Well folks, I can hardly believe it but before we know it, we’ll have the World Juniors to watch and mere weeks after that: real(ish) NHL hockey. Garbage year number three will have come and gone in Ottawa and we’ll find ourselves that much closer to Unparalleled Success (TM). Here on the best website on the internet dot com, we have only three (!) names left to go on our annual Top 25 Under 25 and it has been one of the most fun projects I’ve participated in since I joined S7S.
Alas, the depth of the Senators’ prospect pool does have its drawbacks, namely in the form of some notable omissions from our T25U25 for in all fairness probably deserved a spot. So before we list the top three, let’s take a moment to celebrate a few youngsters who just barely missed the cut. I chose these Senators based on a few criteria. All of them received plenty of votes from you the readers and a couple of them have appeared on our lists in years past only to miss the cut in 2020. I didn’t cover any 2020-draftees here only because we’ve written about them at length in recent months and they haven’t had much time to improve their stock.
I would argue that any one of these players could crack a top-25 list with most other organizations in the NHL and I especially like that every position has representation among the following prospects. You can’t ask for much better balance than that. So let’s appreciate the honourable mentions who might just crack the list next year:
Angus Crookshank (Last Year: Not Ranked)
The nifty winger with the exceptional nomenclature has yet to make the cut on any of our yearly lists since joining the Senators organization in 2018 and yet he always seems like he really should be in the mix. Crooks seems to have just about everything going against him when it comes to traditional scouting as he has a fall birthday and a smaller frame to go along with his role on a less than storied University of New Hampshire NCAA squad. Nonetheless, Angus did increase his goal-production last season even if his overall points plateaued. To watch the tape, you can still see what the Senators liked about Crookshank when they selected him in the fifth round back in 2018. He doesn’t pass on opportunities to get low and dirty in front of the net and he has a quick, sneaky release. The question remains whether Crookshank can diversify his repertoire enough to garner a contract in Ottawa despite playing for a less competitive program than some other Sens prospects.
Jonathan Davidsson (Last Year: #19)
In 2019, Davidsson had a reputation as something of a diamond in the rough just waiting for the right team to discover his full potential. Ary did a great write-up covering all the salient scouting notes on Davidsson. Despite tearing up the junior leagues in Sweden, Davidsson went undrafted by NHL teams in his first two years of eligibility before the Blue Jackets finally took a sixth-round flier on him in 2017. And the young swede absolutely delivered with a huge season in 2017-18 in the SHL for Djurgården as a ‘lumbus prospect. Even while North American scouts still doubted the speedy winger based on his smaller frame, Davidsson continued to show off his scoring touch.
The Senators did well to snag Davidsson from Columbus in the Matt Duchene trade after such an impressive campaign—and then the injuries started to pile up. Few young Senators have needed time off in 2020 the way Davidsson has and I largely attribute his slide down our rankings to extended absences as a result of serious injuries. With just a little bit of luck and a healthier season to come, Davidsson really has the potential to make his way back into the mix down a thin right side for the Senators. Of course, I must acknowledge that another underwhelming season for Davidsson could leave the Sens brass with the impression that 2017-18 was maybe more of an outlier than a sign of great things to come, and he’ll need a new contract after 2020-21. I’m totally guilty as charged for letting the eye test outweigh the numbers on Davidsson, but how do you turn your back on a player who can skate this swiftly and find seams so effectively at top speed?
Maxence Guenette (Last Year: Not Ranked)
Back when the Sens shrewdly selected Guenette in the final round of the 2019 draft, Nada made a lot of great points about the potential for the young defender to end up a real steal among his draft class peers. Not only does Guenette play a premium position as a right-shot defender, he profiles as a defence-first back-checker in a league known primarily for offence. While Guenette and his teammates in Val-d’Or have largely toiled in mediocrity since he joined the team in 2017-18, the Foreurs seem to have found the track back to competitiveness in 2020-21 and at age-19 we might see the breakout season from Guenette that we’ve waited for since his draft day. He has steadily increased his pace in goals and assists each season since the Sens selected him and currently finds himself in the top-five scorers among defenders in the Q this season (with only one player younger than him in that select group). Even as a teenager, Guenette already has a lot of patience with the puck and has superb discipline, avoiding costly penalties.
Mads Søgaard (Last Year: Not Ranked)
Like most of the players on this list, the great Dane would probably rank as one of the top prospects on his team among his positional peers for most NHL franchises. Alas, Ottawa already had a handful of highly-touted net-minders in the system even before Søgaard came to town. While we still have years ahead of us to litigate Pierre Dorion’s decision to trade up for a goaltender in the the 2019 draft, Søgaard has the tools to give us some optimism in the meantime. Back when I profiled Joey Daccord, I mentioned that Joey compensates for his lack of finesse and quickness with his fundamentals and strong positional play while someone like Filip Gustavsson plays much faster and looser leading to a lot more scrambling that Gus can get away with thanks to his natural abilities. Søgaard profiles much closer to Gus than to Joey in my books in that sense. Mads is all over the place and tends to overcompensate leaving himself out of position but he’s just so big and rangy that he can get away with it. More than anyone, Søgaard reminds me of Robin Lehner. He’s so athletic and quick and he’s really aggressive. He’ll challenge shooters with the poke-check and, likely given his massive frame, he will not let opposing players push him around in his own crease. He’d be a perfect fit if the Sens choose to fully embrace a bad-dudes identity down the road.
Jonny Tychonick (Last Year: #23)
It feels like a lifetime since Pierre Dorion traded down the 22nd pick in the 2018 entry draft to snag Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonny Tychonick in the first and second rounds respectively. Sold to the fanbase as a built-to-last defensive pairing that would climb the ranks from North Dakota to Belleville to the nation’s capital together, how their paths have diverged. While JBD has established his trajectory as one of Ottawa’s top-four defenders in the system, Tycho has slipped from 12th on our list in 2018, to 23rd last year, to honourable mention this time around. For what it’s worth, I still consider the aforementioned trade one of the best of Pierre Dorion’s career thus far even with Tychonick’s recent struggles. Around these parts, there was a lot of excitement about Tychonick based on his skating and offensive prowess and the belief that with a bit of bulk he could excel even with the steep jump from the BCHL to the NCAA.
For whatever reasons that we’ll never fully know, Tychonick struggled to stay in North Dakota’s lineup and wasn’t able to leverage his skating skills and offensive prowess as a freshman or a sophomore while his long-time partner steadily moved up the ranks. Further complicating the matter for Tychonick, the Senators have once again added a can’t-miss left-shooting defender to their system while JBD has a relatively clear path as the team’s most promising right-shot defender. Nonetheless, Tychonick will look for a new opportunity with the University of Nebraska-Omaha if he can find the scoring touch he had back in BC, while using that exceptional skating talent, and maybe stay out of the penalty box. Tycho is such a high-energy player and a lot of fun to watch (plus he has a sweet release) and for both his sake and for the Senators it would be such a shame if he can’t round out the rest of his game in Omaha.