7. Christian Wolanin (Reader Rank: 6, Last Year: 6)
Drafted in the fourth round by Ottawa, in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Christian Wolanin’s road to becoming an NHL mainstay has been a somewhat unconventional one.
Opting for the college hockey route with the University of North Dakota, Wolanin made his Senators debut in the last ten games of the disastrous 2017-2018 season. He impressed right out of the gate, scoring a goal and two assists, and showing an NHL-calibre skating ability.
After his solid start, there was plenty of speculation as to whether or not Christian Wolanin would make the big club out of 2018-2019 training camp. He didn’t turn in his best performance, and rookie Max Lajoie showed out, meaning Wolanin would start the season in Belleville. Perhaps it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, with the 24 year-old appearing to show signs of development. In his on-and-off stints with the B-Sens this year, Wolanin had 31 points in 40 games, on a team that fell just short of the playoffs.
Impressive as that were, it was in Ottawa that Wolanin began to shine. He struggled to find playing time on a Guy Boucher-coached team, which I covered in this piece here, but showed promise when given chances. Christian Wolanin made plays, and finished the NHL campaign with 12 points in 30 games.
The offensive prowess was great to see, but his possession numbers displayed improvement as well. The only defencemen with better metrics than Wolanin were Thomas Chabot and Dylan DeMelo, unsurprisingly, and the youngster appeared more comfortable in his own end and the neutral zone.
The best thing that Wolanin brings to his table, though, is perhaps his attitude. He has shown that he is willing to make sacrifices to help the team win, which is a great quality to see.
With such a season of progression now in his rearview mirror, it appears as if Christian Wolanin has an assured spot on the 2019-2020 NHL roster. However, the Senators have numbers on the left side that may make his life difficult. Thomas Chabot is a lock, with Erik Brannstrom, Ron Hainsey, Mark Borowiecki all vying for playing time.
Hainsey does play the right side, so the controversy will likely come if and when Brannstrom is NHL-ready. We’ll have to see if the new coaching staff is finally one that is willing to scratch Boro in favour of superior talent, if necessary.
Christian Wolanin dropped a bit on this year’s list, mostly due to impressive performances by other players. Regardless, with this being his final appearance on our list, Wolanin seems primed to make the jump from young star to perennial NHL contributor. If he polishes his defensive game, while continuing to make plays in the offensive zone, Christian Wolanin will be a key Ottawa blueliner for years to come.