Welcome to the 2017 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. During the summer, I will feature a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
I will link you to those articles; as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2017-18 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as a dark horse to make the NHL. 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old is the cut-off for prospects. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Ottawa Senators Prospects
The Ottawa Senators specialized in overcoming adversity last season. Early in the year, it was a loss of star goaltender Craig Anderson as he took time off to be with his ailing wife. The Senators traded for Mike Condon who put in stellar work as Anderson’s replacement. Clarke MacArthur suffered a severe concussion in the first practice of training camp, and was lost for most of the year. They also overcame injuries to Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan, and Marc Methot over the course of the year.
The team kept chugging along finishing second in the Atlantic Division with 98 points. As the season was coming to a close, star defenceman Erik Karlsson suffered a fracture in his foot. He played through the injury. The Senators ended up beating the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, getting all the way to the Eastern Conference Final before falling in Game 7, double overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The off-season has been relatively quiet. The Senators lost Marc Methot to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. The Knights traded Methot to the Dallas Stars. They signed defenceman Johnny Oduya to fill some of the lost minutes on the blue line. The biggest loss of the off-season was team advisor and former general manager Bryan Murray, who passed away after a long battle with cancer. The Senators will start the 2017-18 season with heavy hearts.
Top Prospect: Thomas Chabot
Defense — shoots Left
Born January 30th, 1997 — Ste. Marie-de-Beauce, Quebec
Height 6’2″ — Weight 188 lbs [188 cm / 85 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 1st round, #18 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Chabot went from a very good prospect, to one of the top prospects in all of hockey last season. He made the Senators out of training camp, but played in only one game before being sent back to junior. In 34 games with Saint John he put up 10 goals and 45 points. He added five goals and 23 points in 18 playoff games, helping the Sea Dogs to the QMJHL Championship, winning QMJHL Defenceman of the Year, Personality of the Year, and Playoff MVP. He also put up 10 points in seven World Junior games, winning MVP of the tournament and a silver medal.
A silky, smooth skater, Thomas Chabot shows high potential as puck moving defensive prospect. He has the speed to join or lead the rush, and get back defensively. He has the strong edge work and agility to pivot quickly as well as to cover large areas of the ice, or to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. His balance is decent and helps him to work on board battles in the corners and in front of the net. This is an area that has improved over the last two years, but can still get even better. Chabot should increase muscle mass and lower body strength to play his game in the pros.
Chabot is calm and composed with the puck. He is a good stick handler and makes strong passes either to start the transition, or set up a play from the blue line. His slap shot continues to improve, and he has good accuracy. He also has a good wrist shot which he uses off the rush, and when he does not get the time and space necessary to load up his shot at the blue. Chabot’s release is compact and quick.
He has the vision, creativity and passing skill to be a very good quarterback on the power play. He also starts the rush with a very strong first pass, whether it is the short breakout play to get things moving in the other direction, or hitting a teammate with a long stretch pass for a breakaway or odd-man rush.
Defensively, Thomas Chabot has good positioning and is willing to play a physical game in front of the net and in the corners. The positioning and ability to read and react to plays have been a huge part of Chabot’s development. He is also able to avoid the fore check and skate the puck out of danger in his own end of the rink. It is tough to beat Chabot one-on-one. He does not always look for the huge hit, and will not let such hits get him out of his position. Chabot also maintains good gap control and when that big hit is available, he will take advantage. He uses his stick to break up passes, as well as using his body to block shots.
Chabot will be given every opportunity to make the Senators out of training camp this year. There may be some growing pains with the young defenceman, but he has the dynamic offensive game to be a difference maker, and will make an outstanding one-two punch with Karlsson.
#2 Prospect: Colin White
Center — shoots Right
Born January 30th, 1997 — Boston, Massachusetts
Height 6’0″ — Weight 183 lbs [183 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 1st round, #21 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
White put up 16 goals and 33 points in 35 games in his sophomore season with the Boston College Eagles. He also won a gold medal with the United States World Junior team, scoring seven goals in seven games. Once the season was over, the Senators looked to sign him. A short contract dispute ensued before White inked his entry level contract. He played two regular season games and one playoff game for Ottawa, as well as three games for the Binghamton Senators in the AHL.
