Ottawa Senators 2021-22 Report Cards: Forwards

We kick off the annual report cards with the forwards!

Welcome to our annual series where we assign grades to the Ottawa Senators for the season that was. This year we had nearly 400 reader votes, so we’ve got a healthy sample of the fan sentiment. Thanks to everyone that took the time to cast a ballot!

In today’s installment, we take a look at how the staff and our readers voted on the forwards. Tomorrow we’ll have the defense and the goalies, then Friday will bring coaching and management.

Drake Batherson: A

Readers’ Grade: A

Batherson went through stretches early in the season where he was the Sens’ best forward, and maybe their best player period. Unfortunately, the infamous injury he suffered at the hands of Aaron Dell curtailed what was shaping up to be a spectacular season and Batherson only made into 46 games. When he did return to play, he showed flashes of his earlier form but was also not quite himself physically and his scoring slowed slightly. Still, a stellar performance for the 24 year old and an exciting glimpse into what could yet be to come.

Connor Brown: B

Readers’ Grade: B

Brown delivered another solid, workman-like effort for DJ Smith and the Sens this season. While his goal scoring totals were down dramatically from last season, Brown set a career high in assists with 29 and was Smith’s most relied upon forward; in fact, he led all Sens’ forward in total ice time at just over twenty minutes per game. The staff and the readers agree: Brown delivered a steady campaign.

Tyler Ennis: B-

Readers’ Grade: C+

The Greatest to Ever Do It, Ennis delivered a quietly effective season in a mostly depth role. When he was on the ice, the Sens were to the better in terms of shots and goals, and he chipped in a credible 24 points while playing the majority of his minutes on a line centered by Chris Tierney. Ennis’ ability to play up in the line-up in a pinch also came in a handy on a couple of occasions this year with the Sens battling injuries. He’s a UFA, and 32, but it says here that the Sens could do a lot worse than bringing him back on the cheap.

Alex Formenton: B

Readers’ Grade: B+

This was the season where Formenton fully secured a place for himself in the NHL, suiting up for 79 games and tallying 18 goals along the way. He was an absolute menace on the penalty kill and maybe could have reached 25 goals if he’d been able to convert on a few more of his breakaways.

Dylan Gambrell: D+

Reader Grade: C

Gambrell was the very definition of a “guy who was there” this season for the Sens. The 25 year-old spent most of his time centering the fourth line, and chipped in three goals and four assists for seven points in 63 games. He’s an RFA, and though Ottawa could yet retain him it seems unlikely he will be a major contributor in the years to come.

Adam Gaudette: C-

Readers’ Grade: C

Gaudette went through a bit of a roller coaster in his time with the Sens, starting out hot and earning some ice time on the top line when Batherson was injured. He also was held pointless for the last twenty-five games of the season. For a player whose main value is in his offensive creation, that’s a bit of a problem. Like Gambrell, he’ll be an RFA though it’s hard to see where he fits longterm. At least he scored that shootout goal in Vancouver.

Mathieu Joseph: A

Readers’ Grade: B+

Acquired at the trade deadline as part of the package for Nick Paul, Joseph was sensational in his brief time with the Sens. While no one is expecting him to resume his torrid scoring pace when he returns next season, Joseph’s use of his speed and skill to create off the rush was a welcome sight. It might be asking a lot to pencil him into the team’s top six yet, but a bottom six that has both Formenton and Joseph in it will be bringing a lot of pace.

Mark Kastelic: B-

Readers’ Grade: B

When the Sens drafted Kastelic in 2019, he was projected to be a big, physical bottom six centre who could win you some face-offs. In 16 games with the Sens this season, he did exactly that, winning 58.3% of his draws and generally being tasked with some very tough deployment. He looked fairly limited offensively at times, but if he keeps banging bodies and winning face-offs at his current rate he’ll likely be a mainstay on the fourth line before too much longer.

