Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25: Roundtable

We offer our thoughts on how this year’s ranking played out.

Another summer of ranking the outstanding young talent in the Ottawa Senators’ system has come to an end. Thomas Chabot successfully defended the #1 spot, with Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stützle close behind.

Thank you to each and every one of you who voted, and/or read along with the series over the past month! It’s time to hear from the staff at Silver Seven Sens for their thoughts on how this year’s list played out:

Was there anyone whose ranking surprised you, on either the high or the low end?

Ary: I think I would’ve ranked Sanderson a smidge higher and unranked Logan Brown and Vitaly Abramov. There’s a chance Abe still plays for the Senators but I’d be surprised if Brown ever does at this point.

Beata: No, I don’t think so. I thought it was really difficult to rank the players this year, so I know everyone’s rankings differed quite a bit, but they all made sense to me. I ranked Victor Mete higher than most so I guess I was a bit surprised to see him fall to 14 just because he has actual NHL experience, but looking at the players ahead of him I can’t really argue against any of those being ahead of him. We had an impressive group this year.

Owen: I’m not necessarily surprised given how close the margins were but I’m general I think we’re still sleeping on Angus Crookshank.

Ross: Not really. Maybe I’ll say Tyler Boucher. Not that I think he was too low, but it’s bizarre that a top-10 pick can’t even top our top 20. Even the reader rank was 17, which is a testament to the depth of the system and the off-the-boardness of the Boucher pick.

Shaan: There are a few spots that I’d personally look at switching around — for example, I’d put Sanderson above Brännström, Pinto above White, and drop Brown a few more spots, but I’m not surprised by anyone’s placement this year.

Spencer: I don’t think we had anyone this year who was wildly surprising from a ranking perspective. If we have to get picky, I guess I was a bit surprised at where Filip Gustavsson landed, after such a stellar stint in the NHL last year. If we were going to have a top 10 goalie, it was going to be him but he fell outside of that.

Trevor: Most of the rankings were pretty normal in my mind, although I was surprised that others also had Lassi Thomson quite low (including the readers). It’s not as if he’s a lost cause, but I’m not very confident in his future value compared to other players around him. I thought his first-round pedigree would’ve still kept him higher though.

Are there any players outside of the top 25 that you think have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level?

Ary: Absolutely. I fully expect Tyler Kleven to play games because of his pedigree, Philippe Daoust and Oliver Johansson are two smaller prospects who have skill that excites me, and I think Zack Ostapchuk is in for a big year in the WHL.

Beata: There are a few. Mandolese is the one that jumps out the most to me.

Owen: Kevin Mandolese could still surprise us. Jakov Novak and Philippe Daoust are very much still on my radar for next year.

Ross: Kleven and Mandolese are the obvious choices here, but I have a soft spot for Tychonick. I think he may take a while, but I expect him to get at least a cup of coffee somewhere in the NHL. I was also the biggest proponent of Högberg as an NHL goalie though, so...

Shaan: I think there are quite a few players outside the Top 25 that could carve out NHL depth roles, but the one player with impact potential in my opinion is Zach Ostapchuk. He’s a raw prospect with a lack of production in prior seasons but he’s got enough talent that he has an outside chance at becoming a good NHL player.

Spencer: I can see players like Tyler Kleven and Mark Kastelic playing at the NHL level but having a true impact? I’m not so sure. Of those that fell out of the top 25, I’d put my money on someone like Philippe Daoust coming out and surprising us. From what I’ve seen and read, he appears to have a lot of the tools you need to be an impact player in the NHL but he’s lacking in the skating department. That’s something NHL teams can and certainly have fixed (hello Mark Stone and Egor Sokolov).

Trevor: Honestly I think there are quite a few. Probably not “impact” as in top players, but Tyler Kleven seems destined to be a physical 3rd pairing player, Kevin Mandolese has shown flashes of brilliance, Philippe Daoust had an underrated QMJHL season, Viktor Lodin and Oliver Johansson are interesting wildcards, and Zack Ostapchuk could be a good bottom-6 player.

For all of the goalie prospects in the system, none made into this year’s top 10. Is this at all a cause for concern?

Ary: I don’t think so. It’s clear that the Senators have depth but no real ‘star’, and given that platooning will likely become the norm at the NHL level, I’m okay with where the Senators stand in the goaltending department.

