The Ottawa Senators have played 32 of their 56 games this season, and they reached the halfway mark (28 games) last week. We took a look at what players were on pace for last week, and now we are going to grade the forwards, defense, goaltenders, coaches, and management. We’re just focusing on the forwards today, so stay tuned for the other segments throughout the week.
The staff put their grades in over the weekend, so these weren’t given exactly at the halfway mark, but I don’t think many of these would’ve changed much with the extra few games. Players such as Ryan Dzingel, Micheal Haley, Clark Bishop, and Filip Chlapik were left off due to them not playing enough games. Without further ado, here are the indisputable grades for the Senators forwards:
Artem Anisimov: D+
- 14 GP, 2G, 2A, 45.16 CF%, 43.22 xGF%
Anisimov is sort of in the Mikkel Boedker role this season where he’s only playing if there is an injury. If Derek Stepan didn’t get hurt, he probably wouldn’t have played at all recently, and now he’s also hurt. Expectations for him were extremely low (as they should be), and he won’t be providing much to the team.
Drake Batherson: A
- 32 GP, 11G, 10A, 50.52 CF%, 52.98 xGF%
It’s been fantastic to see Batherson turn into a legitimate top-6 winger instead of wondering when he’s going to finally break out. He looked great early on in the season but was mired in some incredibly bad luck, and his 6-game goal streak finally got everyone to buy into his ability. Everything about his game has been sharp so far.
Connor Brown: B
- 32 GP, 6G, 8A, 50.53 CF%, 43.25 xGF%
If Brown could finish his chances, he’d be a first-line player. There’s a lot of Erik Condra in his game in that you shouldn’t have any hope when he’s on a breakaway, but besides shooting talent, he does everything right. As long as you expect him to be a solid 3rd line contributor, you’ll be happy with Brown. He’s just a good hard-worker to have around for the medium-to-long haul.
Evgenii Dadonov: B-
- 32 GP, 9G, 2A, 52.78 CF%, 50.56 xGF%
Dadonov has had a strange season. On the one hand, he has 9 goals, which is 3rd on the team. On the other hand, he was brought in to help the powerplay and he hasn’t scored on the man advantage, plus his 2 assists leave something to be desired. I feel like this situation could end up being similar to how the Sergei Gonchar contract was for Ottawa: bigger deal, slow start, then (hopefully) finds some success (but not as much as before) in the latter part of his tenure. He’s been fine, but he can be much better.
Alex Galchenyuk C-
- 8 GP, 1G, 0A, 45.76 CF%, 51.04 xGF%
I actually feel bad for Galchenyuk. He’s now playing with the Toronto Marlies and his career is hanging by a thread. The powerplay goal in his first game was fantastic, and it’s a shame that he couldn’t repeat that in any of his other games. I hope he can finally resurrect his career somewhere.
Josh Norris: A-
- 32 GP, 6G, 10A, 51.17 CF%, 55.70 xGF%
Norris hasn’t gotten as much press coverage as Tim Stützle or Drake Batherson, but he’s been one of the biggest bright spots. According to JFresh’s WAR (wins above replacement) model, Norris ranks 3rd amongst forwards in even-strength defensive WAR. As a rookie, that’s an incredible achievement so far. His offense is only going to get better too because he’s capable of more.
Cedric Paquette: D-
- 9 GP, 1G, 0A, 36.51 CF%, 34.43 xGF%
I’m glad that Dorion received a 2nd rounder for taking on Paquette and Coburn because that’s still a good deal. But my goodness, Paquette was ineffective here and it seemed like he didn’t have a single fan.
Nick Paul: A-
- 32 GP, 3G, 8A, 52.66 CF%, 46.80 xGF%
Paul is one of the hardest workers on the team and you can see how much he has improved at every facet of the game over the past few seasons. He’s never going to be a top player, but he’s a fantastic 3rd liner and the type of player that you need to have if you want to contend.
Matthew Peca: C+
- 5 GP, 0G, 1A, 47.42 CF%, 41.80 xGF%
Peca has only played in five games so far, so it’s not as if there’s much to talk about. However, he hasn’t looked lost while he’s out there and has at least provided some speed to the 4th line. That’s better than other 4th liners who are a clear negative.
Derek Stepan: C-
- 20 GP, 1G, 5A, 49.54 CF%, 49.37 xGF%
Similar to Galchenyuk, I feel bad for Stepan. He clearly didn’t want to be away from his newborn child, and he has also quickly seen his game deteriorate over the past few seasons. He scored in his first game and it looked like Ottawa might recoup their 2nd rounder for him at the deadline, but he didn’t fit here at all and is now out for the rest of the season. It’ll be strange looking back on Stepan’s time in Ottawa.
Tim Stützle: A-
- 29 GP, 6G, 12A, 46.80 CF%, 43.97 xGF%
What Stützle is doing as a 19-year-old in the NHL is phenomenal. It’s such a great sign to see him doing this in Ottawa because they desperately need a game-changer up front, and he’s only going to get better from here. His shot/expected goal rates are very low and a bit concerning, and he certainly still needs to work on the defensive side of his game. At the same time, it’s difficult for teenagers to have great on-ice shot-volume numbers, and the fact that he’s scoring is impressive enough. Furthermore, it seems like a shoo-in that he’ll be a Calder finalist, which the Senators haven’t had since Mark Stone in 2014-15.
Chris Tierney: C
- 32 GP, 3G, 8A, 47.35 CF%, 39.26 xGF%
Tierney is an easy player to forget about since he doesn’t stand out in any way. He scored on his first three shots of the season and hasn’t scored since. He hasn’t really done much offensively or defensively to help the team, and I don’t see much of a future for him in Ottawa beyond 2021.
Brady Tkachuk: A
- 32 GP, 11G, 11A, 53.14 CF%, 52.98 xGF%
Tkachuk has been more of the same this season: dominant. He’s on pace for 56 points in a full season, which is a slight uptick, although he won’t be taking a massive step forward until the team around him gets better. He’s leading the league in hits, shots, and expected goals; he’s 100% still a keeper.
Austin Watson: C+
- 32 GP, 3G, 6A, 44.56 CF%, 48.13 xGF%
Watson has been a solid mainstay on the 4th line, and he’s a warrior who is going to fight (literally or metaphorically) for his teammates. He has played drastically better than he did last year in Nashville, and DJ Smith clearly loves what he brings to the table.
Colin White: A-
- 27 GP, 8G, 6A, 53.96 CF%, 51.60 xGF%
Last but not least, White is an interesting case. He was scratched in four of the first six games and it was looking like he might not even be someone the Senators protect in the expansion draft. However, he’s been exactly what they need since then, as he fits quite well as a middle-6 centre. He probably won’t live up to his contract, but he’s been a valuable forward.
Would you change any of these grades? Let us know!