We conclude our 2020 End-of-Season Report Cards with the second half of our roundtable! Thanks again to everyone who voted!
Question for everyone: Drake Batherson received at least a B- or higher from everybody. Is there anything more in his game he needs to work out before we can call him an NHL player?
Shaan: All that’s left is for him to translate his top-six ability to the NHL. Better line mates will help, but regardless of that, it falls on him continue to improve each season, as he’s a key piece in the future Cup-contender that the Senators are trying to put together.
Colin: I’m fully prepared for a full season of #BathTime in the NHL next year, he’s fully ready in my opinion. There were some stretches during his NHL stint where he looked lost in the defensive zone, although given how he’s been able to adapt in Belleville I don’t see that as a major concern going forward. He’s got the smarts, he’s got the hands, and he’s got the drive. Just give him some half-decent line mates and let him do his work.
Ross: He needs to show the prowess with the puck he showed in the AHL. I still feel like in the NHL he’s playing as if he doesn’t want the puck on his stick over someone he views as more skilled.
Spencer: After watching him play for two seasons in the AHL all I need to see from him is the confidence and playmaking that we got to see in Belleville every single game. This is a player with all the tools to be a top-six forward so I guess what we need to see from him is the production that goes along with that role.
Brandon: Ary and I gave Drake Batherson the highest grades, both of us marking him a B+, and I don’t think he has to do anything more to prove he’s an NHL player. He’s clearly a step above everyone else in the American Hockey League, and his second Ottawa stint this season told the story for me. Batherson looked more confident, more willing to play physically, and used his skill to try to make things happen. The next step for him is not to prove that he’s an NHL player, but to prove that he’s an impact NHL player. Don’t be surprised if he puts up 40+ points in 2020-2021.
thedaigle1: Drake has nothing left to prove in the AHL. He’ll only be able to round out his game playing at the highest level. Coach Smith can certainly ease Drake in minutes-wise with Bobby Ryan and Connor Brown still kicking around.
N_Dew: It is going to be exciting when we get to see a full season of Drake Batherson. Any deficiencies he has now will probably work themselves out with more experience. He will just need to make sure he isn’t a defensive liability and that he consistently has a finishing touch.
nkb: Nope. It’s #BathTime, baby!
Ary: All that’s left is him to bring consistency, night-in, night-out, at an NHL pace. Batherson plays a cerebral game and can sometimes get lost if he’s not the one touching the puck. I think he certainly provided the offence we were seeing from him in the AHL level when he was called up in 2020, and I expect that’s the player we’ll see consistently in a top-nine NHL role next season.
Question for everyone: Another forward prospect, Filip Chlapik, has also been graded favourably by the staff. In what way has he progressed to a point of which he’s earned your favour?
Shaan: He hasn’t translated his offence from the CHL to the pros yet, but Chlapik has done very well in sheltered minutes, and does everything you’d expect of a fourth-liner. Next season, I’m expecting him to secure a full-time role on the fourth line, he’ll have a lot of support on the wings from Nick Paul and Jayce Hawryluk.
Colin: I was highest on Chlapik giving him a B+. If he can continue doing what he did this past season, I don’t see why we aren’t already pencilling him in as a full-time NHLer. From Evolving-Hockey’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) model, Chlapik’s defensive value was the greatest amongst all Sens forwards, nearly double that of second place Nick Paul. He’s not the flashiest offensive player, but right now he seems to be the perfect fit as a bottom-six two-way stalwart.
Ross: Chlapik is a good bottom-six player: great possession stats, no egregious mistakes. I think he probably deserves more of a shot than he’s been given, kind of like Nick Paul finally got this year.
Spencer: Chlapik it’s probably not going to be a high-scoring forward at the NHL level. What he is is a skilled, smart forward who would do well in DJ Smith’s system. That’s a big part of his progression this past year for me has been he’s become a player that you no longer notice for the wrong reasons - because of a lack of experience or making mistakes - but instead he’s become a reliable player in a small role at the NHL level.
Brandon: I was most impressed with the way in which Filip Chlapik rounded out his game this year. One of the things that always concerned me about his development was I didn’t quite know where he was a fit, and it made him somewhat of an expendable asset in my eyes. This year, he showed that he’s a capable bottom six forward, who plays a steady defensive game, and is responsible in terms of puck possession. Killing more penalties, and adding a bit more in the way of secondary scoring will definitely help his cause, but where I sour on him a bit is I’m not sure how much more room he has to develop. Chlapik’s 23 years old, so I think what we see is what we get right now, and that makes him a decent option to use in a trade, to me. That said, I’m more than okay with him sticking around, and playing the bulk of next year in the NHL, if he keeps this up.
thedaigle1: Chlapik is the perfect depth forward in my books. He doesn’t put up huge numbers but he gets the job done with solid nerd stats. I could see him having a Pageau-esque trajectory (minus the folklore obviously). Ottawa would do well to fill out their bottom six with guys like Chlapik instead of wasting money on the free agent market.
N_Dew: He seems to always be doing the right thing on the ice. He is stable and smart but lacks the offensive flair. For a bottom-6 player, I can see him being full-time really soon.
nkb: Chlapik is not a flashy player but he consistently makes smart, creative plays and he’s very positionally sound. I had hoped that he might get a chance to show more of his offensive upside, but it seems like he might be destined for a checking role. A fourth line with Chlapik leading the way is something I can get behind.
Ary: Chlapik has really impressed me in the way that he’s been able to adapt his game to the NHL level. Remember, this is a kid who scored 30+ goals in his rookie year in Charlottetown as a CHL import, and had a higher points-per-game rate in his Draft+2 season (1.6) than Logan Brown (1.5). Chlapik can score, and what we’ve learned is that he’s also capable of using his smarts to defend as well. Troy Mann had him play shutdown minutes and PK for Belleville for the last two seasons, and I think that’ll serve Chlapik well as he tries to carve out a bottom-six NHL role as a dependable, play driving forward who has his fair share of offence.
