Welcome back to the Top 25 under 25, folks. Today we profile the Ottawa Senators’ newly-minted gold medalist himself, Zack Ostapchuk. In many ways, the archetypal Senators draft pick, the big, lanky centre captained the Vancouver Giants to new heights last season before joining the Canadian national team earlier this month on their successful World Junior quest. He may have gotten off to a slow start last year, but Ostapchuk has carved out his place in Ottawa’s farm system with some significant achievements in the time since.
17: Zack Ostapchuk (Reader Rank: 18, Last Year: NR)
Earlier in the off-season, I had the privilege of diving deep into Ostapchuk’s numbers to date in the WHL as you the readers voted him Top Newcomer in our annual prospect awards. And for the most part I’ll try to avoid going over the same details again today. To keep it brief, Ostapchuk plays centre for the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. They drafted him 12th overall in the bantam draft and he has made improvements to his game in each of his three WHL seasons. Last season, most significantly, he ranked top-three on his team in regular season offensive production and top-three in the league in post-season offence. He led his team to an improbable upset of number-one seed Everett in the first round of the WHL playoffs before ultimately losing a hard-fought second-round series against second-seeded Kamloops.
More recently, Ostapchuk joined team Canada at the world juniors as a last-minute addition to the roster and eventually settled into an approximately (based on ice time) third-line role for Dave Cameron at the tournament (I hear it ain’t easy to crack Canada’s top-six for what it’s worth). Ostapchuk made the most of the opportunity with a goal, two assists, and seven shots over seven games. He averaged just under twelve minutes per game, won 55% of his faceoffs, and took no penalties. Ostapchuk fared better, naturally, in games with an expanded role as his only multi-point and multi-shot performances coincided with helpings of over 13 minutes of nightly ice-time.
Watching Ostapchuk, you can really appreciate the Brady Tkachuk-era Senators qualities to Zack’s game. His offensive numbers don’t jump off the page but he kills penalties, engages physically, and loves cleaning up garbage in the crease (both on offence and defence). He can back-check without getting himself into trouble and he looks comfortable in high-danger areas with the puck. Ostapchuk will need more skilled linemates to help him create and/or finish chances (he has Fabien Lysell in Vancouver) but just like Tkachuk, he puts his opponents on alert even when he doesn’t generate scoring chances. Did I mention he has impressive tall/60 numbers?
Like all prospects, the organization will want Ostapchuk to bulk up, and his skating still has a way to go before he can compete at the professional level but last year the Sens bet the 39th overall pick that eventually Ostapchuk’s game can catch up with his frame. As I mentioned in the last article, Ostapchuk’s skating and finishing may not lend themselves to top-six potential in the NHL but he could very well become a fixture in Ottawa on the penalty kill and as a defensive specialist who can move around the lineup as needed. Whoever coaches Ostapchuk in Belleville and/or Ottawa will absolutely love having his services at their disposal.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s sweet sixteen.