Pop quiz: what do Viktor Lodin, Philippe Daoust, Angus Crookshank, Mads Søgaard, and Maxence Guenette all have in common (other than the Ottawa Senators drafting them)? Well they all missed out on our annual Top 25 Under 25 rankings at least once before eventually making the cut. (I always believed in them, though.) And thus I assembled them in my honourable mentions lists of years past. Now I must confess that I have gotten some of my honourable mention predictions wrong over the years (including three of the five players I’ll profile (again!) today) but I gotta real good feeling this time, folks! Every year I think Ottawa’s prospect pool will thin out to a point when we’ll scrape the bottom of the barrel just to get to 25. And yet here we are in the year of our lord 2022 and we still have some pretty decent Senators who couldn’t crack the 25.
As always, we have a bit of a mix of high-ceiling and high-floor players and naturally no one who comes with any guarantees of cracking the NHL roster and making a difference. Nonetheless, I think I think all five of these players have just enough going for them that I personally had some of them in the top-25 on my ballot and some of you readers did too! Will they all make it to Ottawa? Probably not. Some of them might never even sign contracts with the organization. But I’m batting .500 so far in this series so I’ll step up to the plate and take another swing. If you have any favourite prospects who didn’t make the Top 25 then by all means please let us know in the comments section why they deserve praise in their own right!
Even with goaltenders for whom we have available NHL data, I feel apprehensive writing about goaltenders (it hasn’t stopped me lately apparently). So in the case of someone like Mandolese who has played parts of just two seasons professionally, I feel especially unqualified to offer any real insight into how he’ll develop into an NHL goaltender. Since he blew my proverbial socks off with his play in the QMJHL from 2019 to 2020, Mandolese has had mixed results in the AHL and ECHL. He hasn’t played atrociously by the standards of a rookie netminder making the jump from junior to the minors, but he also hasn’t strung together enough quality starts to ever challenge the likes of Joey Daccord, Filip Gustavsson, or Søgaard. Good news for Mandolese though! The Sens have now parted ways with Daccord, Gustavsson, and Marcus Hogberg, and Kevin Reidler just turned 18. You could say Mandolese finally has a clear path for his ascent.
As an August birthday, and a sixth-rounder no less, Mandolese always had a tall order in front of him, proving himself in a junior league not known for defence and somehow subsequently climbing over three other goaltenders in the Sens’ depth chart. In this, the last year of his ELC, Mandolese probably has some extra incentive to make some strides. I recall a time when we figured the Sens might not even bother signing Mandolese. He responded with a QMJHL campaign for the ages. Assuming Anton Forsberg and Cam Talbot both stay healthy and effective, Mandolese will have to focus on keeping pace with Søgaard to split the crease with Ottawa’s top goaltending prospect in Belleville. If Søgaard somehow forces his way into the crease in Ottawa then Mandolese will have to sink or swim as the number-one guy in Belleville. I would personally find it even more interesting if the Sens (once inevitably faced with injury or ineffectiveness in Ottawa) opt to keep giving Søgaard the lion’s share in Belleville to audition Mandolese as back-up in Ottawa where his projected ceiling probably places him. Spencer did a better job breaking down the actual numbers in this post.
Do you like polarizing stay-at-home defenders?! Well, I definitely have a treat for you. I won’t add too much about Kleven’s omission from the Top-25 this year because we already talked about that at length in our round table discussion. We know that fans love Kleven’s aptitude for crushing bones. We know that his ceiling probably places him on the third pair in the NHL. We know that he doesn’t put up the offensive numbers you might expect from a former second-round pick. No one in their right mind would compare Kleven to Zdeno Chara but at the same time I always make the comparison when watching video of Kleven (my right mind went to the store for smokes). Kleven just has such easy power (if I can borrow another baseball phrase) and he skates really well for his size. The fluidity and effortlessness of his game looks incommensurate with his oversized, lanky frame. I reiterate that he won’t turn into the second coming of Chara but Kleven certainly does his best Chara impression shaking off opponents with such ease.
