Ottawa Senators Prospect Update: Norris, Balcers earn NHL call-ups
After last year’s trade deadline, we had so much to cover in this space.
The Ottawa Senators had just acquired Erik Brännström, Vitaly Abramov, and Jonathan Davidsson during the Matt Duchene and Mark Stone trades, and people were waiting to get a sense of what these new additions could bring to a resurgent Sens system.
One year later, and those prospects look well entrenched in their roles. Brännström might not be developing as quickly as some would hope, but looks like a real top-four defender at the pro level — with advanced defensive sense and a developing transition game. Abramov was the team’s biggest surprise in the offseason, and is well on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate top-six forward prospect, while Davidsson has had trouble adjusting to the North American game.
While there were no prospects to note in the returns from yesterday’s deadline, there’s always stuff to ponder when it comes to Sens prospects. Let’s get to it.
This may be the first time we’re mentioning Burgess in this spot, and it’s for good reason. It’s not every day you see a 63% shooting percentage, but that’s what five goals and eight shots over two games will do to you.
This man cannot be stopped! Todd Burgess with a 4 spot against Princeton tonight🚨 #ECACHockey https://t.co/4tp5M8QmQn— ECAC Hockey (@ecachockey) February 23, 2020
Known more for his playmaking ability with Fairbanks in the NAHL, Burgess showcased a solid release and importantly, has been better all over the ice this season. He’s increased his point totals on a year-by-year basis, and has cut down the sloppy penalties that appeared when he got frustrated in his prior two seasons.
While Burgess is still a long shot to be signed after this, his final season, it’s nice to see him have a strong week and I hope he’s able to parlay that into a pro deal somewhere else should he want to continue his hockey career.
When you play your first NHL game, you get a highlight in the biggest standouts section.
Norris sits third in AHL scoring, 11 points up on second-place in the rookie leaderboard (teammate Alex Formenton), and has done everything in his power to have the best year possible.
In the clip below, you’ll see his willingness to skate through the middle of the ice and the extra effort he makes to push the puck through to Vitaly Abramov.
Brannstrom > Balcers > Norris > Abramov! 🚨— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) February 20, 2020
Beauty outlet from Brannstrom, nice pass across by Norris. Belleville is down by 1 in the 3rd. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/6un04cixdj
Here, you see his speed on the rush, and a strong shot that he uses to power through the opposing goaltender.
🚨 Josh Norris wins it in OT!!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) February 20, 2020
Norris' 30th (!!) of the season, his 3rd point of the game, completes the comeback win for Belleville. Holy smokes, this kid can't be stopped right now. #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/jXuBS6MDdo
Norris had four shots in his NHL debut, was strong on the faceoff dot, and appears like he’s set to potentially challenge for a full-time role as early as next season — an accelerated timeline considering he only played 24 competitive games last season between Michigan and the World Juniors. With 52 games and counting, plus a deep playoff run looking likely in the future, ascertaining whether Norris can keep up his elite level of play will do wonders with helping his perception in the eyes of the Sens brass.
The player diving through to get the puck to Norris in that first clip I showed above? That was Rudolfs Balcers, who had four points and 10 shots this week after seeing his production dip over the last few weeks. Like us, I’m sure Balcers thought he was destined for the NHL after going through some rehab in Belleville, so when he didn’t get an extended look from D.J. Smith, I’m sure there was some disappointment.
Throughout every level of play, all Balcers has done is prove people wrong. As the team’s third (of four) call-ups post-trade deadline, it looks like he’s going to get around 20 games here to finish off the season in Ottawa before heading back to Belleville for the playoffs. The 22-year-old had 14 points in 36 NHL games last season, but just one assist in seven this year. With ample opportunity in the middle-six, especially with Batherson down, I hope Balcers gets a shot to play with the team’s remaining skilled players to make a case for himself to have a full-time role next year.
- While he was sent back down to Belleville to lead them in their playoff push, Drake Batherson stood out in a big way this past week. He had two points, five shots, and his first NHL fight in three games, and should be ready to go for a full-time middle-six spot next season.
