Early into the season, two important trends have emerged for the Belleville Senators. First, they have a lot of firepower up front. Belleville’s forwards have been posting solid numbers thus far - with six players posting a point per game number of 0.7 or better. Rookies like Josh Norris and Alex Formenton have been meeting the high expectations set before them by fans and management alike. As for the forwards who have been around the block once or twice in the AHL - like Drake Batherson, Vitaly Abramov and Jordan Szwarz - they’re doing well too. Where things have fallen apart thus far - the second emerging trend - is on the back end. Outside of Max Lajoie and the currently injured Christian Jaros, the BSens are very thin on the back end. So much so that they’ve added multiple defenders on PTOs in the last few weeks just to find something that sticks.
As I’m sure you can guess, both of these trends were on full display this past week. Across two games, Belleville scored eight goals while allowing eleven.
Saturday, November 1 - Toronto 7, Belleville 4
Here are the highlights.
- Marcus Hogberg allowed seven goals on 39 shots - one of which was a powerplay marker.
- Formenton led the way with two goals while Norris and Abramov - playing with Batherson - contributed a goal and two assists of their own.
- Max Veronneau scored his first AHL goal, and added an assist, to bring his season totals to four points in eight games.
- Josh Norris continued being very good./
🚨 Josh Norris!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) November 2, 2019
Norris ' 3rd of the season on Friday night extended his point streak to 5 games. He's got 7 points (3G, 4A) in 9GP to start his pro career and is near the top in AHL rookie shots + points. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/dXC7GwdGJF
Sunday, November 2 - Belleville 5, Hartford 4 (SO)
Here are the highlights.
- Filip Gustavsson turned away 33 of 37 shots.
- Fresh off signing a PTO on Saturday, Cole Cassels had a goal and an assist in his Belleville debut.
- Jonathan Davidsson scored his first professional goal in North America while playing on the top line with Formenton and Szwarz./
You get a PTO, you get a PTO!
If you’re looking for a job as a professional hockey player, your best bet is to contact the Ottawa Senators this season. Between having a lacklustre NHL team and experiencing the usual abundance of injuries at both levels, it feels like the BSens are signing a new player to a PTO every week.
This week’s PTO belongs to Cole Cassels. The 24 year old native of Hartford had the opportunity to make his Belleville debut against his hometown Wolfpack, contributing two points in the process. Cassels, a 2013 third rounder, has bounced around in professional hockey, seeing time with Utica (Vancouver Canucks) and the Wolfsburg Grizzlys (DEL). I like this addition to Belleville, given the amount of roster flux they’re bound to experience this season. He lined up as Troy Mann’s fourth line centre for his first game in the red, black and white.
This time last month, all eyes were on Coach Mann and his usage of Ottawa’s top prospects. Many onlookers, myself included, were disappointed with the deployment of many of these players who aren’t named Drake. The good news is, with a little patience, we’re starting to see players emerge and earn opportunities to move out of the press box and up the lineup.
You’ll recall that two players in particular - Veronneau and Davidsson - received a healthy scratch a few times earlier in October. Since then, Veronneau has established himself on the right wing in the top 9. Playing with Morgan Klimchuk and Michael Carcone on Sunday, Veronneau found the back of the net and added a helper, showing flashes of what we saw from him in Ottawa last April. Davidsson, on an even more positive note, earned a spot on Szwarz’ wing on what usually ends up being the top line on Sunday. Davidsson also saw time on the powerplay, contributing this secondary assist on Saturday on Veronneau’s first AHL goal.
Just like with Batherson and Logan Brown last season, we’re going to start to see the right players move up the lineup over the next month. I’ll be keeping a close eye on where the opportunities arise and who earns the extra ice time.