Ottawa still has until 2024 to sign Kleven, and with Thomas Chabot, Jake Sanderson, and Erik Brännström in the mix, they’ll bide their time. That bodes well for Kleven because young defenders can always use more time to work on the finer details of their skating, positioning, and puck management skills. In my extremely unpopular opinion, I’d like to see Kleven (just like I said with Ridly Greig) clean up his game in order to spend less time in the penalty box or on the injured reserve. I know this runs contrary to what most fans want out of the next Mark Borowiecki, or Matt Carkner, or Anton Volchenkov. I believe in the offensive upside that Kleven exhibits at times though and I think he has enough skill and hockey sense to make a difference on an NHL team without decapitating his opponents. Kleven can shoot the puck, he can separate opponents from the puck without taking penalties, and he can make effective breakout passes. But he can’t do those things unless he’s on the ice.
🚨🇸🇪Oliver Johansson scored a *beauty* goal in Timrå's final pre-season game on Wednesday— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) September 14, 2022
Timrå kicks off the SHL regular season on Saturday. We'll soon find out if Johansson gets a look in their lineup.#GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/SeuKkUYTuX
Coming out of the draft last summer, we didn’t have a tonne of publicly available information about Johansson and with fewer than 20 SHL games under his belt (and having just turned 19) we still don’t have a lot to work with. We know that unlike a lot of Ottawa’s other draft picks in recent years, Johansson has more of a low-floor/high-ceiling type of projection based on his size and skillset, a la Vitaly Abramov of recent vintage. Johansson still hasn’t found his place in the SHL, but then again teenagers who thrive in Sweden’s best league usually don’t slide down to the third-round of the NHL draft. If you follow our weekly prospect reports, then you know that Johansson put up a zillion points in junior last season, and by all accounts he needs to play with Timrå IK’s professional squad (former home of Viktor Lodin) this year to take the next stop in his development. Expect some rougher stretches in the development process but also keep in mind that Ottawa has until 2025 to sign the centre/left winger. We know from the scouting reports that Johansson has that traditional profile of compensating for his smaller frame with plus skating ability, and he has the offensive instincts to separate himself from his peers. Johansson comes with virtually no guarantees of maturing into a professional hockey player in North America though so I can understand while a lot of voters felt reluctant about including him in their top-25 ballots. In a farm system laden with higher-floor, depth type forwards though, Ottawa could really use a speedy winger like Johansson.
Nothing much has changed for Reinhardt in terms of his scouting report since his inclusion on this same list last season but in that timespan he has become a fixture on Belleville’s roster and impressed Ottawa’s coaching staff and management enough to get called up for an NHL game last spring. As an overaged former sixth-rounder, Reinhardt’s production lines up pretty much exactly where you would expect it to, but he has really set himself apart with his defensive play and his usefulness on the penalty kill. Reinhardt might rank higher on some other teams’ depth charts based on his potential to immediately slide into the NHL as a fourth-line, shutdown type winger, but Ottawa’s prospect pool again makes it a daunting task for fringe player. I would argue that the inclusion of players like Parker Kelly and Mark Kastelic on our top-25 this year indicates the strong possibility that Reinhardt makes the jump next season. We do have a tendency to occasionally let immediate NHL impact outweigh long-term projectable skills (again the floor versus ceiling discussion). Reinhardt enters this season on the second year of his ELC and he still has plenty of time to prove to the organization that they won’t have to look for external options when the time comes to round out the bottom-six.
If Johansson and Reinhardt represent to ends of the prospect spectrum then Latimer resides somewhere in the middle. Latimer doesn’t have Johansson upside but the former gets good reviews for his play in all three zones. Latimer doesn’t come with the same guarantees as Reinhardt but the former fourth-rounder has shown a bit more of a scoring touch in the WHL than the latter. If you look at the other players that Ottawa has drafted out of the WHL in recent years, Latimer fits that same mold of good hockey sense and a consistent effort level every shift. It probably sounds like a bad thing to a lot of Sens fans but Latimer reminds me somewhat of another former Oil King in Curtis Lazar—minus the expectations. The organization somewhat miscast Lazar when he never really figured as an offensive contributor in the NHL. With that in mind, Lazar had and has the ability to play on both sides of the puck in the NHL and has carved out a role more appropriate for his skillset later in his career. A change of scenery seemed to help Latimer last season as Edmonton traded him to Prince Albert and a full season with an expanded role as a veteran in the WHL should give us a better idea of Latimer’s future with the Senators organization (the Sens need to sign him by 2023). I thought Latimer had a pretty decent rookie camp but for now he’ll go back to the Raiders.
I look forward to another season of prospect coverage with all of you here at S7S!