The Sens have signed a highly-sought after free agent?!?!?!
Max Veronneau is coming home after a successful four-year career with the Princeton Tigers ended over the weekend with a heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to Brown in the ECAC playoffs. With 25+ teams interested, including the Oilers and Kings, GM Pierre Dorion was able to secure his services with a two-year entry-level deal that’ll begin Wednesday:
“We are very excited to have Max join the Ottawa Senators,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. “We aggressively pursued Max, whose talents made him one of the highly sought-after college free agents available this year. He plays the game with tremendous pace and has terrific offensive instincts. Max will be given the opportunity to compete to be part of the Senators team, both now and in the future.”
Veronneau played his bantam hockey with the Ottawa Sting, midget with the Ottawa Jr. 67s, and junior hockey with the Gloucester Rangers in the CCHL before joining Princeton in 2015-16. He finished first or second in team scoring every year in Princeton, always next to fellow Ottawa-born winger, Ryan Kuffner — who signed with Detroit. You may remember Kuffner as a Sens development camp attendee in 2018. It’s interesting that the team ended up with Veronneau instead, and I wonder if that was Ottawa’s decision, or if Kuffner opted for the Red Wings. It’s hard to understate how interconnected Veronneau and Kuffner were, and it’ll be fascinating to see if one was driving the other’s results. Case in point: Kuffner’s Princeton’s all-time leading goal scorer, and Veronneau’s assisted in 63% of his goals.
Veronneau’s best season was his junior year (2017-18), where he finished second in NCAA scoring with 55 points in 36 games (1.53 PPG) en route to an ECAC Championship and First All-Star Team recognition. 21 of those 55 points came on the powerplay, where he was able to show off his playmaking ability — his 38 assists made him the only collegiate player to average more than an assist per game. He is not one-dimensional, though, with his 4.06 shots per game ranked 9th in the nation (ahead of Kuffner’s 3.92).
This season, with a much weaker supporting cast, both Kuffner (44 points) and Veronneau (38 points) saw their production drop. After Princeton’s top-line and defence pair, the next highest point producer was Jacob Paganelli’s 10 points in 30 games.
As we know all to well, the Sens haven’t had much success with college free agents in the past. However, worst case scenario: Veronneau takes up a roster spot for one season. At 23, on a team in dire need of NHL bodies, he’ll have the opportunity to fight for a chance to make the NHL full-time — an appealing premise, and it’s no surprise that many of the day’s signings have come from teams at the bottom of the standings. Treat this as a lottery pick that cost nothing to acquire (unlike draft picks) other than a roster spot.
Expect Veronneau to stick with the Senators for the rest of the season. Pierre Dorion hinted that he should be in the lineup on Thursday, and the team will evaluate his roster spot for 2019-20 in the offseason. As a new signing post-trade deadline, Veronneau is not eligible to play in Belleville should the team make the AHL playoffs.
Ben Kerr — Last Word on Hockey:
He uses his strong skating and stickhandling ability to open up passing lanes, both off the rush or in the cycle game. He is able to shake off defenders either by quickly speeding up or slowing down or through a series of quick cuts. Veronneau is a smart player. He anticipates the movements of his teammates and defenders to create offence. He also has a good release on his shot but could stand to improve the power going forward.
Corey Pronman — The Athletic ($):
Veronneau opened eyes last season with his play in the ECAC. This season wasn’t as productive, but NHL teams are still very interested. What stands out about Veronneau is his skating; he can lead a rush at the NHL level with his speed. My concern is, outside his speed, there isn’t much that screams NHL caliber. He can kill penalties, but he’s slight and not physical. His skill is average, but he does see the ice well. The Kings are believed to be the favorite to sign Veronneau.
Mike Morreale — NHL.com:
The 23-year-old senior right wing is considered an exceptional playmaker and puck carrier. He has 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 29 games and is a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award. ”He’s someone where you have confidence as a coach when he’s on the ice that things are going to be done well because he’s very consistent in his habits, does things extremely well and repeats that over and over again,” Princeton coach Ron Fogarty said. “That’s why he’s going to be a pro hockey player.” Veronneau (6-0, 180) took part in Vegas Golden Knights rookie camp in 2017.