For those of you who have stuck around with this site long enough, you probably remember that we used to start the week with our Three Stars post. I have to admit that as much as I agree with the common sentiment that the series had jumped the shark, I still get nostalgic from time to time. And after losing a close game against the team you hate the most and finding out that the Ottawa Senators will again have to go without the services of Thomas Chabot (during arguably the most important stretch of hockey in the Sens' schedule)–we probably need a fluffier piece to bridge the gap until redemption time in Detroit on Saturday.
Now, when we do our weekly prospect team of top performers, we usually have six entries including a goaltender but considering both Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo have had passable but unremarkable seasons to date, I'll cut myself some slack and eschew the goalie spot and keep this list to a nice, neat five. That's symmetry appeal, baby. So sit back and enjoy your all-Sens team starters after 21 mediocre games from your Ottawa Senators!
Left Wing - Brady Tkachuk
Hot damn, this already feels so anti-climactic. I mean, who else would I have chosen? But hear me out, Brady Tkachuk kinda whips ass. The dude has already put himself on pace for a 50-goal season. I absolutely won't hold my breath for that but none of us would feel heartbroken if the captain only ended up with 35-40 goals. And shooting 13.4% doesn't even seem that unsustainable by Brady standards. He could also end up with something ridiculous like 400 shots, 200 penalty minutes, and 200 hits. What an absolute tank of a big boy. I love him.
Centre - Tim Stützle
Owen, for the love of god, please just try to add some drama to this article. I literally can't. The good players have played well. My hands are tied! Tim Stützle could realistically have the first 100-point season by a Senator since the Pizza Line. And unlike Brady, Tim has shot a paltry 7.69% to date so if it feels like five goals seems underwhelming for the most offensively-gifted player on the team, well the numbers bear that out. Stützle trails only Tkachuk in shots (65) and has tied Tkachuk to date in penalties drawn (17!) while only taking five of his own. My only complaint about Tim Stützle is absolutely nothing. I love him.
Right Wing - Claude Giroux
You're not even trying! This isn't an article, it's a travesty! Okay but hear me out, it's Claude Giroux. He wants to be here. Second on the team in goals, assists, and points, Giroux also draws a lot of penalties and he wins a bunch of faceoffs too (kinda cool how all three players on Ottawa's top line can do that!). I'll never not find it funny that I have to write about someone the same age as me in the context of "enjoy this player before he gets any older!" but apparently one can only outrun the aging curve for so long? I can virtually guarantee that by the end of next season, Giroux will objectively go in the books as the best free agent signing in franchise history. I love him.
Honourable mentions obviously go to Drake Batherson, Vladimir Tarasenko, Mathieu Joseph, Josh Norris, and Ridly Greig. (Heck, get Shane Pinto back in the mix and that top-nine doesn't look too shabby!)
This Side Defence - Jakob Chychrun
Okay, here we can actually get into making some arguments. Injuries to Thomas Chabot, Artem Zub, and Erik Brännström have really messed up what would have already looked like a pretty close competition for the title of true number-one pairing in Ottawa. And full credit to Chychrun for making the most of his opportunity as one of the only defenders on the team unbitten by the injury bug.
Remember down the stretch last season when some people started suggesting that the Senators would regret trading for Chychrun? Ha! Not only does he lead Ottawa's defenders in goals (5) and shots (53) while tied for points (13), Chychrun also has taken just six penalties (he has drawn five to almost break even). Going by important defensive indexes like Corsi and expected goals, Chychrun hasn't fared as well as Brännström, Chabot, and Zub at five-on-five, so again, I think we can debate this one a bit. I still love him.
That Side Defence - Jake Sanderson
Sanderson leads Sens defenders in assists (9) while tied with Chychrun in points. He ranks second in shots (42) and has taken just three penalties through 21 games. You can make a very strong case that Sanderson has already emerged as the best defender on this team, the more I think about it. Unlike Chychrun, Sanderson finds himself in the mix with Brännström, Chabot, and Zub when ranking by Corsi and expected goals at five-on-five.
All that to say, Ottawa has five kinda really decent defenders when fully healthy so struggling to pin down who truly constitutes your top pairing seems like a good problem to have. Has anyone mentioned that the Senators shrewdly signed Sanderson effectively until he turns 30? I love him.
So there you have it! Will I remember to revisit this topic after games 40, 60, and/or 82? Who knows! I don't expect the forwards to shake up too much but with Ottawa's defence, things could change on a dime. Meet me in Detroit, ya filthy animals.