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It may not feel like it, but the 2019-20 season is getting closer. Training camp begins in about a month, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start talking about the Senators lineup come opening night. It’s not as if Ottawa has a ton of good
players battling for spots, but they do have a lot of interesting young players who at least have some potential to be good. There will be tons of competition, and I wanted to show exactly how difficult it will be for players on the bubble.
So let’s go through who is a lock and who is on the bubble heading into training camp:
(10): Bobby Ryan, Artem Anisimov, Mikkel Boedker, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Chris Tierney, Connor Brown, Anthony Duclair, Brady Tkachuk, Tyler Ennis, Colin White.
All of these players have NHL experience, and Tkachuk and White who have the least are probably their two best players on this list. I feel like Boedker is going to get scratched sometimes throughout the season, but I doubt he would ever get put on waivers. Ennis is in a similar position as he is certainly not bad enough to be in the AHL, although he should probably be out of the lineup every so often in order for rookies to get a chance. Not all of these players will play every single game, but they will begin the year in Ottawa.
On the Bubble: Forwards
(9): Max Veronneau, Logan Brown, Drake Batherson, Rudolfs Balcers, Nick Paul, Filip Chlapik, Jonathan Davidsson, Alex Formenton, Josh Norris
Only three players from this group can make it, and the competition is going to be extremely difficult. I was tempted to put Batherson in the lock group just because it would be ridiculous not to have him in Ottawa, but he only played 20 NHL games and you never know with the Senators. Mika Zibanejad played 6 games in the AHL in 2013-14 after being an NHL regular in the season prior, so I can’t say Batherson is a lock just yet.
Veronneau played in 12 games down the stretch, but he’s not nearly as good of a prospect as others in the system and he mainly played because they had room and NCAA signees always play right away. However, there are more deserving players on this list than him. Brown should be in the NHL next year considering he is already 21, but it is going to be tough to crack the top-nine. Balcers looks like an NHLer too as he played in 36 games, but after acquiring Connor Brown and Tyler Ennis, he might have to spend some more time in Belleville.
I would love to have Paul as the fourth line centre because he is great defensively, but they already have White, Tierney, Pageau, Anisimov, and Ennis down the middle, and I don’t know if they are willing to put Paul in the bottom-six over more talented offensive players. Chlapik is a bit of a forgotten man who should get a chance in Ottawa but he will most likely have to wait for some injuries to happen. Davidsson is an unknown amongst the fanbase, but I think he is my dark horse to make the roster because he was the last cut on the Blue Jackets last year and is already well-experienced in the SHL.
Formenton and Norris are wildcards who could impress a lot at camp, and there’s always a chance that they are given at least a few games in the beginning. We know the Senators love Formenton’s speed, so it’s possible. Perhaps there are going to be some injuries by the time October comes around, but even then, there are still some tough decisions to make. If three of these players make it, I’ll say that it ends up being Batherson, Davidsson, and Paul, although I’m much less certain about the latter two. I think Paul will be given one more chance to see what he can do before they have to (potentially) send him through waivers.
If there were more spots open though, I think Brown, Balcers, and Chlapik all deserve spots in the NHL as well, whereas the final three need a bit more time in the AHL for my liking. It’s hard looking at the roster and not including someone such as Balcers or Brown, but that’s the reality---Ottawa has so many players and not enough spots. I’m genuinely very excited to see how things play out on forward.
(5): Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey, Mark Borowiecki, Dylan DeMelo, Thomas Chabot
Zaitsev and Hainsey are trusted by DJ Smith so they will be getting a decent amount of ice-time. Borowiecki will get his usual 20-30 scratches, but he will be in Ottawa. DeMelo and Chabot are their two best players from this group, and hopefully they stay together on the first pairing. None of these players are going anywhere unless Hainsey gets traded at the deadline.
On the Bubble: Defense
(4): Christian Wolanin, Christian Jaros, Erik Brannstrom, Max Lajoie
There will only be two cuts here as opposed to six with the forwards, but there will still be plenty of intrigue surrounding the defense. Wolanin is like Batherson in that he should
be a lock, but I don’t trust the organization with things like this, and I can’t rule out him starting in Belleville. With Wolanin slotting in as the sixth player, that would leave just one spot open, and it will most likely go to Jaros. It helps a ton that he shoots right-handed, and I’m sure that’s why he has a leg up on some other players.
I’d like to see Brannstrom in Ottawa more often than Belleville, but once they signed Hainsey, that became more difficult. He will almost certainly be the first call-up once an injury happens though, so fans will still get a taste of Brannstrom this season. Lajoie has been forgotten about and will most likely begin in Belleville. It’s hard to see how he could beat out two of Wolanin, Jaros, and Brannstrom, but crazier things have happened---like him making the team last year. It’s unclear how Smith wants to use his defense pairings, but he has plenty of options.
There should be a ton of different players on the team in 2019-20, and it will be incredibly important for all the prospects that they deliver good results while they play in Ottawa, because otherwise, they won’t be getting a call back the next time.