Question for Ary, nkb and thedaigle1: Nick Paul finally blossomed into an NHL player this season, and graded out as a B overall. What elements of his game were the driving force behind the relatively lower grades you gave him?
Ary: I have a ton of respect for the way Nick Paul has continued to battle to carve out a regular role for himself in the organization. It hasn’t been easy, and it sounds like playing under Mann in Belleville really helped him figure out the style of game he has to play to be successful. All of that being said, I don’t think his on-ice metrics graded out in a way that was more favourable than say, a Filip Chlapik or Rudolfs Balcers, and I personally wonder if he’s aged himself out of a role with Ottawa in the long-term.
nkb: It’s difficult for me to say what others saw in him that I didn’t, but I will say that I think Paul benefitted from spending as much time as he did with Pageau and Brown. Kudos to him for seizing the opportunity that was presented, but I don’t see a meaningful difference in performance between him and some of the team’s other checkers. I can envision a future where he’s a valuable bottom six checker in the mold of Zack Smith.
thedaigle1: Unlike Chlapik, Paul struggled a bit this season with the nerd stats. I still feel confident about him earning a full-time NHL gig because we saw what Paul can do in the AHL. He has to find some consistency at the top level though as Ottawa boasts such a deep prospect pool. I consider his mediocre season a bump in the road (the whole team stunk sooo).
Question for N_Dew and Ross: Reviews for the Senators’ staff were positive overall, but you two gave relatively low grades for Dorion (C-) and Smith (C+) respectively. In what way have their performances not been up to your expectations?
N_Dew: Certain trades like Dylan DeMelo and the fact that he implied on Hainsey being around for another year still make me doubt Dorion. He didn’t handle the Pageau trade too well either in my opinion; the return was fine but leaving negotiations until the last minute again is just his classic move. I am still unsure what the Vlad trade was about either seeing as he was traded a few months later at a loss. We’ll see if my opinion changes at the draft but he still has a lot to go before earning my trust.
Ross: D.J. Smith suffered from a lot of the issues NHL coaches suffer from. His former Leafs players (Ennis, Brown, Hainsey, Zaitsev) all got bigger roles than I think they deserved, not to mention his junior player Scott Sabourin. He also tended to not trust young players. Yes, a guy like Nick Paul found his way into the lineup eventually, but he was giving the fourth line and the third pairing under 10 minutes every game. I don’t get the point of calling up Chlapik or Jaros to then overplay Chabot and Connor Brown in a completely lost season. Also, the PP and PK managed to still finish 31st and 28th in the league, respectively. He made some good decisions, but not good enough to get into the B range from me.
Question for everyone: Duclair, Tkachuk and Pageau were the popular picks for MVP halfway through the season. Did one of the three rise above the others? Or has another player come out of nowhere to steal the crown?
Shaan: I’m going with Chabot, simply because of the heavy deployment he received this season. No doubt he struggled in certain games but overall, he didn’t get overwhelmed, and was one of the team’s best at driving play. It’s going to be fun to watch him feeding Quinton Byfield and Drake Batherson in the coming years, especially when his minutes become more feasible.
Colin: Even though he was traded at the deadline, I think Pageau was the Senators’ MVP from the past season. He was legitimately playing like a first line centre up until the trade to the Islanders - he’ll be dearly missed in the red and white.
Ross: I think it’s hard to pick someone other than Chabot now. Even though I ranked a few players higher, the Sens would’ve been blown out most nights without Chabot’s 30+ minutes.
Spencer: I think Brady has risen to the top for me. Between his offensive production, his tenacity, and the joy I get watching him get an entire team of NHL players to pay attention to him (and not the game at hand), I think his value was easily the highest of any player on this team.
Brandon: I don’t see how it could be anyone other than Brady Tkachuk. He is the indisputable engine of the team, dragging them into games every night, and the level at which he generated offence is in the very top tier of the league. For a player in his second year, on an abysmal Ottawa Senators squad, it really can’t be overstated how important Tkachuk is to this team. When they add another two or three high-end skill players in this year’s draft, Brady will be the straw that stirs the drink.
thedaigle1: Not to the same extent as someone like Namestnikov, Duclair’s goal-scoring gets somewhat mitigated by his average five-on-five nerd stats, whereas Pageau and Tkachuk had brilliant all-around seasons. Brady takes this one by virtue or finishing the season with Ottawa but I can’t think of a much better symbolic passing of the torch than Pageau to Tkachuk.
N_Dew: As much as it hurts, Pageau was consistently one of the best players on the ice every night. He seemed to spark energy and even when his production dipped, he found other ways to contribute. After that, you have to go with Brady Tkachuk if only for his ability to bring the worst out of all his opposition while getting much better on not crossing the line to get him in trouble. He is just a player that you always notice and is only just getting started.
nkb: I’ve got Chabot as my MVP with Tkachuk as a close second. Duclair came back to earth after a scorching hot start and I’m going to discount Pageau since he was traded at the deadline. Even then, Chabot’s virtuoso performance on the backend was impossible for me to ignore.
Ary: I think it’s got to be Brady Tkachuk. While he didn’t score as much as his chances would indicate, the fact that he was able to do so many positive things while he was on the ice without the team having any other real scoring options is astounding for a second-year pro. The way Anthony Duclair played is certainly a positive, and he could’ve snatched the crown had he continued to score; whereas Pageau was certainly the team’s most important player on- and off-the-ice this season and probably garnered the most value for the franchise as a whole, even if this was the last time we’ll see him play in a Senators uniform.