Beata: No, not really. Goalies are hard to evaluate, and they take a long time to develop.

Owen: No cause for concern. Ottawa’s goalies are still pretty young and goalies tend to have a pretty long developmental arc.

Ross: No. Look at the guys ahead of Gus: players with full seasons in the NHL; the best defenceman in the NCAA; a Hobey Baker finalist. It’s the strength of the players ahead of him, not any issue with Gus.

Shaan: The fact that Gustavsson finished outside the Top 10 is less of an indictment of him and has more to do with the level of talent in the Senators’ system. There’s no reason to be concerned about any of him, Søgaard, and Meriläinen at this stage, but goalies are incredibly volatile so things could change very quickly.

Spencer: I honestly think we’re all a bit scared to rank goalies high. Marcus Högberg looked like he was going to be something and now he’s no longer in the organization. Gustavsson was great last year, but it was an off-year with a short sample size. Søgaard came in and was a brick wall for Belleville through seven games but it was just seven games. The good news is we appear to have three goaltenders in the top 25 and one (Mandolese) sitting just outside the top 25. Enough lottery tickets and you’re bound to win at some point.

Trevor: Not at all. That’s just a testament to how deep their pool is, plus it’s rare for any system to have highly rated goalies because of their unpredictable nature.

Shane Pinto and Filip Gustavsson were the biggest movers on this year’s list. Who do you think has the potential to jump up the rankings for next year’s list?

Ary: Of those we ranked? Tyler Boucher, Angus Crookshank, Lassi Thomson, and Roby Järventie.

Beata: There are a lot of options, and it will probably depend on who gets the most NHL ice time this year. With that in mind, I’m going to put my money on Egor Sokolov.

Owen: Other than goalies who tend to move the most and the sleepers I already mentioned (Crookshank, Novak, and Daoust) I’d say Boucher and Kleven are the obvious bets.

Ross: The easy answers here are Boucher or Tyler Kleven. A big college season from either will see the rocket up our rankings.

Shaan: Egor Sokolov had to work extremely hard to be drafted by the Senators and is now eyeing an NHL roster spot this season, and if he can lock it down and perform in a third-line role, I expect him to crack the Top 10 next year.

Spencer: I think Ridly Greig will be next year’s biggest mover. We’ll have Chabot and White graduating, I believe, which means two spots will open in the top 10. Greig is going to either make the NHL and jump into the top 10 or he’s going to go back to Brandon, dominate the WHL, and make the top 10. Either way, he’s our mover. Place your bets.

Trevor: There are a few that could/should take jumps like Egor Sokolov, Ridly Greig, and Angus Crookshank, but my money’s on Leevi Meriläinen at 22. He simply has more spots to jump ahead, and I think he’s going to crush the competition in the OHL for Kingston.

Lastly, with Chabot set to graduate before next year’s ranking, is Brady Tkachuk a lock for the top spot, or could someone else snatch the throne away from him?

Ary: I’m all aboard the Tim Stützle train.

Beata: It’ll obviously depend on what happens this year, but I’m going to agree with the other writers and say that Stützle has the potential to overtake him.

Owen: Other than Timmy, Norris and Brännström seem like the most likely guys with the potential to do it.

Ross: It depends on Stützle’s sophomore season. Tkachuk is a leader and the heart of this team, but Stützle has the largest amount of raw skill and is the only player under 25 with the potential to pass him in our rankings.

Shaan: I expect a battle between Tkachuk and Stützle for the #1 spot next year. I had Stützle higher than Tkachuk on this year’s list, as I’m a believer in his potential to be the best player on the team. The year after, it’ll be Jake Sanderson’s turn to make his move/

Spencer: It will all depend on Tim Stützle and the always possible sophomore slump. If Stützle takes the next step this season and becomes a 60+ point player at age 19, he will leap-frog Tkachuk in my books. Unless, of course, Tkachuk storms the castle and puts up his own 60-70 point campaign. The top spot is Tkachuk’s to lose, in my opinion, but I think Stützle has the skill and scoring ability to take it.

Trevor: I actually had Stützle at 2 because I think he’s just going to be the better player long-term. I’d be a bit surprised if he doesn’t overtake Brady in the overall rankings because of how much skill he has at such a young age. We all love both of them, but I think this is Tim’s for the taking if he keeps progressing as he should.

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