The prospect cupboard
Our annual top 25 under 25 ranking has kicked off, and I think most can agree that ranking the team’s prospect depth isn’t quite as exciting as it had been in previous years. Two consecutive years without a first round pick will do that to you, and the Sens have generally been quite willing to part with draft picks as of late. They haven’t brought in any particularly exciting prospects, and most of their top young players are known commodities at this point. Still, Corey Pronman at the Athletic had them 7th in his NHL pipeline ranking this year (notably ahead of Detroit, who are generally seen as being a few years behind Ottawa in their rebuild). Although it might seem weird and concerning that a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in six years has a dwindling prospect cupboard, it’s important to remember that the prospects Ottawa has graduated are hardly old. Give it at least another year before we start to worry.
It’s the time of year where Sens players start gradually making their way to Ottawa in preparation for training camp, or else start being seen at NHL media events, and it’s been fun to see how excited so many players seem to be back. Jakob Chychrun especially is on a run of announcing sponsorships and generally making sure everyone knows that he loves the city of Ottawa, Ontario.
It’s so cool to see players so obviously excited to be in Ottawa and to play for the Sens. I know past players liked it here too, but it’s still reassuring given the team and city’s reputation.
I hate it when the Leafs do good things
The big story around the NHL this past week was Auston Matthews signing a contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The contract keeps him in Toronto for four years after this one and makes him the highest paid player in the NHL. To be honest, my main gripe with this news is that it happened way too soon. I was so looking forward to a full season of discourse, and the cap going up right when the Leafs had to re-sign their star player (thus giving them less leverage) would have been too good.
I don’t think anyone can really argue with the dollar amount there, but I am looking forward to more people getting mad at Matthews for not taking a discount, especially when the Leafs go back to losing in the first round this year. Really puts the Sens’ cap issues into perspective.
Austin Watson has signed a PTO with the Tampa Bay Lightning, meaning that he will definitely not be returning to Ottawa for this next season. The news is hardly a surprise, and I very much doubt that Ottawa will miss him on the ice, but it’s also likely to fuel the debate I’ve already been seeing about whether the roster is tough enough for the playoffs.
The answer is yes. The Sens are tough enough for the playoffs, even without Watson. Come on. Brady Tkachuk is there, and there are plenty of players throughout the lineup who are willing to drop the gloves if necessary. Even Tim Stützle has been known to get into fights. Ridly Greig will be there too. I know that the makeup of the Sens’ defense is unconventional - with Hamonic and Chychrun as the only regular defensemen who play a really physical style - but it’s 2023 and we know that skilled, puck moving defense works. Big and tough players are an asset, but only if they are also skilled, which Austin Watson is not. The Sens will be fine, and if they’re not, then that is a problem we can discuss when they actually make the playoffs.
It’s basically a rite of passage for every young, up-and-coming team to start hand-wringing about whether they’re tough enough, but it feels especially silly to do that about a team that has consistently been near the top of the league in hits.
Tim Stützle is pretty good I think
This is a thought I have every day, but the reason I’m bringing it up now is because 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafrenière just signed a new contract, and he’s not making a lot of money.
The former star prospect still has plenty of time to develop and reach the potential that got him drafted so high, but it’s just wonderful that we don’t have to worry about that with Tim Stützle, who the Sens got third overall in that year’s draft. The more time passes, the more the gap between Tim Stützle and everyone else from that draft widens. He currently has more career assists than the next best player (Lucas Raymond) has points.
We like to complain about which teams have better luck with the draft lottery and the draft itself, but stuff like this serves as a reminder that sometimes it isn’t that easy to measure luck. The Sens never drafted first overall during the rebuild, but in both 2018 and 2020 they ended up with the players now going first overall in re-drafts. That’s not bad.