Ottawa Senators Player Grades: Forwards

The first edition of our season recap looks at the forwards.

Welcome to the first of four parts for our 2018-19 player grades! The writers have submitted their report cards, and you have added your say as well, so now it’s time to see the results.

Today we’ll be going over the forwards, with the defencemen, goalies and staff being looked at later this week. Friday will be the staff’s ballot reveal & recap.

Chris Tierney: B
Reader Grade: B

One of the core acquisitions in the Karlsson trade, Chris Tierney set a career high of 48 points, while leading all forwards with 39 assists. With Jean-Gabriel Pageau out for a large chunk of the season, and Matt Duchene traded later on, Tierney settled nicely into a top six role, playing 17:01 per game, also a career high. His defensive game was not as spectacular, as along with Mikkel Boedker and Bobby Ryan, they allowed more shots per minute than any other line in the league (minimum 100 minutes). Turning 25 this summer, Tierney is in his prime, and could serve a staple in the Sens’ top nine for the foreseeable future.

Brady Tkachuk: A
Reader Grade: A

Although it unfortunately didn’t earn him a Calder nod, Brady Tkachuk’s rookie season swiped away a lot of the skepticism surrounding his potential as a 4th overall pick. It was a given that he’d be the most NHL-ready player drafted in 2018, but he still exceeded all expectations.

Despite missing the first few weeks of the season with an injury, he finished second in rookie scoring, ahead of everyone else in his draft class. His feistiness is addicting, and although his style of play isn’t sexy, he gets the job done. He was still able to succeed when Mark Stone left his line (albeit to a lesser degree), which should speak volumes to Tkachuk’s potential as a franchise staple. The A grade was well-deserved.

Bobby Ryan: C+
Reader Grade: C+

Bobby Ryan will always have his $7.25 million cap hit hovering above him, although since his disappointing season in 2016-17, his scoring has stayed pretty consistently in the middle-six forward range. In fact, his points-per-game rate of 0.54 is just 0.01 higher than last season. He also didn’t miss as much time to hand injuries this year, which is a good sign. His season still wasn’t perfect, as he too was part of the defensively-caved line with Tierney and Boedker.

Colin White: B+
Reader Grade: B+

The young centre may not have had the rookie spotlight that belonged to Tkachuk, although Colin White’s performance this year also exceeded the expectations of many. After only scoring 27 points in 47 AHL games last year, his full-time NHL transition was accelerated by the Sens’ lack of depth. Playing over 16 minutes a night, he managed to score 41 points in 71 games, while also being one of the team’s few competent defensive players. He seemed to handle the role of a top-six centre with relative ease, which bodes well for his future.

Mikkel Boedker: D
Reader Grade: C-

If the Mike Hoffman trade hadn’t been regrettable enough the second it was made, Mikkel Boedker’s performance this season only intensified that. At 29 years old, this is a relatively early downfall for an NHL player, and Boedker tumbled hard. Originally pegged as a top six winger during pre-season, he finished as a regular healthy scratch. Although 35 points in 71 games may not scream ‘fringe 4th-liner’, he was one of the Sens’ most defensively liable players all season, which Marc Crawford really recognized.

He’ll be around for another season with a cap hit of $4 million, although it seems unlikely he’ll get much playing time with the influx of young talent.

Zack Smith: C-
Reader Grade: C

Zack Smith was one of those players this season that was just never all that noticeable. He was infamously put on waivers at the beginning of the season, then listed as one of the team’s “core veterans” by the end. Both his offensive and defensive results were below league average, but not extreme enough that in the context of the Sens they just seem very ‘meh’. He’ll be a bottom six staple for the next couple years, but only because his contract is stapled to the Sens’ payroll until 2021.

Magnus Paajarvi: C-
Reader Grade: C+

Playing almost exclusively on the fourth line, Paajarvi did as much as we could expect by providing some offensive sparks in a limited role. Like Smith, his results don’t exactly stand out in any particular facet this season. But his faster pace of play was always a little bit of a relief in the middle of games, especially after a sequence where Ottawa would be pinned defensively.

Anthony Duclair: B+
Reader Grade: B+

At 23 years old and already on his fifth NHL team, that hasn’t stopped Duclair from making a splash in his time in Ottawa. He was added as a ‘wild card’ piece from Columbus in the Ryan Dzingel trade, then proceeded to outscore Dzingel in the remainder of the season, with 14 points in 21 games. His offensive abilities have been there since his time in the QMJHL, but for one reason or another they haven’t been flowing since his rookie season. Hopefully he can continue to keep pace next season, as the early showings have been positive.

Brian Gibbons: B
Reader Grade: B

Coming over from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline (at a very low price), the acquisition was made just to make sure the Sens had enough roster players to keep Belleville’s roster intact. His play with the Ducks was frankly terrible, then he somehow managed to put up 14 points in 20 games with the Sens. Maybe something changed... or maybe it was just his spiked shooting percentage (28.6% individually, 14.6% on-ice at 5v5). Yeah, it was definitely the shooting percentage.

Rudolfs Balcers: B
Reader Grade: B

Of the many tryouts given to B-Sens players throughout the season, Rudolfs Balcers seemed to be the one that stuck out to Sens management, as he played 36 games with the big club. His speed and vision helped him make a quick transition, as he’ll likely be given a full-time spot next year.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau: B-
Reader Grade: B-

Following a miracle return from an injury that originally pegged him as out for the entire season, Pageau played like he hadn’t even missed a step. Offensively he may have been at his lowest (playing with Smith and Paajarvi didn’t really help), but his presence was felt defensively, especially on the penalty kill which took a massive leap forward once he was added to the lineup.

Drake Batherson: B-
Reader Grade: B

Although his time in Ottawa was relatively short-lived, amassing a total of 20 games, it was enough to see the potential Batherson has as an impact player. His first NHL goal in his first NHL game was one of the greatest moments of the season, and while he still has some room to grow as a 21-year-old, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be given a much larger role next season. He has nothing left to prove in the AHL — now it’s time for him to dominate the big leagues.

Oscar Lindberg: C+
Reader Grade: C+

Like Gibbons, Lindberg was another under-the-radar pickup at the trade deadline, who fit in with relative ease as a depth forward on the weak Sens roster. Also like Gibbons, his five goals in 20 games is probably due in most part to his 20% shooting percentage. But if the Sens are looking to bring back a player who’s been pretty consistently mediocre to fill out a roster spot, and can also be a bit physical, Lindberg fits the bill.

Nick Paul: C+
Reader Grade: C+

Nick Paul is only 24, but it seems like he’s been in the Sens’ system forever. He’s made a name for himself in the AHL as being very inconsistent, until this season where he broke out for 39 points in 43 games. His story in the NHL was a bit different, however, where in 20 games he only managed to score a goal and an assist. Paul is a hard player to peg down, because while on the ice he doesn’t appear to be a liability, his results just haven’t been flowing. He’ll be competing for more time next year, although the clock is ticking on whether he’ll be a full-time AHLer or NHLer.

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