Question: Before last season started, we asked whether we thought Brady Tkachuk would stick with the Senators the entire season, play in Belleville (AHL), or join the London Knights (OHL). Almost everyone on the staff (sorry, Ary and Spencer) agreed that he’d play 55+ games in Ottawa, with Beata coming the closest with 70. Was Tkachuk’s 45 points in 71 games (22G, 23A) the team’s biggest surprise? What do you think next season has in store for our collective son as he heads into his sophomore campaign?
Brandon: I think Brady Tkachuk was undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the season. I said at the beginning of the year that he’d stick with the big club, and the Senators would market heavily on rebuilding around him, but I don’t think anyone expected him to have the campaign he did. Impressive point totals aside, the most remarkable aspect of his season was how he performed after the ‘Big 3’ were traded. How Tkachuk would fare without Mark Stone on his line was a worrisome question, but the 19 year-old casted any doubts aside and emerged as the team’s leader up front. Guys, we really have a player here. This kid is a stud, he’s got a nose for the net and he’s a beast on his feet. After a summer where he has a chance to recover from any nagging injuries, and put on a bit more size, I expect him to build on his rookie year. I’m really excited about Brady Tkachuk in 2020.
Ary: As someone who was critical of the pick (yes, I’ll own it), Tkachuk’s ability to drive play consistently really impressed me, as he cemented himself as a top-six forward on this team for years to come. I always knew he’d be an agitator and would head to the net, but he played with a lot better hockey sense than I imagined based on his time at Boston University. What’s especially promising is how he was able to take the puck to the net as a 19-year-old against stronger players, and as he continues to gain strength, I can only see that area of his game getting better with time. Next season, I’m hoping that he’ll improve on his skating and balance — two qualities that will help him protect the puck better — as he aims to carry the team’s top-line as a second year pro. I think it’s a lot to ask, so I’m not really expecting his point total to shoot up dramatically, but I think we’ll see a better all-around year from the team’s future captain.
Colin: As one of Tkachuk’s biggest critics on draft day (I had him ranked around 8-12), I think the least of the concerns when the Sens took him would be his NHL readiness. As the oldest player taken in the draft, and with his physical maturity, the fact that he was able to crack Ottawa’s top six didn’t come as much of a surprise (his marketability also helps). The fact that he elevated his game to another level, and sustained that throughout the entire season — that was the big surprise. I still have questions about his ceiling, although his floor is probably the highest I’ve seen from any prospect in years.
I expect his sophomore campaign to be pretty similar to this season. Even though the points kept coming when Mark Stone left his line, his on-ice results definitely started to fade. Mix that in with some personal improvements, and I’d expect him to be a first line staple (who else would play L1?), with decent contributions both offensively and defensively. Given the rest of the roster, it might even be likely that he leads the team in points next year.
Nada: I was devastated when the Sens drafted Tkachuk over Zadina; in disbelief they could mess up that pick. I have gladly been proven very wrong throughout the season and no matter how good Zadina becomes in the future, if Tkachuk continues on this path I am very happy with the type of player he is. So yes, this season from our youngster has been quite the shock to say the least; and not just point wise. Tkachuk really fit in the big league in record time and managed to become a force (mind you he needs to still grow) and a pest right away. He didn’t need much time to really get they NHL shyness away or adjust to the big plays. What was more impressive is he continued to show really good play after the Stone trade which is comforting in the sense that his success wasn’t just purely the result of Stone, although that probably helped the transition quite a bit. I hope I’m not wrong again, but Tkachuk has the potential to be one of the top players this team once he gains more strength and maturity.
Ross: Tkachuk is definitely in the running for biggest surprise of the year. I’d say it’s Colin White has my vote after making the jump from “could have a spot in the NHL” to “definitely in the top six”. But, Tkachuk had all of us wringing our hands at the draft, and now he’s our most fun player, the kind of guy who gets under opponents’ skin, scores goals, and has floss-offs with fans. Just goes to show you that drafting isn’t a science.
