Evgenii Dadonov: Year in Review

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back for another edition of our Year in Review feature. If you’ve missed any of the previous profiles, check them out below:

Drake Batherson

Erik Brännström

Connor Brown

Josh Brown

Thomas Chabot

In today’s entry, we take a look at the season that was for Evgenii Dadonov. You may recall that one of the rules of this undertaking is that we are limiting ourselves to players who had a meaningful role for the team this past season, i.e played more than 10 games, and were likely to be suiting up for the Sens next season. When we first devised this series Dadonov fit the bill, but now Ottawa has gone and exposed him in the expansion draft so he could very well be starting next season in Seattle. Nonetheless, we press forward!

By the numbers:

Dadonov had a tough go of it offensively during the 2021 season, notching a meagre 13 goals and 7 assists for 20 points in 55 games; a 19 goal, 30 point pace over a full 82 game season. By any definition that production was a disappointment considering the Russian forward had been averaging 66 points per 82 games for his three prior seasons with the Florida Panthers. Most distressingly, Dadonov tallied one measly assist for the whole season on the power play. Add in that a major reason that he was ostensibly brought on was to help fix the Sens’ struggling PP1 unit, and it really cements just how much of a bummer his season was from a scoring perspective.

Hockey, however, is about more than just your individual counting numbers; you can still be a useful player without lighting up the scoresheet. So while Dadonov didn’t rack up the points, the Sens had some of their best success when he was on the ice. Dadonov finished the year sporting a 51.96 CF% and a 50.06 xGF% at 5v5 — he was the only forward on the team who played more than 100 minutes that was above fifty percent in both categories. Here’s how the Hockeyviz model rates him as of this writing:

hockeyviz.com

The model views him as a pretty solid driver of offense, and totally average defensively. After a disappointing start to the year, Dadonov spent the majority of his time alongside Nick Paul and Colin White and the trio were one of DJ Smith’s best all season. Dadonov also spent some time opposite Tim Stützle, and a handful of games with Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris.

Story of the season:

At the time of his signing last off-season, Dadonov’s arrival in Ottawa was heralded as an unqualified success for Pierre Dorion. Not since Clarke MacArthur in 2013 had the Sens signed a UFA of any note and, though it may seem impossible to believe now, virtually everyone was in agreement that it was a good deal for the team to boot. Of course, Dadonov’s offensive struggles began almost immediately, and he had a meagre one goal and two assists for three points in the first twelve games. Folks began to ask the question: how much of Dadonov’s scoring in Florida was a result of riding shotgun with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau? However, Dadonov then went on something of a tear with five goals in his next five games; including two against the Toronto Maple Leafs that you may remember:

So after a very slow start, the prized UFA acquisition had caught fire and had just finished delivering two clutch goals to complete one of the franchise’s most dramatic comebacks. Dadonov’s line with Paul and White was clicking. Almost a third of the way through the year, things were on the up and up. Unfortunately, that game in February was the highlight of the season as he would only net seven more goals in the last 38 games.

Part of Dadonov’s struggles could be attributed to bad luck: especially early in the year on the power play, Dadonov found himself the victim of some spectacular saves and some of his best passes went unfinished. He also struggled to execute some of the skilled plays the Sens were clearly expecting from him. At times, he looked physically over-matched; almost like he was out of shape. It was a bit surreal.

Still, Dadonov’s season wasn’t all bad and he had as much of a hand in the success of his line with Paul and White as the other two. Smith eventually pulled him off the first power play unit but Dadonov continued to get good minutes at 5v5. If his scoring was a disappointment, he was still doing enough other good things to warrant ice time. At the end of the day Dadonov didn’t deliver what the team had expected but it wasn’t a total disaster, either.

Future Outlook:

Before the Sens elected to expose Dadonov, I would have written that both he and the team were heading into next year both hoping that he’d re-discover his scoring touch but now there’s a very good chance chance his time in the nation’s capital will come to an end after just one season. Clearly Ottawa must view Dadonov’s contract as a large negative value because he was still fifth on the team in goal-scoring despite the struggles — and next year’s projected roster looks like it could well be lacking in skill up front. Maybe Seattle will see him the same way and elect not to add a player coming off a career-worst season at age 32.

If Dadonov does return to Ottawa, he’ll likely slot in as the 3RW behind Connor Brown and Drake Batherson. Likely Smith would reunite him with White and Paul, and everyone would be hoping for some better luck on the man advantage. But for now we’ll need to see just what happens on Wednesday night to know if there’ll be another chapter in this story.

Comments

It’s really hard to predict whether this was a one year blip (new team, limited prep, got out of shape during Covid etc.) or something more systemic (getting older, needs elite partners etc.). My gut sense is that it is part way in between the two. That is, he’ll never be the player he was with Hubredeau, but his underlying metrics say he can get more production than he got this year.

I’m not sure whether he’ll get selected by Seattle. They’ve got a lot to choose from and a salary cap to mind. It may depend whether some other team wants him and will flip Seattle some future picks for him.

Good points

I’m disappointed we exposed him. I think he has value to this team, and was a valuable UFA that chose here, which sadly doesn’t happen too much. Right now I’m actually hoping Seattle chooses Daccord, and Dadanov gets another crack at getting into form. I think it’s probably down to those two.

Rather lose Murray, either one helps though with 4 spots for Murray, Gus, Daccord, Forsberg, Soggard, Mandolease next year unless we loan one to another team for an occasional ECHL start

Not that it would be my preference, but its possible to give something to Seattle to ensure Murray is selected, then platoon Forsberg, Gus and Daccord. I have seen this approach taken, until a top goalie is revealed. Downside is if neither proves capable of being the #1 or we don’t have success, you have traded a goalie who has done this and was starting to look good, in the 2nd half of last season.