White is a strong skater despite a choppy stride. He already has decent top-end speed and good acceleration and there is room to improve in both areas if he can work on his stride with a good skating coach. White also has good agility, and the edge work and lateral movement to get around defenders. With his puck handling skills and shot, he can be dangerous off the rush as well as working down low. There is strength in that choppy stride. White generates the power to fight through checks and continue to go to the net. His lower-body strength is there, but as he adds more upper-body mass, he will become even more dangerous working the puck down low. Overall the skating is already pretty good, and one can see the potential for it to be even better.
White plays a great puck protection and cycle game, always keeping his feet moving and working down low. He uses his body to shield the puck from defenders, as well as good stick handling to extend plays or to get by defenders. He has the soft hands necessary to finish in close to the net. White wins the vast majority of his puck battles showing outstanding balance and lower-body strength for this age.
He can establish position around the crease and create havoc when he is there. White is equally adept as a passer or as a shooter. He has a an accurate shot and a quick release that causes issues for goalies. He could shoot a little harder though, and adding upper body strength in the coming years, will really help him get a little more on his shot. White also has good vision and passing skills, as well as the hockey IQ to spot the right play with the puck.
White has shown the ability to play in his own end as well. A key penalty killer for the US NTDP team, White also matched up against others top lines. While he did not take that role in his first year at Boston College, he did get bigger match-ups and key defensive minutes as a sophomore. White shows very good positioning and brings his ability to battle along the boards and contain the opposition in the cycle to help his defence down low. He maintains good gap control. Strong anticipation and a good stick lead to White causing turnovers and starting the transition game. He is also very strong in the face-off circle.
White comes to camp looking for a spot in the Senators top nine. With little changes amongst the Senators forward group, he will need to earn that spot with a strong training camp. Expect him to be given every opportunity to do so. Even if sent to the AHL, expect to see White get some games as an injury fill-in. He should be a full-time NHL player very soon.
#3 Prospect: Logan Brown
Center — shoots Left
Born March 5th, 1998 — Raleigh, North Carolina
Height 6’6″ — Weight 214 lbs [198 cm / 97 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 1st round, #11 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
It was a disappointing season for Brown, but one that ended with the ultimate redemption. A wrist injury cost him time in the OHL, and even when he did play, he was not the dominant force that was expected. He scored 14 goals and 40 points in 35 games, and four points in seven playoff games. Brown was also cut from the U.S. team for the World Juniors. He did pick up five points in four games at the Memorial Cup, helping the Spitfires win the tournament in front of their home fans.
Brown is a good skater for his size. He shows good speed and acceleration for a player his size. Brown is not a speedster by any means, but he skates better than most players 6’6″ tall. He also has better edge work and agility than you would expect from a player with his height. Brown has a powerful stride and can fight through checks and get to the front of the net on the rush. He has good lower body strength and balance.
Big and strong, Brown can be a dominant player below the hashmarks. He has a powerful stride, protects the puck and takes it to the front of the net. Brown has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the net, and also has a powerful shot from further out. He does not seem to use that shot enough though, preferring to play the role of play maker. This was even more exaggerated upon his return from his wrist injury. He was very hesitant to shoot. Brown uses his size and strength to protect the puck in the cycle game, extending plays and waiting for teammates to get open. His long reach is a real asset in protecting the puck and keeping possession.
Brown has the ability to put the puck on the tape, and make saucer passes to get it through traffic in order to set up teammates. He uses his size to be physical on the fore check, as well as to win battles for pucks down low, and establish position in front of the net. When we talk about Brown’s physicality, he is not throwing huge highlight reel checks, but he is more than willing to get involved in battles and does not shy away from contact. The scary thing is that Brown can be even stronger, as there is still room to add more muscle to his frame. Brown must learn to be more consistent game-to-game.
