Our Ottawa Senators 2020-21 Preview is part of a one-a-day series covering the entire NHL. Click here for the rest of the teams in the leadup to another action-packed NHL season!
Last season Ottawa did not surprise anyone. They ended up 7th in the Atlantic with a 25-34-12 record and 62 points. They had only 191 goals for, good for 24th in the league. At the other end of the ice, they let in 243 goals, which earned them 30th place in the league for goals against. So they were the 2nd worst in the league for goals against.
The most notable part of their season was trading away valuable pieces. General Manager Pierre Dorian traded away Tyler Ennis, Dylan Demelo, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. This was smart for Dorion to do, in order to help build the future of the club.
The trades helped bolster the picks that the Senators had in the next couple drafts. The Senators had three first round picks in the 2020 draft, including two in the top 5! Tim Stuetzle (3rd overall), Jake Sanderson (5th overall), and Ridly Greig (28th overall) were selected in the first round. They also had three second round picks. Ottawa’s prospect pool is definitely growing in size and quality with the moves the team has made the past few seasons.
However, these moves have another side to them. The trades combined with the departures of players in the offseason mean that the team has completely turned over since the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Within a year Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been traded, Mark Borowiecki left in free agency, Bobby Ryan was bought out and Craig Anderson remains unsigned. These were the last connections to that team. Colin White and Thomas Chabot saw minimal time in 2017 so I’m not really counting them. With those players leaving, it means that 25 roster players have left the team since the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals. That’s only 3 seasons ago. That’s remarkable. Whatever core that team had is now completely replaced. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad but I can’t think of such a rampant change happening like that before in my time as a fan of hockey. However you feel about that, its clear that the Ottawa Senators will have a lot of young dynamic players moving forward after cashing in and basically trading out their entire team.
D.J. Smith now has one (partial) season under his belt as a head coach in the NHL. His experience winning three Memorial Cups will continue to serve him well with such a young team moving forward.
- Matt Murray
- Evgenii Dadonov
- Erik Gudbranson
- Joshua Brown
- Alexander Galchenyuk
- Austin Watson
- Anthony Duclair
- Bobby Ryan
- Mark Borowiecki
- Craig Anderson
- Jonathan Gruden
- Ron Hainsey
Ottawa Senators Roster Preview
Evgenii Dadonov came to town as a free agent and became the highest paid forward on the team with a three year $5 million dollar deal. Dadonov was a staple on Florida’s top line with Barkov and Huberdeau for a few years, and I think his addition will really improve the top six of the Senators. He should slide into the top line and play on the opposite wing of Brady Tkachuk. Dadonov’s playmaking should work very well with Tkachuk.
The second line will most likely be centred by Chris Tierney and have Connor Brown on one wing. Outside Dadonov, Tkachuk, Tierney and Brown, I’m unsure who will slot into the top six. The Senators seem to have a lot of options for those spots, and it will definitely depend on chemistry and results. There is a lot of opportunity for young players in this lineup.
Will we see Drake Batherson slide into the top six and get more of a chance for offense? The 22 year old had 54 points in 44 games for Belleville in the AHL and 10 points in 23 with Ottawa last season. How about 3rd overall pick Tim Stuetzle or Alex Formenton who had 53 points in Belleville last year?
Or does Alex Galchenyuk who signed a one year $1 million deal play in the top six, and if he does is he at centre or wing? The Anthony Duclair low risk paid off and he fit in very nicely with the team. It’s unfortunate he ended up leaving though. This Galchenyuk signing seems to have the same aim of revitalizing a player who never hit their potential. The real question is do they they play him over long term guys like Drake Batherson?
The more I look at the amount of young players the Senators have, the more questions I think of. They really do have a lot of talented prospects, and it will certainly be a task of D.J. Smith to make sense of it all in the lineup. The Senators also have Colin White, Logan Brown, Rudolfs Balcers, Josh Norris, Vitaly Abramov, Filip Chlapik all under the age of 24. These guys are all at different levels of experience with the NHL and I’m curious if we see a mixture of them all or if any really cement a permanent spot in the lineup for themselves this season. It will really depend on who makes the team out of camp.
The fourth line will likely be comprised of Austin Watson, Nick Paul and Artem Anisimov to handle tough assignments.
Ron Hainsey and Mark Borowiecki left in the off season, and Dylan Demelo was traded out mid season. To combat that, the team brought in veteran Erik Gudbranson from the Ducks and Josh Brown from Florida. Both were acquired via trade and they both play the right side. However, it’s likely that Nikita Zaitsev keep the number one pairing right side job. He and Chabot played a lot of minutes together, and had the highest total ice time together 5 on 5 aside from Chabot and Hainsey. Despite not great advanced stats together, we will likely see a top pairing of Chabot and Zaitsev again. To be fair, you will be pretty hard pressed to find any great advanced stats for Senators defense pairings from last season.
Despite being a lefty Erik Brannstrom plays the right side and I think he’ll start the season with Christian Wolanin on unit two. Wolanin missed all but 3 games last season with a torn labrum. He was projected to be on the second pairing at the start of the season. Can he regain that spot after missing an entire season? With Dylan Demelo being traded out to Winnipeg mid-season I think the spot is up for grabs. If the team really prefers defenseman to play on their strong handed side, one of these two may move down to the third pairing and see Gudbranson or Brown move up.
Also looking for a spot on the bottom pairing is Christian Jaros, and Mike Reilly. Does Artem Zub come over from Russia? He is seen as a second or third pairing, penalty killing defenseman who has played pro in the KHL. He has and offensive upside but can definitely play a solid defensive game which should be attractive to the Senators at this point.
Similar to the forward group, this defense also has a lot of young players and a lot of talented prospects. The Senators need to develop these players properly and not force them all into the pressure cooker.
In the offseason the team acquired a number one starter in Matt Murray. Although there are questions about his ability to bounce back after a down year with Pittsburgh. Winning back to back cups in your first two seasons in the league must put some intense scrutiny on any dip in numbers. He is a definite upgrade in net, but he’s coming off a tough season where he posted a .899 save percentage, a 2.87 GAA, and lost his starter role. Ottawa seems like a tough place to bounce back, you know, with the whole second worst goals against in the league thing, but hey, Murray got a nice overpayment contract from the Senators to not worry about that.
Anders Nilsson would be poised to be the backup to Murray, but he remains out with a concussion. This means that we will likely see Marcus Hogberg bump out Nilsson as the backup for the beginning of the season at least. Hogberg is 6’5″ and had a .904 save percentage and a 3.12 GAA last season in 24 games for the Senators. Not amazing numbers, but that is a better GAA than both Craig Anderson and Anders Nilsson.
Ottawa Senators 2020-2021 Prediction
7th North Division
The Senators will be a very young team, and with that youth will come mistakes. I think they’ve improved the top six forward group with the addition of Evgenii Dadonov, but there’s a lot of question marks about how all these young players will fit into the lineup. This team won’t be at the top of the standings, but they will look fresh as all heck playing in those sweet throw back jerseys. If all these young players keep improving and find their NHL game, the Senators could be scary in a few seasons, that is, if management is willing to pay everyone this time around.
That concludes our Ottawa Senators 2020-21 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2020-21 Season Preview Series.
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