The Ottawa Senators fans are going through a tough time right now to be sure. Ownership is creating a challenge of faith among its fanbase that they are committed to anything other than relocation.
Star player after star player continue to vacate the picture, and while enduring a rebuild the team is without its first-round lottery pick and shot at a player that could solve some of their issues in Jack Hughes. Even if the hockey Gods seem fit to deal Ottawa crushing blow and award the lottery pick to Colorado, Ottawa has the Blue Jackets first-round pick this year, and could have three first round picks next year to go along with a bevy of promising prospects.
Well Sens fans, the night is always darkest just before the dawn and whittling the Sens list of top prospects down to just ten was a challenge indicating the dawn is coming.
2018-19 Top 10 Ottawa Senators Prospects
1. Erik Brannstrom, D – Belleville (AHL)
Drafted:15th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Vegas
The Sens Crown Jewel prospects consist of two players on the roster in Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot, and they will soon be joined by Brannstrom. The Sens acquired the bluechip defender in the Mark Stone trade at the deadline and it was a deal heralded as a win for both teams. The Sens get as good a defensive prospect as there is, a player that is the caliber of Quinn Hughes or Cale Makar.
Upon arriving in the organization, Brannstrom was quickly recalled to the big club (Perhaps as a P.R. move) and did not look out of place. Brannstrom is a highly skilled player who thinks the game at an accelerated pace and has the foot speed to match. His playmaking vision drew style comparisons to Erik Karlsson even before he was drafted.
With the duo of Chabot and Brannstrom anchoring the Senators blue line for the next decade the franchise has a solid foundation.
2. Drake Batherson, RW – Belleville (AHL)
Drafted: 121st overall in the fourth round of the 2017 draft by Ottawa
Batherson is the poster boy for late-blooming prospects and the Sens are being rewarded for taking a chance on a player passed over in his first NHL Draft. Since Ottawa drafted him he shot up the depth chart, with offensive outbreak point totals in the QMJHL, playing his way onto Team Canada at the World Junior and finally having an NHL debut of five points in his first three games.
In his first pro season, he has eclipsed the point per game totals in the AHL and is a leader on the Belleville Senators in more than just offensive totals. His physical play and defensive game are all on point and he is NHL ready now.
3. Logan Brown, C – Belleville (AHL)
Drafted: 11th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Ottawa
The third of the Belleville killer B’s of Brannstrom, and Batherson is Brown. The Sens are slow cooking Brown allowing him to develop the right way. The big man was arguably physically ready for pro hockey after his draft year and with an OHL and Memorial Cup Championship on his resume he had a lot of momentum. But the Sens wisely returned him to junior where he played another season and was named to Team USA for the World Junior where he added a Bronze Medal.
In his first season as a pro he started the season slowly as he adjusted to the size and tempo of the pro game, but as the season has progressed, so has Brown, posting several multi-point games and an eight-game point streak early in 2019 that all lead to his first NHL recall.
Brown has a blend of size, vision, and skill that project to an excellent second line center at the NHL level.
4. Josh Norris, C University of Michigan (Big Ten)
Drafted: 19th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by San Jose
After a strong freshman season in the NCAA Norris was the key asset in return for the Erik Karlsson trade. His sophomore season was hampered by injuries limiting him to just 17 games but was highlighted by a return trip to the World Junior with USA where he posted six points in seven games and added a Silver Medal to his Bronze Medal.
One of the underlying assets with many of the Sens prospects is speed and that is one of Norris better attributes to go along with his skill and two-way play.
Shoulder surgery ended his season early but Ottawa believes the Michigan native learned all he had to learn playing in college and will try to sign him to a pro contract for the coming season.
Norris should see some time in the AHL level before the Sens rush him into a top-six NHL role where he will compete for the first line center position with Brown and Colin White giving the Sens solid depth down the middle.
5. Alex Formenton, LW – London (OHL)
Drafted: 47th overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by Ottawa
Sens fans got a glimpse of the speedy Formenton as he played nine games to start the season in the NHL before being returned to the Knights. Formenton was a lock to make Canada for the World Junior where he won Gold the year prior, but an injury derailed that experience, unfortunately. Formenton has speed to burn and that is an asset that is in high demand in the NHL today. He has good offensive instincts and can finish on the breakaways his skating provide. Formenton is also a dangerous shorthanded weapon as he reads and anticipates play very well on the PK and has outstanding separation acceleration.
