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Atlantic Forecast, Vol. 3

D-FENS part two of two

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

If you missed volume one or volume two of our Atlantic Division Forecast then here are the parameters: we look at the eight teams in the Atlantic division, and how their players 24-or-under stack up. We also take a look at their cap situation for the next few seasons. I’ve already analyzed goalies, and given the Sabres, Panthers, and Bruins a slight advantage there. Boston came out decently well in terms of defenders with Detroit and Tampa Bay also looking pretty threatening. Again, this is the second half of my series on defenders. So if you're looking for, say, Lassi Thomson, and you don't see him in today's piece, go check out the previous instalment. Today we wrap up defense, and as usual we start here in the nation’s capital.

Ottawa Senators

Right off the bat, you can write Thomas Chabot’s name in ink atop your defensive depth chart on the left side. Having signed a $64-million dollar extension, Tommy’s locked in. After that, Ottawa has Mike Reilly and Christian Wolanin (who just missed the age cutoff) signed for next season with Mark Borowiecki and Ron Hainsey as possibilities to return next year although having both would seriously clog up the pipeline.

  • Olle Alsing 0.56 points per game in the SHL
  • Erik Brännström 0.85 points per game in the AHL and 0.13 NHL
  • Thomas Chabot 0.55 points per game in the NHL
  • Andreas Englund 0 points in the AHL and 0.13 points per game in the NHL
  • Maxime Lajoie 0.35 points per game in the AHL and 0 points in the NHL
  • Jonathan Tychonick 0.46 points per game in the NCAA

As we all know, the crown jewel here, and slated to line up behind Chabot, is Erik Brännström. Even though he didn’t produce points-wise in the NHL, he put up great on-ice numbers and he had a great age-adjusted season in the AHL. The safest bet long term in Ottawa would likely look like Chabot-Brännström-Wolanin. As I’ve written before, I don’t know that Alsing or Englund have ceilings above the AHL. Lajoie took a big step back this year and will have to prove his worth again in 2020-21 if he wants to carve out an NHL role with Ottawa. Tychonick hasn’t quite lived up to expectations with the University of North Dakota and will likely get a fresh start with a new school next season.

Boston Bruins

There are a lot of moving parts in Boston this off-season. Zdeno Chara (retirement?) and Tory Krug could leave in free agency leaving John Moore and Matt Grzelcyk on the left side with one spot for a youngster like Jeremy Lauzon. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about the Bruins researching for this project, it’s that despite all of their success, they haven’t hamstrung themselves long-term with bad contracts.

  • Roman Bychkov 0.42 MHL
  • Jeremy Lauzon 0.29 AHL and 0.11 NHL
  • Dustyn McFaul 0.23 NCAA
  • Wiley Sherman 0.30 AHL
  • Urho Vaakanainen 0.26 AHL and 0 NHL
  • Nick Wolff 0.30 NCAA
  • Jakub Zboril 0.33 AHL

When factoring in age, none of these players’ numbers really jumped off the page at me. Vaakanainen took a bit of a step back this season after a strong 2018-19 and Zboril has more or less plateaued since he went pro. Of course, Boston has enough talent down the right side courtesy of McAvoy, Carlo, and Clifton that they can live with shut-down type roleplayers on the left and there remains the possibility of retaining Torey Krug to lighten the burden for the next two players on the depth chart.

Buffalo Sabres

Much like Chabot’s position in Ottawa, you can go ahead and write Rasmus Dahlin’s name in ink atop the left defense depth chart indefinitely. The former first overall pick currently leads a trio including Lawrence Pilut and Jake McCabe. And with about $40-million coming off the books in Buffalo over the next two years, there will be plenty of opportunity for young defenders to line up behind Dahlin.

  • Jacob Bryson 0.44 AHL
  • Rasmus Dahlin 0.68 NHL
  • Brandon Hickey 0.09 AHL
  • Ryan Johnson 0.22 NCAA
  • Linus Lindstrand Cronholm 0.21 Allsvenskan
  • Lawrence Pilut 0.62 AHL and 0 NHL
  • Mattias Samuelsson 0.47 NCAA
  • William Worge Kreu 0.12 SHL and 0.46 SuperElit

After Dahlin, the next young defender to keep an eye on in Buffalo is Jacob Bryson who has had success in both the NCAA and AHL since the Sabres drafted him in the fourth round. Mattias Samuelsson and Ryan Johnson somewhat resemble Tychonick in terms of development. Buffalo drafted both in that lat first- early-second rounds and both have had modest NCAA numbers. It would be too early to dismiss either of them and Buffalo will have the resources and flexibility to make things interesting, as I stated earlier.