Parker Kelly: B

Readers’ Grade: B

One thing that can be said with certainty about Kelly is that he will never cheat you for effort. Kelly’s no-holds barred approach to forechecking and backchecking earned him high praise from Smith throughout the season; it didn’t hurt that he showed the occasional flash of skill and goal-scoring panache along the way.

Josh Norris: A

Readers’ Grade: A

Like Batherson, Norris’ breakout season was cut short by injury but he still managed to notch 35 goals and 55 points in his 66 games played. The biggest contributor to Norris playing his way to a major payday, he’s an RFA this off-season, was his ability to convert on the power play; his sixteen tallies with the man advantage were the most by a Senator since Dany Heatley. Norris’ transformation over the last couple of seasons has been one of the biggest positive stories for the organization, and if the Sens want to take the next step of making the play-offs next year they’ll need a repeat performance of this year from Norris.

Nick Paul: B-

Readers’ Grade: B

The Man Who Does It All, Paul was having another steady season for the Sens before his trade deadline departure. The 27 year old has carved out a role for himself in the NHL, and I’d expect him to sign a fairly lucrative contract this off-season that will set him and his family up for life. It just won’t be with Ottawa.

Zach Sanford: D+

Readers’ Grade: C-

Like the player the Sens traded away to acquire him, Logan Brown, Sanford seems destined to be a player known mostly for not quite living up to expectations. He has all of the attributes of a “power forward” and would occasionally flash some real skill — but those fleeting moments only served to make you wonder why he wasn’t having a bigger impact on a more consistent basis.

Logan Shaw: D+

Readers’ Grade: C-

Truthfully, I had forgotten that Shaw had played enough games to hit the minimum requirement for the Report Cards. Shaw was stellar as the Belleville captain this season, but there wasn’t anything in his time in the NHL that made you believe the 30 year old will ever be more than an occasional call-up.

Tim Stützle: A

Readers’ Grade: A

Stützle took another massive step forward this season, particularly after Smith moved him to centre part way through the season. By a lot of measures, he was the team’s best forward and there were moments in the back half of the campaign where we caught glimpses of just how special he could yet be. Whether Stützle can reach another gear is a critically important question to the Sens’ future, but for now fans can bask in what was a very successful campaign for the twenty year old.

Chris Tierney: D-

Readers’ Grade: D+

It seems almost crazy to say now, but in his first season with the Sens Tierney notched 48 points in 81 games and was generally considered to be something of a bright spot. As the 2021-22 season concludes, Tierney is coming off two straight seasons of very poor production without the necessary defensive chops to compensate. He’ll only be 28 when the next season starts, so it’s possible he will find another NHL contract with a team looking for veteran help.

Brady Tkachuk: A

Readers’ Grade: A

Tkachuk the Captain delivered in almost every way imaginable: he set a career high with 30 goals and 37 assists for 67 points, he was a dogged leader on the ice, and he made numerous efforts to ingratiate himself into the community. There was some grumbling in the fanbase during his holdout, and some folks might have blanched at the AAV of his eventual contract, but all is now forgiven after the year that was.

Austin Watson: C

Readers’ Grade: B

With a full letter grade separating the staff’ assessment of Watson from that of the readers, he was by far the most polarizing forward. In a way, I’m not surprised since conventional and advanced metrics paint Watson as a fourth-liner at best, the Sens were badly out-shot, out-chanced, and out-scored at 5v5 when he was one the ice, but he also fills a very specific role on the team and he does so with unimpeded courage. If you are of the mind that teams need a player like Watson, then you could do a lot worse than the man himself. For all of his efforts, he will be representing the USA at the World Hockey Championships.

Colin White: C+

Readers’ Grade: C

White’s grade this season should almost read incomplete. After missing so much time due to injury, White was serviceable but not fantastic in the twenty-four games he did play. Without re-visiting a much discussed topic, it doesn’t seem too likely he will remain an Ottawa Senator past this off-season buyout window.

So that’s it for this year’s report cards for the forwards. Let’s hear how you ranked ‘em in the comments below, and keep an eye out for the defensemen and goalies tomorrow!

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