Weekly Question: The Next Most Valuable Senator
Which Senator will put the contery on there back?
I’m not sure if anyone around here has mentioned this lately but—uhh—the Senators haven’t played a hockey game in seven months and won’t play another one for at least two more. So, I think, to an extent we can all forgive each other for getting a little overzealous about the draft, free agency, and any trades made along the way. It’s far easier to keep all of the housekeeping in perspective when balanced out with actual games. We live in a strange time, though, and everyone copes in their own way so no sweat if we may have gotten carried away in our armchair GM extravaganzas.
We will eventually watch another Senators game, as soon as January (assuming the league can clear numerous logistical hurdles). And by then, we can expect a drastically different Senators roster from the one we last saw in March. Back in the before times, among forwards, Brady Tkachuk, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Anthony Duclair had made strong cases for their nominations as most valuable Senator. Among defenders, Thomas Chabot stood head and shoulders above the rest, while Marcus Högberg had an admirable performance in net that didn’t quite earn him consideration as most valuable Senator overall. Age and injuries beset Craig Anderson and Anders Nilsson respectively. All that to say, with Pageau and Duclair (in all likelihood) not returning to Ottawa next season, Tkachuk, Chabot, and Högberg will be early favourites to earn the title as most valuable Senator in 2021.
So who do you expect to separate themselves from the pack in 2021? Up front, as established, it’s Brady Tkachuk’s crown to lose as he’ll look to surpass his 20-goal, 45-point pace from his first two NHL seasons. As Shaan explained earlier this week, Colin White could have a big turnaround season, and White’s my bet for most valuable Senator in 2021 with those strong nerd stats. Expect White to finally crack the 20-goal mark.
Hot on Brady and Colin’s heels are rookies Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, and Josh Norris, all of whom had dominant seasons in Belleville last year and have the potential to match Tkachuk’s 40-plus-point pace over an 82-game season. Rudolfs Balcers, Alex Formenton, and Vitaly Abramov all have dark horse potential while Tim Stützle is the ultimate wild card if he comes back from his injury on time and makes the NHL team out of camp.
On defence, Chabot sits pretty comfortably in his throne, with four veteran defenders in the picture and just one or two spots open for up-and-comers. Christian Wolanin has done everything in his power to earn a full-time NHL gig, and while he won’t get the same ice time as Chabot, Wolanin has 30-plus-point potential over a full, healthy season. At just 21-years-old, Erik Brännström may, once again, find himself leading the defence in Belleville as opposed to playing a supporting role in Ottawa. Once the coaching staff decide to finally remove the training wheels, Brännström will present the closest competition for Chabot as most valuable Senator, on defence. While he won’t generate offence at the same level as Chabot, Wolanin, or Brännström, Christian Jaroš remains my dark horse for most valuable Senator on the back end. He has the shut-down potential with just enough offensive skill to become a WAR-master in the vein of Dylan DeMelo or Chris Wideman before him.
Marcus Högberg, while he still hasn’t earned the trust of the staff enough to guarantee his role as an NHL starter, has made incremental improvements each season since joining the organization, and looks like he’s on the verge of putting it all together at the highest level. Pierre Dorion has 25-million reasons why he thinks Matt Murray should start in Ottawa’s crease for the next four years and Murray will certainly need to perform like he’s the most valuable Senator to justify that investment from the team. Never discount Joey Daccord, though, who has risen up the team’s depth chart meteorically since the Senators selected him in the seventh round of the draft back in 2015. Should a place on the NHL roster open up due to injury, Daccord will fight tooth and nail to make sure he isn’t the odd man out next time someone has to make the trip to Belleville. Joey Okay is my dark horse candidate among netminders for most valuable Senator.
So with all of that considered and with a million other variables to consider, who do you predict will reign as the most valuable Senator in 2021? Do you take an incumbent like Tkachuk or Chabot? Are you banking on a huge rookie campaign from Brännström or Batherson? Will Tim Stützle make the transition straight to the NHL or do you have a dark horse of your own?
Who will be the Most Valuable Senator in 2021?