Brad: I figured he would stick, but I didn’t think he would excel the way he has and I think even the biggest Tkachuk supporter would admit to being a bit surprised about his point totals this season. With some off-season improvements in strength and conditioning, I think we’ll see him continue to grow into the role of a grade-A net front presence and all-around agitator.
Question: Coming off the heels of the Erik Karlsson trade, the staff deliberated who would be shipped out next. There were five votes for Zack Smith, who was placed on waivers shortly after, a vote for Craig Anderson, and a couple full-blown pessimists suggesting Matt Duchene or Mark Stone. No one guessed Chris Wideman, who was traded to the Oilers on November 22nd, or Tom Pyatt, who was traded on January 2nd. Of course, trades to Duchene, Dzingel, and Stone followed the month after, in addition to many minor league transactions. With a roster that’s completely in flux heading into the offseason, who do you think will be the next Senator to be traded?
Brandon: This is a tough question, because we all have a good idea of who should be traded, but it’s unlikely that we’re right on any of those counts. On top of that, anyone they would possibly want to trade, like Lindberg, Gibbons, and Paajarvi are all currently UFA’s, so the Sens don’t have a lot of leverage there. Cody Ceci is an RFA, so they might be able to fetch a decent price for his rights, but we know by now that nice things don’t happen to us. I think Ottawa’s next trade will be one of two players, and I don’t know that either are likely. I think Mikkel Boedker or Craig Anderson will be the next Senator to be moved, with Boedker being the more probable of the two. He was a healthy scratch at the end of the season, and there already isn’t enough room for all of the kids to get a sustained look next season. At $4M a year, they might keep him to hit the floor, but I’d like to see Boedker flipped for a late pick or two, since Ottawa only has seven in this year’s draft, as opposed to 12 next year. In terms of Andy, it’s not clear to me that he wants to stick around for the last year of his contract. Trading him to a Cup contender looking to bolster their performance in between the pipes, and retaining some salary, might prove beneficial for both sides. I love Andy, he’s the greatest goaltender in Senators history, but this would be merciful on him.
Ary: Like Brandon, I’ll go with Mikkel Boedker. I think the Sens could potentially retain some cap-hit, and a team would be willing to add him in a third-line/PP2 role as a “veteran” player. This technically isn’t a trade, but as Brandon mentioned goaltending, I wonder what Mike Condon’s future holds and if the team would consider buying him out. With Marcus Hogberg on track to be an NHL backup and Craig Anderson around for another season, in addition to Joey Daccord and Filip Gustavsson in Belleville, there are too many chefs in the crease.
Colin: Every year the answer has been pretty off-the-board, so I’ll go off-the-board and guess Christian Wolanin. Something will have to give on the left side if they want to play Erik Brannstrom regularly, and he hasn’t really been receiving any favours from Dorion or his coaches. I think Ceci is here for the long haul, and a Boedker trade wouldn’t make sense because the Sens need to hit the cap floor. It’ll be a pretty quiet off-season, so the next roster player trade may not come until October.
Nada: Not Cody Ceci. In all seriousness, I think the goalie situation is a bit messy here and I still have no idea what’s going on with Condon. I don’t see them trading Anderson and I guess Nilsson is just going to walk. I’m going with a bit of a stretch here and say it’ll be either Hogberg or if it’s on the big club, Pageau.
Ross: After Stone wasn’t extended long term, we all knew the teardown was coming. As much as the media tried to give us hope, we all were pretty sure everyone was headed out. This year, it’s hard to know who gets traded first. I’m betting on Zack Smith with retained salary now that he’s in the second-last year of his contract, but who knows. Almost every veteran player on this team could be traded or given an assistant captain job.
Brad: Without knowing who the next coach is going to be, and without knowing who the President of Hockey Ops is going to be, this question is tough to answer. Without either of those two voices shifting things, I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of trade action but left defence is crowded. I’ll say Andreas Englund has his RFA rights traded at the draft. For team regulars, I think Boedker will get flipped closer to the deadline.