Welcome back for Part Three of my Long-Term Outlook series. So far, I’ve taken a deep dive into both left wing and centre for the Ottawa Senators organization, and today I’ll be analyzing right wing. The objective of this mini-series is to analyze how the Senators might look at each position for the upcoming season, but also down the road. There will be two more entries after this piece that discuss defensemen and goalies.
Right wing is certainly much thinner than other positions, so let’s start with what it will look like this upcoming season:
After the shocking signing of Evgenii Dadonov, Ottawa’s right wing depth looks much better than it did after they first bought out Bobby Ryan. It’s not amazing right now, but it could be at least respectable in 2020-21 for a team destined to finish near the bottom of the standings again. Let’s look at where certain players should line up this year:
Dadonov is a lock on the first line, and so is Watson on the fourth. DJ Smith loves Connor Brown so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get second line minutes to begin the season, although that should be Drake Batherson’s spot to lose. Batherson is a much better fit in the top-6, and he needs an opportunity to finally prove himself. I’m hopeful that he will firmly establish himself as a key member of this Senators team.
Having Dadonov, Batherson, and Brown on the first three lines is much better right wing depth than I would’ve anticipated two months ago, so that’s pretty exciting. Watson is another story as he hasn’t always been very effective, but I can’t imagine him losing his spot. We know that the Senators love their energy players who can hit, fight, and kill penalties, and Watson will be very much relied upon for that role.
Vitaly Abramov is probably good enough to get a shot in the NHL, but it doesn’t look like there is any room for him until there is an injury. He shoots left, although he likes to play on his off-wing, plus with the lack of options on the right side compared to the left, it makes way more sense to have him play right wing. In a shortened season, I’m thinking he can get into at least 15 games or so, but it remains to be seen if that will be enough for him to cement himself with a spot for next season.
Davidsson is a bit of a wildcard and a forgotten name, but I wouldn’t give up on him just yet. He’s a bit older at 23 and struggled in 18 games in Belleville last year, but he’s been effective in the SHL before and if he’s healthy, he could end up contributing in the bottom-six. However, it seems unlikely given the players he sits behind on the depth chart.
In The Future
Right wing is a lot more difficult to project for the future because of two players: Dadonov and Connor Brown. Both are signed for three more years, although it’s unclear if either of them will re-sign after that. Dadonov will be 34 by the time his contract is up, so I can’t imagine him staying. However, Brown will be 29 and it seems like the Senators could believe in keeping him around afterwards, so I decided to include him in this list.
Watson actually also has three years left on his contract, but as a fourth liner, he won’t be staying long-term.
Here is how the rest of the group projects with their future ceilings:
As you can see, there is much less certainty with this group compared to left wing and centre.
I’m a big believer in Batherson and think he will be an important member of this team, although I don’t think he will be an elite first liner, which is what they currently lack. That’s why I put him in that 1st/2nd category because I think he can be about a 60-point player. Beyond that, they have a couple of options on the second line including Abramov and Egor Sokolov, although it’s far from a sure thing that either of them reach their ceiling. They’re good prospects, but a lot is riding on two of Batherson, Abramov, and Sokolov turning into top-6 players.
Brown will be on the third line for at least the next three years and potentially even longer if he’s kept as a veteran presence, so they at least have an option for a sure thing. Eric Engstrand is Ottawa’s most recent 5th round pick and actually shoots left so he might profile as a left winger instead, but he’s played on the right side as well. The 20-year-old has been fantastic in the J20 league in Sweden but not in the SHL, so he’s one of the least likely players to make it as a full-time NHLer.
As I mentioned earlier, Davidsson still has a chance to be a bottom-six player as well, although his time is running out and I wouldn’t count on him being a Senator for an extended period of time.
Now, I should mention that there are others who I put on left wing or centre lists that could also get moved to right wing such as Colin White, Shane Pinto, and Rudolfs Balcers; none of those three project to be first line players, however. The good news there is the abundance of options.
Right wing is easily Ottawa’s weakest position for forwards, as they lack the depth that left wing and centre have, plus they desperately need Batherson to reach his ceiling to even have a viable top line option. I can imagine a worst-case scenario where Batherson is more of a third line contributor, Abramov fails to take that final step, the others don’t progress into NHLers, and then Ottawa is left quite barren on the right side. Then again, you can also imagine Batherson turning into a low-end first liner/high-end second liner, Abramov being a 50-60 point power-play specialist, and Sokolov being an impactful power forward on the third line.
At the end of the day, the Senators will need a higher-end right winger at some point, and hopefully they can get that in the 2021 draft with someone such as Dylan Guenther or Samu Tuomaala. That’s why I was a bit surprised to see Ottawa not take Alexander Holtz, Jack Quinn, or Seth Jarvis at 5th overall. Time has shown that they clearly loved Jake Sanderson even more.
The overall depth is a bit of a cause for concern long-term, but the good news is that their roster isn’t set and they will have time to keep adding impact talent. Even with the young right wingers they have right now, there is still lots of potential and players to be excited for as soon as this season.