Back again by literally zero demand (just like all of my columns) we have the second annual Top 25 Under 25 Honourable Mentions for your Ottawa Senators. These players got some votes from both the staff and the readers but just missed the cut this year. Could they make our list next season? Well three of the five Sens prospects I profiled last year made it in on their following opportunity so I’ll take those odds on at least a couple of graduations.
I will say that I don’t have quite as much confidence in this year’s crop as I did heading into last season but we’ll see some core players turn 25 this year and that will change the whole dynamic of the list. Why do I feel some apprehension about these players compared to the five profiled last year? In short, the Senators will soon take the next step in their rebuild towards NHL competitiveness. You’ll see Ottawa’s farm system slide down the rankings relative to teams like Detroit and Buffalo while having more actual success on NHL ice. Some of these players listed below could pan out but Ottawa’s 15-25 type prospects won’t have the same ceilings they had in the last couple of years as the team transitions from tank mode.
Also, before getting into it, I want to give an honourable mention among honourable mentions to Kevin Mandolese who ranked last year at 23 and fell off this season after a, quite frankly, disappointing season in Belleville. Making the leap from junior to the professional level can prove especially difficult for goaltenders as we’ve seen before and I doubt anyone wants a shot at redemption more than Mandolese. Given the mercurial nature of goalie stats, Mandolese could just as easily have a bounce back season and find his way back into the top 25 next year but I won’t pretend to have any sort of concrete predictions for the clandestine keeper. On to the honourable mentions!
Contrary to my blurb above, Kleven could still become a solid prospect and I virtually guarantee he’ll make the top 25 next season. He’ll still find himself buried in Ottawa’s defensive depth chart down the left side albeit through no fault of his own. I questioned this draft pick as much as anyone and yet I think we can find a lot to like about Kleven’s freshman year. He led freshman defenders in division I in goals with five, and along with Jake Sanderson, Kleven led North Dakota defenders with just six even strength on-ice goals against. And while we can’t put too much stock in plus-minus, Kleven only finished two games on the red side of the ledger (both tournament games).
Tyler Kleven also impressed me, he’s gained a lot more confidence throughout the year. Looked comfortable carrying and moving the puck. Still plenty for him to work on but he’s building an interesting toolkit.— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) March 28, 2021
Another thing I like about Kleven’s freshman season? Looking at his five goals, I only count one of the booming slapshot variety we associate with big, shutdown defenders. By my count he scored his other four goals with his underrated snapper. With an expanded role on the Fighting Hawks this year, Kleven could catch some people off guard.
Regular readers probably already knew I had to include one of my favourite prospects on this list. After missing a third of an already shortened QMJHL season last year (due to injury on top of the pandemic) Daoust has a lot of ground to make up for but I think he’ll become one of the better centres in Ottawa’s prospect pool. Before injury, Daoust was on pace to match his previous season’s scoring totals in about a third of as many games. Despite missing ten games with injury, Daoust still finished fourth in goals and first in assists on the Moncton Wildcats (and second in points). Despite his lengthy absence due to injury, Moncton fans voted Daoust co-recipient of the season MVP award, playing ten fewer games than most of his teammates.
Assuming he had maintained his scoring pace and played in all 31 games as opposed to 21, Daoust could have finished top ten in the Q in assists and top fifteen in points. Daoust also registered at least one shot on goal in every game played except his first and his injury-shortened last game.
At this point things get a little bit more dicey as we move into overage prospects whom I will admit I have a bit of a bias against for whatever reason. I guess higher ceilings provide more intrigue than high floors but Ottawa has gotten a lot out of overagers in the past so any one of these guys could prove me wrong and become the next Zack Smith. Novak for instance flew under the radar once again on a Bentley team that went 5-11 in 2021 in the AHA division of the NCAA. And while his team may have floundered, Novak stood out among his peers, leading the Falcons in individual goals, points, and on-ice goals while ranking second in assists and shots. In all but four games Novak had multiple shots on goal and finished even or better in plus-minus. While I had always pegged him a winger, Novak can also win faceoffs.
In terms of per game statistics, Novak scored at a clip comparable to Shane Pinto last year but obviously that comes with the caveat of Novak being a full two years older than Pinto. I’ll still give Novak credit for scoring at the rate he does on a less competitive team and it should keep things interesting with Novak transferring to Northeastern to join the Huskies for his senior year of college.
Given how late in the draft the Senators selected Reinhardt and given his somewhat pedestrian numbers, I didn’t have much of an opinion on the winger last season but I think his stock will climb a bit more this year. Reinhardt falls into that numbers versus eye test category where his stats don’t blow you away but the tape looks surprisingly good. He looks like your archetype Pierre Dorion-Trent Mann draft pick: hardworking, physically engaged, and willing to go to the tougher areas on the ice. It bodes well for Reinhardt that he jumped seamlessly from the WHL to the AHL (another overage draftee) and he still has some offensive tools in his kit even if he profiles more in a depth role. Reinhardt will struggle to climb the depth chart mainly because Ottawa has so many similar players competing for the same job but I would still keep an eye on him.
Predominantly a punchline among Sens fans since Ottawa reached for him in the fourth round in 2019, Lodin feels like one of a couple dozen overage depth forwards in the Senators system. Despite that, Lodin really broke out last season and while he still looks like a longshot as a prospect, we could consider taking him seriously as a part of Ottawa’s farm system. Some players develop over a longer arc than others and sometimes just need the right circumstances to put the pieces together. Again, I don’t think Lodin will magically turn into an NHL winger but he looks complete enough that we as a fanbase now genuinely want to see what he’ll do if he comes to North America to play in Belleville at some point. With Lodin’s squad making the jump from Allsvenskan to the SHL this year by virtue of their team success last season, we’ll get to see how the winger adapts playing in one of the best hockey leagues in the world where goals don’t come easy even for some of the best skaters. I guess we’ll see who gets the last laugh.
Other players to keep in mind: Jonathan Tychonick, Mark Kastelic, Eric Engstrand, and the rest of the 2021 entry draft class after Tyler Boucher