NHLer for a few seasons with the Calgary Flames.
First Team All-Star, Goaltender
Selection: Robin Lehner
The rookie goaltender who took over for Barry Brust and led the BSens to their only Calder Cup Championship in franchise history is your easy selection for the All-Time All-Stars. Robin Lehner holds the BSens franchise records for both single season GAA with 2.12 and single season save percentage with a stunning 0.938 SV% in 2012-13. On route to the Calder Cup, Lehner posted an equally wild 0.939 SV% through 19 games. Unsurprisingly, Lehner was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield trophy given to the playoff MVP in the AHL.
Honourable Mention: Ray Emery
Honestly, this was a close one. If it weren’t for Lehner’s amazing playoff performances and Calder Cup win, Emery would be the clear choice. While Lehner holds the single season records, Emery holds the franchise records for wins and shutouts by a goaltender with 67 and 11 respectively.
Your First (and Second) Team All-Time All-Stars
There you have it, your First Team All-Time All-Stars:
Centre: Jason Spezza
Right Wing: Drake Batherson
Left Wing: Denis Hamel
Right Defense: Chris Wideman
Left Defense: André Benoît
Goaltender: Robin Lehner
From the honourable mentions, your surprise Second Team All-Time All-Stars:
Centre: Antoine Vermette
Right Wing: Mark Stone
Left Wing: Mike Hoffman
Right Defense: Brian Pothier
Left Defense: Derek Smith
Goaltender: Ray Emery
So, what do you think? Did I get it right or have I forgotten an incredible BSen from years past. Have your say in the comments!