- Vitaly Abramov has been streaky this season as he’s battled injuries, but looks like he’s back to his regular, high octane self. With two points in three games for Belleville, his season total is at a solid 35 points in 44 games.
- Logan Brown, JC Beaudin, and Jonathan Davidsson remained injured for the BSens, who added Nick Baptiste alongside Darren Archibald to fill much needed depth roles at the bottom of the lineup.
- Your weekly reminder that Erik Brännström is still a young pup. He’s one of only 21 defenders under the age of 21 to play at least 10 games in the league this season, and one of only five to put up >0.5 points-per-game. His 0.85 PPG (23P, 27GP) leads the league, with his Swedish compatriots Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin taking the silver and bronze spots respectively.
- Moving onto the CHL, I could’ve easily highlighted Mark Kastelic’s play again after a 3G, 5P week. He now leads the Hitmen in scoring.
- Max Guenette also continued his strong play, putting up two goals — including one from in deep in the offensive zone during overtime (!?) — this week for Val D’Or.
- Shane Pinto and Jacob Bernard-Docker both scored as UND had a tough weekend (one tie, one loss) at St. Cloud State. Pinto nearly doubled his season totals in penalty minutes, as he got a game misconduct for a rough check from behind.
- Chris Wilkie scored his 20th of the year and had 15 shots in three games this week. He also had an experience to remember as part of the outdoor game festivities between Colorado College and Air Force.
- Markus Nurmi scored two goals and is sitting just under 0.5 PPG in Liiga, while Lassi Thomson went pointless (but had six shots!) in two games this week.
- The goalies had a tough week overall, with Joey Daccord seeing his save percentage drop from a 0.919% to 0.913% after letting in eight goals on 59 shots. Marcus Hogberg was sent down to Belleville as part of a paper transaction, and could wrestle away starts if need be. /
Pro (NHL, AHL, ECHL)
Canadian Hockey League
|Johnny Gruden||LW||19||London Knights||OHL||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||59||30||36||66||23||152||20%|
|Maxence Guénette||RD||18||Val-d'Or Foreurs||QMJHL||1||0||2||2||0||5||0%|||||62||11||29||40||22||130||8%|
|Mark Kastelic||C||21||Calgary Hitmen||WHL||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||58||38||30||68||83||227||17%|
|Angus Crookshank||LW||20||Univ. of New Hampshire||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||34||16||6||22||39||137||12%|
|Chris Wilkie||RW||23||Colorado College||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||34||23||8||31||36||175||13%|
|Jakov Novak||LW/C||21||Bentley Univ.||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||35||16||14||30||84||100||16%|
|Luke Loheit||RW||19||Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||33||5||1||6||8||27||19%|
|Shane Pinto||C||19||Univ. of North Dakota||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||33||16||12||28||46||91||18%|
|Jacob Bernard-Docker||RD||19||Univ. of North Dakota||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||32||7||18||25||12||55||13%|
|Jonny Tychonick||LD||20||Univ. of North Dakota||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||24||4||7||11||14||12||33%|
|Viktor Lodin||C/LW||20||Örebro HK||SHL||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||22||0||4||4||2||20||0%|
|HC Vita Hästen||Allsvenskan||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||18||3||5||8||4||27||11%|
|Olle Alsing||LD||23||Djurgårdens IF||SHL||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||36||4||16||20||20||55||7%|
|Filip Gustavsson||21||Belleville Senators||AHL||1||0||1||0||0||37||2||94.6%|||||24||15||6||3||0||673||75||88.9%|
|Joey Daccord||23||Belleville Senators||AHL||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||24||15||6||2||1||721||61||91.5%|
|Marcus Högberg||25||Ottawa Senators||NHL||1||0||1||0||0||15||5||66.7%|||||24||5||8||6||2||728||70||90.4%|
|Kevin Mandolese||19||Cape Breton Eagles||QMJHL||1||0||1||0||0||47||3||93.6%|||||37||26||8||1||0||1090||82||92.5%|
|Mads Søgaard||19||Medicine Hat Tigers||WHL||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|||||37||21||13||1||1||967||89||90.8%|