Detroit Red Wings

As it stands now, the Red Wings have Patrik Nemeth, Danny DeKeyser, and Brian Lashoff under contract for next season with only DeKeyser on the books for 2021. If, however, you read volumes one or two of this series then you know that Detroit likes quantity in their prospect pipeline and they have a lot of young talent in North America and overseas competing for positioning on the organizational depth chart.

  • Dennis Cholowski 0.43 AHL and 0.22 NHL
  • Joe Hicketts 0.54 AHL and 0.33 NHL
  • Albert Johansson 0.27 SHL and 0.56 SuperElit
  • Kasper Kotkansalo 0.24 NCAA
  • Alfons Malmstrom 0.08 Swedish Division I
  • Jared McIsaac 0.68 QMJHL
  • Cooper Moore 0.60 BCHL
  • Malte Setkov 0.40 Allsvenskan and 0.07 SHL

Despite the fact that neither player has numbers that jump off the page this season, Cholowski and Hicketts look prepared to take on NHL roles in Detroit. Johansson intrigues me the most of the group. Although, at just 19-years-old, the Red Wings may be in no rush to bring him over from Sweden just yet. Former second-round selection McIsaac has a decent ceiling, but he probably still requires some seasoning in the AHL before the Red Wings really know what they have in the young defender.

Florida Panthers

If you’re hoping for a “lolpanthera” joke here, then you’ll be mighty disappointed because the Cats have some pretty decent young defenders in their system. The problem lies in Florida’s mess of salary expenditure. The Panthers have Keith Yandle and Michael Matheson locked up a three- and six-years respectively with substantial cap hits and then you have Aaron Ekblad and Sergei Bobrovsky’s contracts, as I alluded to in previous articles.

  • Carter Berger 0.32 NCAA
  • Max Gildon 0.85 NCAA
  • Tyler Inamoto 0.20 NCAA
  • Vladislav Kolyachonok 0.62 OHL
  • Cole Krygier 0.17 NCAA
  • John Ludvig 1.03 WHL
  • Jake Massie 0.17 AHL
  • Linus Nassen 0 SHL
  • Riley Stillman 0.24 AHL and 0.15 NHL

Ludvig, Kolyachonok, and Gildon all immediately jump off the page for me and have more than lived up to their draft pedigree as former second- and third-round picks. Florida should have time to get Yandle off the books before any two of these three could make the jump to the NHL (although Matheson’s contract will block the way for a long time). Riley Stillman remains the shoe-in for that third spot in the meantime, albeit with modest numbers.

Montreal Canadiens

More bad news here, folks, as the Habs have a pretty decent stockpile of young defenders this time around. I guess the silver lining is that Montreal has obstructed the path with Karl Alzner, Ben Chiarot, and Brett Kulak all on the books for another two years (and to think they had Mike Reilly in the fold too before shipping him over to Ottawa). In 2022, Montreal will only have to navigate the combined cap hits of Carey Price, Shea Weber, and Jonathan Drouin (at a very manageable combined $23.857-million).

  • Gianna Fairbrother 0.68 WHL
  • Jordan Harris 0.64 NCAA
  • Otto Leskinen 0.42 AHL
  • Victor Mete 0.22 NHL
  • Mattias Norlinder 0.53 Allsvenskan
  • Alexander Romanov 0.16 KHL
  • Kieran Ruscheinski 0.17 BCHL
  • Jayden Struble 0.48 NCAA

At age-21, Mete has already carved out a place for himself in the NHL with solid results. At age-20, Romanov has established himself in the KHL and could likely slide right into the NHL if he chooses to come over to North America. Harris, Norlinder, and Struble stand out as the highest ceiling prospects in the group. You can really see here how it has paid off for Montreal to load up on second- and third-round picks in recent years. They have the talent here potentially to offset what I had deemed an underwhelming crop down the right side.

Tampa Bay Lightning

With Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh locked up long term and Braydon Coburn on the books for at least next season, opportunities are few and far between in the Lightning system on the back end. And at age-21 and already over 200 NHL games under his belt, don’t expect to see Mikhael Sergachev go anywhere anytime soon. Even with the depth chart seemingly set in stone, it does us no harm to familiarize ourselves with Tampa Bay’s prospects.