With his junior eligibility fulfilled, Formenton will turn pro next year and compete to make the jump to the NHL, but if his offense struggles at the NHL level he will have the AHL and Belleville as an option for further development.
6. Vitaly Abramov, RW – Belleville (AHL)
Drafted: 65th overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by Columbus
Acquired in the Duchene trade, Abramov is already familiar with the Ottawa area as he played across the Ottawa River with the Olympiques where he posted gaudy offensive numbers with back-to-back 104 point seasons. In his first season as a pro, the offense has not translated as well or easily as it did in junior, but he showed flashes of what makes him a promising prospect.
It is his speed and ability to handle the puck at a speed that separates him. He is an undersized player, but is fearless and determined in his puck pursuits and drives to the goal. Abramov was the eighth player to make his NHL debut in Ottawa this season and he will finish out the year in the AHL where Sens management hope he can contribute to a long Calder Cup run in Belleville. That will lend some insight as to whether he can play in the NHL next year, or if he still needs a year of development with Belleville.
7. Max Veronneau, RW – Ottawa (NHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent 2019 by Ottawa
The Ottawa native comes home after signing as a free agent with the Sens. Veronneau was an undrafted free agent after completing four strong seasons with Princeton in the NCAA where he eclipsed the point per game total three straight season in a row. Veronneau was a highly coveted free agent last summer as well but stayed in the NCAA to complete his college career and graduate.
Veronneau made his NHL debut March 14th and started strong with two points in three games. Speed is the Ottawa natives best asset and his ability to make plays and think the game at the NHL pace has been evident in his short debut thus far. At 23-years-old already his development is further along than most on this list and appears to be a full tie NHL player, giving the Sens even more depth and options with their youth.
8. Jacob Bernard-Docker, D – North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted: 26th overall in the first round of the 2018 draft by Ottawa
The sens future blue line is in great hands with Brannstrom and Chabot as the pillars of support, but they will be insulated by the likes of Christian Wolanin, Christian Jaros, Jonny Tychonick and JBD. Bernard-Docker was the Sens second first-round pick from the 2018 draft but will take much more time to develop than Brady Tkachuk who was the Sens first pick in that draft.
The Sens also selected Bernard-Dockers best friend Jonny Tychonic in the same draft. The duo represented Canada together at the U-18 and spoke about how they are hopeful to be drafted by the same team. For now, Bernard-Docker has completed his freshman season in the NCAA and it was a very successful season posting 17 points in 36 games. It may take a few years for them to reunite in Ottawa.
9. Filip Gustavsson, G – Belleville (AHL)
Drafted: 55th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Pittsburgh
Acquired in a deal that sent out Derick Brassard, the Sens acquired Gustavsson who was named goalie of the tournament at the 2017 World Juniors in Buffalo where he backstopped Sweden to a Silver Medal. Gustavsson has plenty of pro experience under his belt already coming from the SHL where he posted solid numbers.
In his first full season in North America, his numbers have taken a dip and he even had a short stint in the ECHL. Gustavsson has had healthy competition from Marcus Hogberg and has more on the come as Joey Daccord is turning heads with Arizona in the NCAA. Chalk this season up to a year of development and adjustment.
10. Marcus Hogberg, G – Belleville (AHL)
Drafted:78th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by Ottawa
Like Gustavsson, Hogberg came to North America and had some struggles in his first year. That was last year when he split time between the AHL and the ECHL and struggled to adjust. Hogberg rebounded nicely this year and has taken the starting job in Belleville posting an 8-0-2 record in February with a shutout to boot. Hogberg was recalled to the NHL to make his debut on December 29th and played in four games but posted a 0-4 record with a 4.08 GAA showing he has a little more work to do.
Joey Daccord G (Arizona, NCAA), Filip Chlapik C (Belleville AHL), Nick Paul LW (Belleville, AHL), Jack Rodewald RW (Belleville AHL), Parker Kelly C (Prince Albert, WHL), Rudolf Balcers LW (Belleville, AHL), Christian Wolanin D (Belleville, AHL), Jonathan Davidsson RW (Djurgardins, SHL), Markus Nurmi RW/LW (TPS, Liiga), Jonny Tychonick D (U of North Dakota)