Coming in at number four in my prospect series is the Ottawa Senators. Unlike the Carolina Hurricanes who have an insanely deep pool, Ottawa has more of a top-heavy one. Led by Tim Stutzle, the Senators have a small number of likely high-impact NHL players and some solid depth pieces as well. They are once again in contention for the first overall pick this year after another dismal season.
Here are my top 10 Senators prospects.
1. C/W Tim Stutzle 6’1 187 OTT (NHL) 32-6-13-19-10
Stutzle has taken the league by storm this season, putting up decent point totals for a rookie player. He is an electrifying talent with a high-top speed. Stutzle is tenacious on the forecheck and loves to play with pace. I compared him to Matt Barzal a bit in my 2020 draft rankings and there are still similarities between the two, though Stutzle seems to drive play a bit less than Barzal. He is already playing in all key offensive situations. Like most young players, Stutzle will need to improve defensive awareness. He is currently playing the wing in Ottawa, but he could easily jump to center at any point. Stutzle looks like a potential star player who can drive play and be relied on in all situations. He is a likely Calder Trophy finalist this season.
2. D Jake Sanderson 6’2 185 North Dakota (NCHC) 20-2-12-14-4
The second high-end talent on this list, Sanderson climbed draft boards steadily last season, landing him at the number five pick for the Ottawa Senators. Sanderson is a bit of a modern-day shut-down defender. He boasts a big frame, excellent reach, and elite skating ability. Sanderson uses his speed to break-up plays and force opposing forwards to the outside to take away their time and space. There are still some questions about his offensive upside, though he did put up decent numbers at North Dakota as a freshman this season. Sanderson played big minutes for the United States at the World Junior Championship and his physicality and defensive instincts stood out with regularity. Sanderson may find himself signing an NHL contract at the end of this season, but he is likely to play at least one more season in the NCAA before making the jump to the pros. He looks like a top-pairing defender at the NHL level.
3. C Josh Norris 6’1 202 Ottawa (NHL) 35-8-10-18-6
At this point in his career, Senators fans are well aware of Norris. Part of the Erik Karlsson trade, Norris has had an excellent overall start to his pro career after a two-year stink for Michigan in the NCAA. Norris may never wow with his offensive prowess, but he is an extremely well-rounded player. With 15 points so far this season at the NHL level, and averaging over a point-per-game last season, Norris is showing he can create offense, even if it isn’t super flashy. Overall, Norris looks like a solid number two center at the NHL level and is showing he is already NHL ready.
4. W Alex Formenton 6’2 165 Binghampton (AHL) 12-4-0-4-22
Similar to Norris, Formenton’s offense at the NHL level has been a bit of a surprise, though he has struggled a bit this season so far in this regard. Formenton is a speed demon and his top speed is incredible. He can blow past opponents with ease. This ability lends Formenton to be useful in all situations. Last season, Formenton showed his offensive upside is likely higher than it first appeared and it’s hard to imagine him not being in the NHL by the beginning of next season. He looks like a solid middle-six forward at the NHL level.
5. C/W Ridley Greig 5’11 164 Brandon (WHL) 4-0-7-7-13
Greig may never shoot the lights out, but he will most certainly be a fan favorite when he puts on a Senators’ jersey in a few seasons. Greig is a tenacious player, unaffected by his lack of size. He has excellent hands and playmaking ability. Like many other players on the Sens’ list, Greig is well-rounded and can play in a variety of situations, though he may never reach star status. Greig is two to three years away from NHL duty and will likely be a middle-six forward at the NHL level.
6. D Jared Bernard-Docker 6’0 181 North Dakota (NCHC) 25-3-14-17-18
Another North Dakota defenseman, Bernard-Docker is a two-way defender who has put up decent offensive numbers in the NCAA over the past three years. He is a player who does everything well, but no one attribute stands out as significant. Bernard-Docker excels more defensively than offensively, and projects as a second-pairing defender at the NHL level. He is likely two seasons away from NHL duty, but look for him to sign an NHL contract in the next month or so.
7. C Shane Pinto 6’2 192 North Dakota (NCHC) 26-15-15-30-2
If there is a trend in Senators’ prospects, it’s that they play for North Dakota in the NCAA. Of all the players mentioned so far, Shane Pinto is the most underrated. The Senators took Pinto with the first pick of the second round in 2019. Pinto’s stock has increased mightily since then, especially due to a surprising increase in offense. In fact, he led his division in scoring this season. Pinto is extremely well-rounded and has drawn comparisons to Josh Norris in his style of play. He also may sign an NHL contract very soon. He is likely a year away from full-time NHL duty.
8. D Lassi Thomson 6’0 190 AHL 13-0-5-5-2
Thomson’s development has been all over the map the past few seasons. After being drafted in the first round out of the WHL, Thomson has returned to Finland, where putting up offensive numbers has been a struggle for him. That being said, he has looked okay at past World Junior Championships. Overall, Thomson possesses an excellent overall skill package. He’s an incredibly smart player and possesses a great first pass. Thomson is versatile and can play in all situations, including the powerplay and penalty kill. At the NHL level, Thomson is likely a two-way second-pairing defender. He will need at least two more seasons of development before making the NHL jump.
9. W Vitali Abramov 5’10 180 AHL 12-2-3-5-4
Abramov, a 5’10 diminutive Russian forward, has spent some years now in the Senator’s system. While he has struggled to score at his normal pace a bit this season, his skillset is intriguing nonetheless. Abramov is a pure offensive talent, who uses his agility and edgework to create space for himself and his teammates. He excels on the powerplay and in offensive situations. The biggest question mark surrounding him continues to be his size, though that has not prevented him from putting up numbers in the QMJHL and the AHL. The Sens haven’t given him many opportunities, even on a depleted roster, so he may not be in their long-term plans and could be more of a trade chip at this point. Regardless, if given the opportunity, Abramov could produce at the NHL level in the right situation as a middle-six forward. He is likely to be NHL ready as soon as next season.
10. C Logan Brown 6’6 220 AHL 5-0-1-1-2
Unfortunately for the Senators and Brown, his NHL career is quickly approaching the boom or bust stage. The 11th pick back in 2016, Brown’s developmental curve has been far from a steady incline, even after being given NHL opportunity. At 6’6, this is clearly one of Brown’s biggest assets, but also one of his critiques. While possessing a massive frame, he struggles to use it to his advantage, outside of his reach. When the Senators drafted Brown, the combination of perceived offense and size was tantalizing. However, using his size to adjust to the pro level has been somewhat of an issue. When at his best, Brown uses his size to create space for himself and for his teammates and also using his surprisingly good hands to set-up as well. The time is now for Brown, and he is close if not ready for NHL duty, though he may need a change of scenery to jumpstart his NHL career. He looks like a middle-six forward at the NHL level.