  • Dominik Masin 0.27 AHL
  • Radim Salda 0.22 Czech Extraliga
  • Quinn Schmiemann 0.62 WHL
  • Mikhael Sergachev 0.49 NHL
  • Oleg Sosunov 0.05 ECHL
  • Devante Stephens 0.16 AHL
  • Ryan Zuhlsdorf 0.24 NCAA

Despite his higher draft pedigree, Masin hasn’t had eye-popping numbers since going pro and I don’t see as much more than a warm body in the Lightning system. If you only remember one name on this list, make it Scmiemann. He has put up some solid numbers with Kamloops and still has lots of time to grow. He’ll have his work cut out for him trying to dethrone one of the Lightning’s established blueliners. Although at age-18, he has plenty of time to make his case in both the WHL and, likely, the AHL. Beyond Sergachev and Schmiemann, you can tell that this is the farm system of a team in win-now mode.

Toronto Maple Leafs

I enjoy writing these paragraphs about as much as you enjoy reading them so I’ll try to keep them brief. For the foreseeable future, it looks like Morgan Reilly and Jake Muzzin will top off the depth chart with Martin Marincin and Calle Rosen currently sharing the third spot. With their top six forwards and half of their defensive corps signed to long-term contracts, don’t expect a tonne of year-on-year change in Toronto.

  • Travis Dermott 0.20 NHL
  • James Greenway 0.29 NCAA
  • Teemu Kivihalme 0.33 AHL
  • Mikko Kokkonen 0.24 Liiga and 0.30 Jr. A SM Liiga
  • Mike Koster 0.49 USHL
  • Filip Kral 0.92 WHL
  • Ryan O’Connell 0.24 NCAA
  • Rasmus Sandin 0.29 NHL and 0.71 AHL

Sandin and Kokkonen stand out here among their peers with the former having a few strong seasons in North America and the latter enjoying success back in Finland. Dermott has established himself as a useful NHL-calibre player albeit without much offensive upside. And while I feel tempted to crack wise about Toronto never having the cap space to get all their young players under contract when the time comes, you and I have seen this movie before.

Stats, as always, courtesy of capfriendly and eliteprospects.


