Evgenii Dadonov: Year in Review

It was a disappointing season for last year’s big free-agent acquisition

Welcome back for another edition of our Year in Review feature. If you’ve missed any of the previous profiles, check them out below:

Drake Batherson

Erik Brännström

Connor Brown

Josh Brown

Thomas Chabot

In today’s entry, we take a look at the season that was for Evgenii Dadonov. You may recall that one of the rules of this undertaking is that we are limiting ourselves to players who had a meaningful role for the team this past season, i.e played more than 10 games, and were likely to be suiting up for the Sens next season. When we first devised this series Dadonov fit the bill, but now Ottawa has gone and exposed him in the expansion draft so he could very well be starting next season in Seattle. Nonetheless, we press forward!

By the numbers:

Dadonov had a tough go of it offensively during the 2021 season, notching a meagre 13 goals and 7 assists for 20 points in 55 games; a 19 goal, 30 point pace over a full 82 game season. By any definition that production was a disappointment considering the Russian forward had been averaging 66 points per 82 games for his three prior seasons with the Florida Panthers. Most distressingly, Dadonov tallied one measly assist for the whole season on the power play. Add in that a major reason that he was ostensibly brought on was to help fix the Sens’ struggling PP1 unit, and it really cements just how much of a bummer his season was from a scoring perspective.

Hockey, however, is about more than just your individual counting numbers; you can still be a useful player without lighting up the scoresheet. So while Dadonov didn’t rack up the points, the Sens had some of their best success when he was on the ice. Dadonov finished the year sporting a 51.96 CF% and a 50.06 xGF% at 5v5 — he was the only forward on the team who played more than 100 minutes that was above fifty percent in both categories. Here’s how the Hockeyviz model rates him as of this writing:

The model views him as a pretty solid driver of offense, and totally average defensively. After a disappointing start to the year, Dadonov spent the majority of his time alongside Nick Paul and Colin White and the trio were one of DJ Smith’s best all season. Dadonov also spent some time opposite Tim Stützle, and a handful of games with Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris.

Story of the season:

At the time of his signing last off-season, Dadonov’s arrival in Ottawa was heralded as an unqualified success for Pierre Dorion. Not since Clarke MacArthur in 2013 had the Sens signed a UFA of any note and, though it may seem impossible to believe now, virtually everyone was in agreement that it was a good deal for the team to boot. Of course, Dadonov’s offensive struggles began almost immediately, and he had a meagre one goal and two assists for three points in the first twelve games. Folks began to ask the question: how much of Dadonov’s scoring in Florida was a result of riding shotgun with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau? However, Dadonov then went on something of a tear with five goals in his next five games; including two against the Toronto Maple Leafs that you may remember:

So after a very slow start, the prized UFA acquisition had caught fire and had just finished delivering two clutch goals to complete one of the franchise’s most dramatic comebacks. Dadonov’s line with Paul and White was clicking. Almost a third of the way through the year, things were on the up and up. Unfortunately, that game in February was the highlight of the season as he would only net seven more goals in the last 38 games.

Part of Dadonov’s struggles could be attributed to bad luck: especially early in the year on the power play, Dadonov found himself the victim of some spectacular saves and some of his best passes went unfinished. He also struggled to execute some of the skilled plays the Sens were clearly expecting from him. At times, he looked physically over-matched; almost like he was out of shape. It was a bit surreal.

Still, Dadonov’s season wasn’t all bad and he had as much of a hand in the success of his line with Paul and White as the other two. Smith eventually pulled him off the first power play unit but Dadonov continued to get good minutes at 5v5. If his scoring was a disappointment, he was still doing enough other good things to warrant ice time. At the end of the day Dadonov didn’t deliver what the team had expected but it wasn’t a total disaster, either.

Future Outlook:

Before the Sens elected to expose Dadonov, I would have written that both he and the team were heading into next year both hoping that he’d re-discover his scoring touch but now there’s a very good chance chance his time in the nation’s capital will come to an end after just one season. Clearly Ottawa must view Dadonov’s contract as a large negative value because he was still fifth on the team in goal-scoring despite the struggles — and next year’s projected roster looks like it could well be lacking in skill up front. Maybe Seattle will see him the same way and elect not to add a player coming off a career-worst season at age 32.

If Dadonov does return to Ottawa, he’ll likely slot in as the 3RW behind Connor Brown and Drake Batherson. Likely Smith would reunite him with White and Paul, and everyone would be hoping for some better luck on the man advantage. But for now we’ll need to see just what happens on Wednesday night to know if there’ll be another chapter in this story.

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