My preference is to have Murray, Forsberg in the NHL and let Gus get some games in both leagues, with Daccord being the starter in the AHL should he not be taken, if he can hold off the contenders. I think there are options for 1 of Soogaard and/or Mandolese for ECHL if this comes to pass. By the trade deadline, you will have a picture of who stays long term and who is available, allowing you to pull up the goalie from the ECHL to the AHL. If all goes according to plan, you deal Forsberg at the TDL, if Murray has been replaced, you deal with it in the offseason, unless you can find him a new home at the TDL, but my guess is Murray starts and finishes much better than last year and is the #1 long term here.

If last season is any indication, one or two will be assigned to the IR on a rotating basis.

Very true. I can’t think of a time, post the first 15 games, a goaltender wasn’t on LTIR.

I mean, I’d rather them take Murray too, but i don’t think it’s realistic. I think they take Dadanov if they need some pop, and Daccord if they want some cheap organizational depth. Possible they take Josh Brown for some cheap RHD, I guess, which is why I’m annoyed they didn’t expose Zaitsev.

Wouldn’t it be funny if Seattle claimed him, and then flipped him to Florida for three draft picks? It’s not like a west coast team has never done that with one of our forwards before At least Florida knows he can be successful there.

I hope Dadanov stays and straightens out his game. It seems a shame to have someone with his potential skating on the third line, although it seems to be more of a 2A and 2B line. Like you say, there are several reasons why his performance may have dropped off, and I’m betting Ottawa uses very different systems – especially the PP setup – from the ones Florida did.

Dadonov is not the right winger I would have exposed, that would be Watson, but I’m less convinced now that he’ll be chosen than when the rumours first started last week that he was not on the Sens protected list. There is a lot more talent, some of it expensive, for Seattle to choose from than I was expecting; I could envision a situation where Daccord makes more sense for financial reasons. If that’s the case, Sens should thank their lucky stars because I think this forward group was already thin enough to begin with and losing a useful, skilled player wouldn’t help.

I know there are people that don’t like the history of Austin Watson, but I liked how he played last year for us. Scoring per 60, you couldn’t ask for much more, from the 4th line and previous expectations. I am glad he was protected.

I think he was totally fine as a 4th liner, though his effectiveness was a bit oversated, imo (Sens got caved when he was on the ice all year). But whatever, fine on your 4th line playing minimal minutes. Dadonov is a lot better (even in last year’s performance) than a 4th liner. That’s all there is to it for me. You can get a guy as good as Austin Watson for nothing tomorrow; you’re going to have a much harder time doing that for Dadonov. The Sens badly need any amount of skilled guys they can find right now.

Exactly

Watson’s kind of players are available everywhere and for cheap.What we need is talent and Watson is not that.I like him for what he bring but lets be honest…he’s not the difference between a win or a loss.I suspect that Dorion consulted DJ and im pretty sure that he got told to keep Watson.

I hope that Tierney is taken…ive seen enough from him

I wanted them to expose Logan Brown over Watson or Dadanov. Seattle taking Logan Brown seems like a win win. Change of scenery might boost his career, and he’s run out of rope here so I don’t think he would be missed.

If we are steering them to a player we want them to take, Logan Brown being used as a sweetener is ok for me. Even if I still think he might be a NHL player with potential. I don’t think it happens here.

Right on

If we can only protect 7 forwards, it seems weird to protect a fourth liner. I like Watson, and what he brings, but is he really that hard to replace?

BTW, that irrelevant replacement level AHL tweener, Balcers, was protected by San jose. So interpretation and projection are very different from team to team.

I didn’t want to poke the bear, but I saw that and was going to say something similar.

Lots of people saying Dadanov is going to be the one to go, but the mock draft at the Athletic had them picking Tierney. I’m hoping Dadanov stays. I think he’ll bounce back next year.

The Hockey News picked Tierney too

Here’s their reasoning:

He’s been my Ottawa pick in every mock draft. Plays center, can operate as a penalty killer and support scorer in a middle-six role, has a flippable expiring deal. He’s a more flexible piece to add than Evgenii Dadonov.

Certainly the salary and expiring nature of Tierney’s contract makes him attractive. He could easily be sold at the deadline depending on Seattle’s season.

Yeah, that "flip at the deadline" argument seems to be a common theme with several players: Giordano, Holtby, Shattenkirk, Demelo are names I’ve seen. But there’s got to be a limit as to how many of these deals you can do. Maybe 5?

Dadonov

I think he can rebound this upcoming season.I dont have last season stats but it look like his most common linemates were White and Paul who are not exactly very good offensive players.

I don’t see how Dadonov would take place of DJ’s boytoy Connor Brown so it will not be easy for Dadonov to elevate much his offensive game if his linemates are 3rd liners again.

I am not that worried about Dadanov being taken by Seattle

If it happens, it happens, but I am not convinced it is the likeliest outcome. Dadanov’s contract is not bad, but probably more than teams would want to take a gamble on. I am pretty optimistic for Dadanov next season. With a year in Ottawa and a normal off-season and training camp, I expect him to bounce back somewhat. A 40+ point season does not seem out of the question, even if he mostly players on the 3rd line.

Better numbers than I expected from Dadanov

He did seem to make a lot of clever plays in the offensive zone that didn’t quite come off. I would be tempted to give him another try with Norris and Tkachuk next season. DJ likes to balance the lines and I think Batherson could do fine adding offense on another line, like with White and Paul or Pinto and Stuetzle.

Also, we’ll see who the mythical top 6 centre turns out to be. Maybe it turns out to be somone who has chemistry with Dadanov.

I wouldn't worry about losing Dadanov...

Unless they are looking in a direction that requires his cap hit…

I am more concerned about losing Daccord. Our misguided attempts at developing our goaltending pedigree as such…

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