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2022-23 Fantasy Hockey Outlook: Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators didn't leap last year after declaring their rebuild was over, but some added experience and a higher payroll could finally push them back into the playoff picture – and your fantasy team should take note.
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The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.

To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for all 32 teams.

2022-23 Fantasy Outlook: Ottawa Senators

Last season: 33-42-7, 7th Atlantic, 26th overall. GF: 26th, GA: 22nd, PP: 20th, PK: 13th.

It was four years ago this month when Pierre Dorion said: “we’re a team.” That unintentionally hilarious answer that spawned thousands of memes seems like a lifetime ago, and with just about everyone from the Erik Karlsson era excised from the roster – the only notable holdover being Thomas Chabot – Dorion declared before the season that “the rebuild is done.”

Well, not quite. The Sens’ young core, with Brady Tkachuk as the newly-minted captain, took a big step forward with career seasons from just about everyone on the roster under the age of 24, but the team struggled to win games for most of the season. Their defense was unreliable with a low ceiling, and at its best counted on Artem Zub, Nikita Zaitsev and Nick Holden to not make mistakes. Goaltending was another massive headache (again) but, thanks to Anton Forsberg’s 22-17-4/.917/2.82 record, managed to at least maintain a similar points percentage as the previous season in the one-off North Division when they stayed in the playoff race for most of the season. But, there’s a ton of optimism heading into 2022-23 after the “Summer of Dorion” brought in top-line sniper Alex DeBrincat and veterans Claude Giroux, Tyler Motte and Cam Talbot to stabilize a young roster.

Say what you want about Dorion and his awkwardness, but he’s gathered a young core and supplemented them with some very good (and pricey) veterans this season. The Sens are a pre-season favorite to make the biggest leap, and while the path wasn’t smooth, the trajectory of this team has undoubtedly been upwards.

Best fantasy option: Brady Tkachuk, LW

This is an interesting one. THN’s Pool Guide has Tim Stützle projected to lead the team in scoring with 76 points, but BetMGM’s over/under bet has Alex DeBrincat at the top of the list with 80. Tkachuk was the leading scorer with 67 points last season, but on a per game basis, both Josh Norris and Drake Batherson scored at a higher pace. This is a good problem to have; it shows the Sens are flush with talent, and for fantasy managers, picking a Sens player is no longer a black hole and we can forget about scrolling through pages of names to find Tyler Ennis for a streaming play. Their top-six could be as talented as any other team in the league.

However, Tkachuk stands out because he’s arguably a top-five player in banger leagues. He’s part of a very, very exclusive 20-100-200-200 club; a minimum of 20 goals, 100 PIM, 200 shots and 200 hits in a single season. In the cap era, there have been only 35 instances of a player completing the first three tasks, which was accomplished by 21 different players, but only two players have managed to hit all four milestones: David Backes and Tkachuk. Tkachuk’s a fantasy unicorn.

Hidden gem: Shane Pinto, C

We’re going off the board here but Pinto is another name on a long list of prospects Dorion had accumulated during his roster overhaul. Limited to just five games due to injury last season, the former 32nd overall pick in the 2019 draft is known as a very effective two-way player and starred for two seasons at the University of North Dakota and at the 2020 World Junior Championship with USA, tied for the team lead in scoring with four goals with Arthur Kaliyev and finished second in points to Trevor Zegras. The Sens roster is in flux because it’s not entirely certain who will be the No. 2 center behind Norris – Stützle or Giroux could potentially play in that spot – but Pinto, who is a natural center, will be part of that mix. If he finds himself flanked by quality wingers, of which the Sens have plenty, Pinto might earn a Calder vote or two. If Pinto is too much of a reach, then check out Alex Formenton, who offers up 20-goal and 100-hit upside who can move up and down the lineup with ease, and also fellow rookie Jake Sanderson, Pinto’s teammate at UND and an all-around rearguard coming off a hand injury that prevented him from making his NHL debut last season.

Goalies

There was a brief period when Matt Murray looked pretty good, but the Sens lost patience and snagged Talbot instead when Marc-Andre Fleury’s extension put Talbot’s future with the Wild in doubt. Some envision a timeshare situation but I don’t see it that way; at worst, Talbot should be the 1A with Forsberg being the 1B. Talbot has plenty to prove after helping the Wild qualify for the playoffs only to serve as the backup in Game 1 in the opening round, and for the vast majority of his career has been quite solid, finishing with a negative GSAA just twice in his nine-year career, according to hockey-reference.com. If Talbot sees at least 50 games and the Sens improve from last season – and there’s a good chance of both events happening – he should rank higher among mid-tier goalies. It’s highly unlikely he’ll have an outstanding, Vezina-level season, but a high workload on a team with a lot of potential is worth the gamble.

Outlook

Expectations are higher than they’ve ever been in Ottawa. Picking who will lead their scoring is difficult, but the five top names – Tkachuk, DeBrincat, Stützle, Batherson and Norris – should all be gone by the middle rounds. Giroux will be an interesting case; he should be drafted in the middle rounds with his 60-point potential and faceoff wins, but his role on the Sens may be very different than the one in Philadelphia or Florida. He won’t be tasked with carrying the offense and his playing time may be reduced on a team still focused on the future, but he could be a fantastic late-round pick. 

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