***Editor’s note: I’m very excited to welcome Trevor Shackles back to Silver Seven. Long-time readers of the blog will be familiar with Trevor’s stellar work, and he’s going to slide right back in as a regular staff writer, and contributor to the site. Please join me in welcoming him back! —nkb***
Before I get started, I just wanted to say that I am thrilled to be back writing at Silver Seven Sens! I took the past 14 months off from writing due to a busy workload, but I’ve been itching to write. and I’m so happy that Silver Seven Sens was able to welcome me back. I love the community that we have here, and all of the amazing content that has been created over the past few years so I couldn’t be more excited to re-join at this time.
I know there is a lot of debate within the Senators fan community right now and that’s good; I also hope that we can all continue to respect each other’s opinions and realize that we’re all very excited about the future. I’ve always enjoyed the healthy debate that takes places on these boards. Thanks as always for the support! — Trevor
To say that this off-season has been interesting for the Ottawa Senators is a massive understatement. There were months of initial inaction over the summer, but October was a whirlwind between the draft, free agency, trades, and the new jersey reveals. Ottawa has dramatically changed their future outlook, for better or for worse, and I wanted to analyze different positions and how they are set up for the future. This piece will be the first in a series of weekly installments where I take a look at the organization’s depth.
I want to start on left wing because logically in my brain it should go first, but also because it seems like the deepest position within the organization. So let’s take a look at where the Sens currently sit, and where they could be in the future.
2020-21 Left Wing Depth
For this upcoming season, there will be plenty of battles on the left side. Brady Tkachuk, Alex Galchenyuk, and Nick Paul are the obvious locks here, with Galchenyuk slotting in either on the second or third line. That leaves one spot open (plus a 13th forward spot) for Rudolfs Balcers, Tim Stuetzle (who has played centre, but who the team projects as a left-winger to start his NHL career), Alex Formenton, and Filip Chlapik. I should note that Vitaly Abramov is sometimes listed as a left winger sometimes but I know that he likes to play on his off-wing, so he’ll be featured in the piece on Right Wing.
Complicating matters, Stuetzle may not be granted permission by his DEL team Mannheim to play in the NHL this year, and Balcers and Chlapik must clear waivers if they get sent down to Belleville. So although Stuetzle is almost certainly ready to play, there may not be room for him unless there is an injury, a trade, or they want to risk losing Balcers and/or Chlapik on waivers. Formenton is comparatively younger than many of the other forward prospects, so I only expect to see him for a small time throughout the year.
I can’t wait to see these battles at training camp and even during the season because there is no obvious player to put on that second line. My guess is that Galchenyuk will be given that spot to begin with to see what he can do, but I can see any one of the other left wingers moving to that spot besides perhaps Paul.
Does left wing look fantastic for the Senators in 2020-21? No, but they do have a ton of depth and can try out lots of different players on different lines. If they can at least figure out which players are worth keeping around, then that will be a win in that regard.
In the Future:
As we look into the future, Ottawa’s depth on the left side is much better. I didn’t include Stuetzle in here because Pierre Dorion has said that he can be a centre long-term, even if he’s not in that role right away:
Left Wing Future Projections
Now, where each player is placed are just my own projections, and obviously not all of them will pan out like we want them to. Having said that, with nine players (all 25 and under), there is a good chance that Ottawa’s depth on the left wing will be very solid moving forward. To be honest, they mainly only need two of Jarventie, Formenton, Balcers, Chlapik, Crookshank, and Novak to be middle-six wingers because Tkachuk will be entrenched on the first line, and the fourth line will hopefully not be an issue.
I wouldn’t say that is an elite group of forwards, but I like a lot of them. We’re seeing Jarventie get off to an amazing start in Finland, and Formenton keeps getting better, so those two right there give them a great foundation:
very small sample alert— Trevor Shackles (@ShackTS) October 30, 2020
It's only 11 games, but Jarventie's 0.91 pts/game would be the best by any U19 player in the SM-Liiga since Sebastian Aho in 15-16 (1.00 pts/game).
Before that, Barkov was also at 0.91 in 12-13
*(with 3 more games played, Jarventie now has 12 points in 14 games)
I didn’t include Ridly Greig in this because I think he will end up being a 3rd line centre, someone who they try to make into a Jean-Gabriel Pageau type player. In addition, there are some other names that could play other positions or are much less sure things including Yegor Sokolov, Eric Engstrand, Cole Reinhardt, Viktor Lodin, and Philippe Daoust. The players I talked about above are the most intriguing of the bunch. and most likely to stay on the left side.
I would say that Ottawa’s depth on the left wing is probably their best of any position, but at the same time, a lot of their success will be dependent on Tkachuk taking some steps forward. We know how good he has been, and the potential he has, but he needs to break the ceiling just like his brother Matthew did when he turned into an almost a point-per-game player. Brady can easily do that with a better supporting cast, but we still need to see him take that crucial step forward.
If he does that, things become a lot easier by filling in the other spots, as guys like Jarventie, Formenton, Balcers, etc. won’t have to pick up the slack on their own lines.
Will every left wing prospect reach their potential? Of course not, but luckily for the Senators, they will still be in a great spot even if just a few of them do. I can’t wait to see the battles for spots over the next few years.