Name Affiliation Drafted Age League Games Points Contract Cap Hit
Name Affiliation Drafted Age League Games Points Contract Cap Hit
Brannstrom, Erik Senators 15 20 AHL 27 23 RFA 2022 0.863
Bryson, Jacob Sabres 99 22 AHL 61 27 RFA 2022 0.889
Cholowski, Dennis Red Wings 20 22 AHL 30 13 RFA 2021 0.894
Englund, Andreas Senators 40 24 AHL 22 0 RFA 2020 0.700
Hicketts, Joe Red Wings NA 23 AHL 50 27 RFA 2021 0.700
Hickey, Brandon Sabres 65 23 AHL 23 2 RFA 2020 0.925
Kivihalme, Teemu Leafs 140 24 AHL 55 18 RFA 2020 0.793
Lajoie, Maxime Senators 133 22 AHL 48 17 RFA 2021 0.710
Lauzon, Jeremy Bruins 52 22 AHL 45 13 RFA 2022 0.850
Leskinen, Otto Canadiens NA 23 AHL 52 22 RFA 2021 0.925
Masin, Dominik Lightning 35 24 AHL 59 16 RFA 2020 0.700
Massie, Jake Panthers 156 23 AHL 29 5 RFA 2021 0.770
Pilut, Lawrence Sabres NA 24 AHL 37 23 RFA 2020 0.925
Sandin, Rasmus Leafs 29 20 AHL 21 15 RFA 2022 0.894
Sherman, Wiley Bruins 150 24 AHL 20 6 RFA 2020 0.768
Stephens, Devante Lightning 122 23 AHL 38 6 RFA 2020 0.743
Stillman, Riley Panthers 114 22 AHL 25 6 RFA 2021 0.773
Vaakanainen, Urho Bruins 18 21 AHL 54 14 RFA 2022 0.894
Zboril, Jakub Bruins 13 23 AHL 58 19 RFA 2020 0.863
Lindstrand Cronholm, Linus Sabres 117 19 Allsvenskan 39 8 ELC 2022 NA
Norlinder, Mattias Canadiens 64 19 Allsvenskan 34 18 ELC 2023 NA
Setkov, Malte Red Wings 100 21 Allsvenskan 25 10 ELC 2021 NA
Moore, Cooper Red Wings 128 19 BCHL 55 33 ELC 2024 NA
Ruscheinski, Kieran Canadiens 206 19 BCHL 36 6 ELC 2021 NA
Fairbrother, Gianna Canadiens 77 19 CHL 37 25 ELC 2021 NA
Kolyachonok, Vladislav Panthers 52 18 CHL 53 33 RFA 2022 0.809
Kral. Filip Leafs 149 20 CHL 53 49 ELC 2020 NA
Ludvig, John Panthers 69 19 CHL 60 62 ELC 2021 NA
McIsaac, Jared Red Wings 36 19 CHL 25 17 RFA 2022 0.778
Schmiemann, Quinn Lightning 182 18 CHL 60 37 ELC 2021 NA
Salda, Radim Lightning 206 21 Czech Extraliga 37 8 ELC 2022 NA
Malmstrom, Alfons Red Wings 107 21 Division 1 25 2 ELC 2020 NA
Sosunov, Oleg Lightning 178 21 ECHL 21 1 RFA 2021 0.722
Kokkonen, Mikko Leafs 84 19 Jr. A SM Liiga 10 3 ELC 2023 NA
Romanov, Alexander Canadiens 38 20 KHL 43 7 NA NA
Kokkonen, Mikko Leafs 84 19 Liiga 38 9 ELC 2023 NA
Bychkov, Roman Bruins 154 19 MHL 62 26 NA NA
Berger, Carter Panthers 106 20 NCAA 31 10 ELC 2023 NA
Gildon, Max Panthers 66 20 NCAA 34 29 ELC 2021 NA
Greenway, James Leafs 72 21 NCAA 34 10 ELC 2021 NA
Harris, Jordan Canadiens 71 19 NCAA 33 21 ELC 2022 NA
Inamoto, Tyler Panthers 133 20 NCAA 35 7 ELC 2021 NA
Johnson, Ryan Sabres 31 18 NCAA 37 8 ELC 2023 NA
Kotkansalo, Kasper Red Wings 71 21 NCAA 34 8 ELC 2021 NA
Krygier, Cole Panthers 201 19 NCAA 36 6 ELC 2022 NA
McFaul, Dustyn Bruins 181 19 NCAA 31 7 ELC 2023 NA
O'Connell, Ryan Leafs 203 20 NCAA 29 7 ELC 2022 NA
Samuelsson, Mattias Sabres 32 20 NCAA 30 14 RFA 2023 0.925
Struble, Jayden Canadiens 46 18 NCAA 21 10 ELC 2024 NA
Tychonick, Jonathan Senators 48 20 NCAA 24 11 ELC 2022 NA
Wolff, Nick Bruins NA 23 NCAA 33 10 RFA 2021 0.793
Zuhlsdorf, Ryan Lightning 150 22 NCAA 37 9 ELC 2020 NA
Brannstrom, Erik Senators 15 20 NHL 31 4 RFA 2022 0.863
Chabot, Thomas Senators 18 23 NHL 71 39 UFA 2028 8.000
Cholowski, Dennis Red Wings 20 22 NHL 36 8 RFA 2021 0.894
Dahlin, Rasmus Sabres 1 19 NHL 59 40 RFA 2021 0.925
Dermott, Travis Leafs 34 23 NHL 56 11 RFA 2020 0.863
Englund, Andreas Senators 40 24 NHL 24 3 RFA 2020 0.700
Hicketts, Joe Red Wings NA 23 NHL 6 2 RFA 2021 0.700
Lajoie, Maxime Senators 133 22 NHL 6 0 RFA 2021 0.710
Lauzon, Jeremy Bruins 52 22 NHL 19 2 RFA 2022 0.850
Mete, Victor Canadiens 100 21 NHL 51 11 RFA 2020 0.748
Pilut, Lawrence Sabres NA 24 NHL 13 0 RFA 2020 0.925
Sandin, Rasmus Leafs 29 20 NHL 28 8 RFA 2022 0.894
Sergachev, Mikhail Lightning 9 21 NHL 70 34 RFA 2020 0.894
Stillman, Riley Panthers 114 22 NHL 34 5 RFA 2021 0.773
Vaakanainen, Urho Bruins 18 21 NHL 5 0 RFA 2022 0.894
Alsing, Olle Senators NA 23 SHL 36 20 RFA 2021 0.858
Johansson, Albert Red Wings 60 19 SHL 41 11 ELC 2023 NA
Nassen, Linus Panthers 89 21 SHL 35 0 ELC 2020 NA
Setkov, Malte Red Wings 100 21 SHL 28 2 ELC 2021 NA
Worge Kreu, William Sabres 187 19 SHL 25 3 ELC 2022 NA
Johansson, Albert Red Wings 60 19 SuperElit 9 5 ELC 2023 NA
Worge Kreu, William Sabres 187 19 SuperElit 24 11 ELC 2022 NA
Koster, Mike Leafs 146 18 USHL 37 18 ELC 2024 NA