What Happens When There Are Injuries? Analyzing the Senators' Depth

Injuries will inevitably happen. What is the Senators depth looking like for when that happens?

What Happens When There Are Injuries? Analyzing the Senators' Depth
Photo by Robert Bye / Unsplash

If there's one thing that almost always spoils the fun of predicting your favourite team's upcoming line-up it's injuries. No one likes to think about them, fans rarely properly account for them, but they happen.

Injuries in a sport like hockey are always going to be prevalent, even if they aren't necessarily announced in the playoffs. It's rare to see a fully healthy lineup, and even that usually doesn't last too long. Teams that are able to go far and win the Stanley Cup obviously need star talent, but they also require depth in the form of players who can be called up from the AHL and not miss a beat. It's not good enough to only have six forwards who can play in the top six; you'll end up having more than that on those two lines during the season.

Over the last three seasons, the Senators have averaged 22 forwards per season that have appeared in at least one game, 17 forwards played 10+ games (a good chunk of the season), 12 defensemen dressed for at least one game, 9 defensemen played 10+ games, 5 goalies in at least one game, and 3 goalies to play 10+ games. I knew it was going to be a high number, but it still surprised me to see how many players are necessary to complete a full season. Here is the breakdown:

21-22: 26 forwards total, 18 played 10+. 12 defensemen total, 10 played 10+. 4 goalies total, 3 played 10+.

22-23: 20 forwards total, 17 played 10+. 14 defensemen total, 9 played 10+. 7 goalies total, 3 played 10+.

23-24: 21 forwards total, 17 played 10+. 10 defensemen total, 7 played 10+. 3 goalies total, 2 played 10+.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at the Ottawa Senators' depth chart. Here is what they have at forward so far:





As you can see, the Sens are obviously missing another fourth liner, which will either come via callup or a free agent signing. Considering Ottawa has $3.6M in cap space, they should be adding a forward there, and I feel like they will. But for now, let's say that Jan Jenik gets the 4C spot and Angus Crookshank shares some time with MacEwan as the 13th forward.

Beyond those forwards, there are prospects in Belleville such as Zack Ostapchuk, Roby Järventie, Stephen Halliday, Tyler Boucher, Philippe Daoust, Oskar Pettersson, and Cole Reinhardt. Ostapchuk could provide value on the fourth line, Järventie has the potential to be a decent scorer, and Halliday is the most intriguing and is good depth, Boucher probably won't be playing NHL games, Daoust and Pettersson have an outside shot of making it, and Reinhardt could potentially fill-in in a pinch. Then there are journeymen like Adam Gaudette, Matthew Highmore, Garrett Pilon, and Hayden Hogdson who could all play a handful of games in Ottawa, but you don't want to be relying on them at all (in the NHL at least).

I only see Järventie and Halliday as call-ups who could be decent point producers, so if one of their top forwards goes down, there isn't much help coming. There are two others (Ostapchuk and Reinhardt) who profile as fourth-liners, and three who are longshots to help in 2024-25 (Daoust, Boucher, and Pettersson). Realistically we are looking at four prospects who could be helpful and four journeymen who they might have to call on for a few games. Based on their averages, they might only need the journeymen to play a few games which is good. However, I wouldn't say their forward prospects are certain to have positive impacts.

On defense, this is what the current pairings look like:



Bernard-Docker Hamonic

Again, with $3.6M in cap space, I think they'll be adding a depth defenseman to the mix, and it'd be incredibly wise to do so. Beyond these six, Tyler Kleven is the only name who has a real shot at making the opening night roster. If nobody is signed, then Kleven will almost certainly be amongst this group. He could turn into a good physical defensive defenseman, but nothing is given. This is where a depth signing would help a lot.

For this exercise, let's say Kleven is on the roster and Hamonic is the seventh defenseman. Ottawa would have Maxence Guénette, Nikolas Matinpalo, and potentially RFA Lassi Thomson as legitimate call-up candidates among their prospects. All three have played NHL games, although Guénette is the only one who I think could help a fair amount. Based on the averages I mentioned in the beginning, they might only need these three to play 10+ games. Beyond those three, Jeremy Davies and Filip Roos are good AHL veterans with NHL experience, but if they're playing more than a handful of games in Ottawa, something has gone wrong.

There's an outside chance that one of Tomas Hamara, Jorian Donovan, Matthew Andonovski, Djibril Touré, or Donovan Sebrango get called up, but considering how inexperienced that group is, I highly doubt it. I like Donovan a fair amount, but it'll be his first AHL season and needs time to develop. So if we exclude that group, there are three prospects who can help to a limited degree and two veterans who should only be playing when there are many injuries.

Finally, in goal, the Senators will begin the season with this setup:



In the minors, it's pretty straightforward, with Mads Søgaard, Leevi Meriläinen, and Kevin Mandolese. Søgaard has just an .884 SV% in the NHL and has not looked nearly good enough to be relied upon comfortably next season, although he was quite good in Belleville with a .916 SV% last season, so I wouldn't give up on him yet. Meriläinen had a fine .906 SV% in the AHL, and while I wouldn't trust him yet, I don't mind him as the fourth option at all. Mandolese hasn't been great in his AHL career and is probably just being kept around as an AHL backup. As far as goalie depth goes, they're doing alright here.

When you look at the organization as a whole, it's evident that the Sens' farm system is paper-thin. They've had a ton of prospect graduations, which is great, but their last few drafts haven't produced enough talent to populate the AHL, and you see the results of that now. They've at least done a good job of signing AHL veterans who will keep Belleville competitive, but many of those players probably aren't good enough to genuinely help if they got called up. One more forward and one more defenseman signing would go a long way to moving names down the list and ensuring they have as much depth as possible.

Better health papers over all weaknesses, though, so here's to hoping for good luck in that regard next year.

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