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YEARBOOK: 2019-20 Ottawa Senators

There has been a changing of the guard in Canada’s capital. After finishing last overall in 2018-19, the Ottawa Senators head into the next phase of their rebuild with a new face behind the bench, as former Toronto assistant D.J. Smith takes over coaching duties.

There has been a changing of the guard in Canada’s capital. After finishing last overall in 2018-19, the Ottawa Senators head into the next phase of their rebuild with a new face behind the bench, as former Toronto assistant D.J. Smith takes over coaching duties, with several new faces in the lineup after a busy off-season.

While the focus will be on youth, with the likes of Thomas Chabot (22), Brady Tkachuk (20) and Colin White (22) playing pivotal roles, the Sens shook things up on July 1 by trading defenseman Cody Ceci to the Leafs, getting back blueliner Nikita Zaitsev and winger Connor Brown in a six-player deal.

GM Pierre Dorion has promised youth will be served, and he signed veteran UFAs Ron Hainsey and Tyler Ennis, a couple of ex-Leafs, to help guide the next generation. Dorion also dealt Zack Smith for veteran center Artem Anisimov. Now, the Senators hope they can take a step in the right direction.

Chabot, Tkachuk and White will be counted on to carry the load offensively, while another young gun, 21-year-old center Logan Brown, will get a good shot in camp to play a key role down the middle. If they can put points on the board, the Senators should see an improvement in the goal-scoring department.

Another player being asked to step up is Jean-Gabriel Pageau. He has a chance to move up to second-line center if Brown doesn’t make it out of camp, and there’s hope that right winger Bobby Ryan can regain his scoring touch.

Brown was a victim of circumstance in Toronto, trapped at the bottom of the depth chart, but he scored 20 goals as a rookie and has the ability to produce if given a top-six role. Chris Tierney and Anthony Duclair made the most of their opportunities last year and can again chip in offense.

The Sens were the worst defensive team in the NHL last season, surrendering 10 more goals than any other club.

Chabot heads into his third campaign as a full-time NHLer, and he’ll continue to improve. He has good chemistry with his ‘D’ partner, Dylan DeMelo, who is a steadying influence. The Senators believe that Zaitsev can help stabilize the club’s play in the defensive zone. Smith knows Zaitsev’s game well, after managing the defense and the penalty kill in Toronto.

It’s up to veterans Craig Anderson and Anders Nilsson to keep Ottawa in games. Nilsson signed a two-year extension in the summer and should see more action than he did last season by pushing the 38-year-old Anderson for playing time if all goes as planned.

The power play and penalty kill had their share of issues last season but did show some signs of improvement. It’s a given that Chabot will be PP quarterback. It makes sense to get him on the ice as much as possible because he’s the guy who is going to play a huge role in the rebuild. Hainsey and Zaitsev had significant penalty-killing responsibilities last year in Toronto. It wouldn’t be surprising if they were reunited in Ottawa.

The Senators opted to turn the page on the coaching staff by not bringing back interim bench boss Marc Crawford and hiring the 42-year-old Smith. This is his first NHL head-coaching job and you get the sense he’s going to bring a lot of energy behind the bench. Smith is a people person, and when the decision was made to move on from Guy Boucher on March 1, it had a lot to do with the fact his message was no longer getting through.

Can Brown make the jump to the NHL? Are wingers Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton ready to be full-timers? What about rookie defenseman Erik Brannstrom? Each will have the opportunity to make the team and contribute. Brannstrom was the centerpiece of the Mark Stone deal with Vegas, and the hope is he can step right into the lineup.

While playoff expectations in Ottawa are low – very low – the Senators feel they’ve put the pieces in place to get the club back to respectability. The decision to hit the reset button means there will be plenty of young players given the chance to play meaningful minutes this season.

Dorion and owner Eugene Melnyk made the decision to go the rebuild route in February 2018, and since then the organization has made a lot of changes. The Sens have loaded up on young, promising players and hope they’re on the right path to eventually becoming a Stanley Cup contender again. The build-from-within approach is strengthened by having 11 picks in the 2020 draft and nine more in 2021.

– Bruce Garrioch

Stanley Cup Odds: 100/1

Prediction: 8th in Atlantic


Everything is about to crest in Ottawa, where talents such as Erik Brannstrom, Logan Brown, Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton are on the cusp of NHL status. Top 2019 pick Lassi Thomson is headed back to Finland after a season with WHL Kelowna, which is not ideal, but at least he’ll play against men. The blueliner brings a punishing point shot and a great transition game, but he needs to add strength and get used to taking hits while making plays.

1. Erik Brannstrom, D
Age 20 Team Belleville (AHL)
Elite skater as a defender. He has deft puckhandling skills and a clear vision on defense.
Acquired From Veg, Feb, 2019 NHL ’19-20

2. Drake Batherson, RW
Age 21 Team Belleville (AHL)
Towered over other AHL rookies, then shone in NHL stint. Multi-dimensional offensive creativity.
Acquired 121st overall, 2017 NHL ’19-20

3. Alex Formenton, LW
Age 20 Team London (OHL)
Elite speed makes him dangerous off the rush. Knee injury slowed him before strong playoff run.
Acquired 47th overall, 2017 NHL ’20-21

4. Lassi Thomson, D
Age 19 Team Kelowna (WHL)
Huge shot from the point and a terrific passer. Will spend a season or two back in Finland.
Acquired 19th overall, 2019 NHL ’21-22

5. Josh Norris, C
Age 20 Team Michigan (Big Ten)
Sophomore year cut short due to injury. He has good speed and hands. Turned pro early.?
Acquired From SJ, Sept, 2018 NHL ’20-21

6. Jacob Bernard-Docker, D
Age 19 Team North Dakota (NCHC)
A great skater and puck-mover. He has a big shot and will use it more as an NCAA sophomore.
Acquired 26th overall, 2018 NHL ’22-23

7. Logan Brown, C
Age 21 Team Belleville (AHL)
Mammoth two-way player could use his size to dominate on offense more. Defensively as well.
Acquired 11th overall, 2016 NHL ’19-20

8. Vitaly Abramov, RW
Age 21 Team Belleville (AHL)
Has yet to replicate outstanding junior production in the pros, but the talent is undeniable.
Acquired From Clb, Feb, 2019 NHL ’20-21

9. Shane Pinto, C
Age 18 Team Tri-City (USHL)
North Dakota commit has a good shot and skating stride while also being solid in his own zone.
Acquired 32nd overall, 2019 NHL ’23-24

10. Filip Gustavsson, G
Age 21 Team Belleville (AHL)
Mentally strong goalie who limits rebounds. Struggled in first North American season.
Acquired From Pit, Feb, 2018 NHL ’21-22



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