Coming into the season, one of the biggest question marks for the Senators was their bottom-six forwards that looked like a mishmash of players with not a lot of upside. The team has only played four games so far, and there is plenty of time for things to change, but the bottom-six has had some solid contributors.
It is nice to see some pleasant surprises in the early going, and hopefully the 3rd and 4th line can be much better than in years past. Three players in particular that I want to point out are Ryan Dzingel, Zack Smith, and Tom Pyatt. They have all been fantastic in their first four contests.
Of course, Smith has been playing on the second line due to Clarke MacArthur being out, but I’ll include him in this list because he was never supposed to be a second-line player and with a healthy team he’d be on the third line.
Let’s start with Dzingel first, who has been one of Ottawa’s most impressive forwards. I don’t think he has a super high offensive ceiling, but I’m convinced that he’s a legitimate NHL player that will be very helpful for the Senators moving forward. He has only 34 games to his name, but he has all the skills necessary to be successful—-and his three points in four games shows that.
Speed is one of the things that Guy Boucher strongly emphasizes, and it’s obvious that he’s going to love playing Dzingel every single night. The modern NHL game is a fast brand of hockey, and Dzingel fits right in:
Sens' first goal tonight. Speed kills. And Ryan Dzingel is quite speedy. pic.twitter.com/733SgirKKf— Callum Fraser (@CallumFraser18) October 15, 2016
He’s also been a solid possession player early on, with a 51.85 CF%, and ranks 6th on the team in that category. It seems like he can be a jack-of-all-trades player that can fit on various spots throughout the lineup. It’s easy to see him being a 30+ point player, and on the third line that’s immensely valuable when you factor in his defensive skills as well. Things are looking up for the Dzinger.
Then there’s Zack Smith who...looks like a completely different player compared to two years ago. I mean, this is the same guy who almost went an entire 365 days without scoring. Yes he scored 25 goals last year, but it was hard to imagine him picking up right where he left off. However, that’s exactly what he’s done so far. Even the luck is still there for him:
Zack Smith goal pic.twitter.com/5aefDtVq09— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 15, 2016
Smith already has two goals and one assist, and looks like he actually belongs on the second line. All of a sudden, Ottawa might have a second and third line left-winger without even having MacArthur. It seems like he has become a completely different offensively-minded player that can be a threat at any time.
Plus it certainly helps that he can kill penalties, and even score short-handed. He really is trying his best to prove his doubters wrong. Perhaps playing at centre (and with bad teammates) made it impossible for him to succeed, and I hope that he can at least keep some of this going.
Tom Pyatt is probably someone that most Senators fans forgot they had until the pre-season started. He wasn’t talked about much in the off-season, mostly because nobody thought he would make the team. However, Boucher loves how he plays, and to his credit I can see why.
Pyatt had played 245 games in the NHL prior to this year, which isn’t that many considering he’s 29 years old. His 57 career points shows that he hasn’t been an offensive threat, although his three points so far is a good start.
He isn’t someone that needs to be spectacular playing on the 3rd or 4th line, but he looks better than competent—-he looks solid. And the thing is, even competent would be an upgrade. But he has played well on the penalty kill, and even had a nice assist on Smith’s goal against Arizona:
The shot attempts while he’s on the ice are 35-39, but the quality of those shots are different. The scoring chances are 21-13, and the high-danger shot attempts are 12-7, so when he’s been on the ice (in this limited sample), the opponents haven’t been able to get too many great opportunities.
Even just with the eye test, he looks like a solid bottom-six contributor. I didn’t think he’d be much of a factor with the team this year, but if he can play well in his own zone and kill penalties, then I’m all for keeping him in the lineup.
All three of these players have impressed in the first four games, and it’s imperative that they (or some other players) can keep this going, because good teams can roll three or four good lines and not get killed.
Like I said in the beginning, things can change quickly, and four game samples are not very large. Nevertheless, Dzingel, Smith, and Pyatt have all made fantastic impressions, and for now they have made Ottawa’s depth at forward much better. So far, so good for the depth forwards on the Senators.
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