Brown is effective in his own end of the rink. He is very good in the face-off circle. He also battles well down low, showing the same tenacity to win puck battles in his own end of the rink, as he does in the other teams end. Brown is strong positionally and uses his big frame and long reach in order to cut down on passing and shooting lanes.
Brown will spend another year in the OHL. While he is a currently a member of the Windsor Spitfires, there is a good chance he is traded prior to the trade deadline, as the Spitfires look to re-coup some of the draft picks they traded away in chasing the Memorial Cup.
#4 Prospect: Shane Bowers
The Senators drafted Bowers with the 28th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Bowers. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#5 Prospect: Filip Chlapik
Center — shoots Left
Born June 3rd, 1997 — Praha, Czech Republic
Height 6’1″ — Weight 196 lbs [185 cm / 89 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2nd round, #48 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
After a disappointing 2015-16 season, Chlapik had a monster 2016-17 campaign. He scored 34 goals and 91 points in just 57 games for the Charlottetown Islanders. The season saw him named a QMJHL second team all-star. He continued his strong play in the playoffs with five goals and 19 points in 13 games. Chlapik played for the Czech Republic at the World Juniors with two goals and three points in five games.
Chlapik shows a choppy skating stride, which gives can hurt his top end speed and acceleration, as they are merely average. Chlapik also lacks good first step quickness. He does have the agility to elude defenders though and his ability to vary speeds can beat defenders one-on-one. One thing that is a big asset in his arsenal though is lower body strength and balance. He is very difficult to knock off the puck in the cycle game, and his balance allows him to win boards battles and fight for position in front of the net.
Chlapik is a very smart play maker, he has the hockey IQ to anticipate plays, the vision to see openings, and the passing skills to thread the puck through those small openings and put it on the tape for his teammates. He loves to move the puck and then get himself into an open spot for the give and go. Chlapick is a strong stick handler who is able to protect the puck, and slow the game down in the offensive zone, extending plays and allowing his teammates to get open.
He can also score goals as he has a powerful shot, and quick release. He also has soft hands to finish plays in tight. Chlapik has decent height, but he could stand to add some more muscle, and upper body strength to his frame going forward. That said he has not been afraid to battle in the corners or in front of the net. He is not a big hitter, but Chlapik isn’t afraid to get to the gritty areas of the ice.
Chlapik has a well defined defensive game for his age. He brings his solid work ethic in his own zone back checking hard, battling in corners, and helping to contain the cycle down low. He could use more upper body strength at times though. His positioning is very good, and Chlapik anticipates plays and can intercept passes with an active stick. Once this happens he gets the transition going quickly. He also is doing well on face-offs.
Chlapik makes the jump to the AHL this year. He will play for the Belleville Senators. He likely has a year or two of AHL play ahead of him, rounding out his game, becoming stronger, and adjusting to quicker opponents in the pros.
#6 Prospect: Marcus Hogberg
Goalie — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born November 25th, 1994 — Orebro, Sweden
Height 6’5″ — Weight 209 lbs [195 cm / 95 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 3rd round, #78 overall at the 2013 NHL Draft
Hogberg had a huge season for Linkoping in the Swedish Hockey League. In 33 games he put up a 1.89 goals against average, and .932 save percentage. He also had a .926 save percentage in the Champions Hockey League, and a .915 save percentage in the SHL playoffs.
Blessed with excellent size at 6’5″, Hogberg takes up a lot of net and does not give shooters much to look at. He plays deeper in his crease than most goalies. Hogberg plays a butterfly and has solid technique. He gets up and down quickly, and does not leave a lot of space between his arms and his body. He also has quick legs and covers the bottom of the net well. Hogberg has a decent glove, and a very good blocker, taking away the top of the net.
He is a calm and composed netminder. He is a leader on the ice, someone who teammates look to in moments of crisis. Hogberg recovers quickly after goals, and does not let a bad goal spiral his game out of control. He keeps his cool, even when there is heavy traffic in front of the net. Hogberg also has solid puck tracking and good lateral movement. Like many young goalies, he needs work on his rebound control.
Hogberg has signed an entry level deal with the Senators. He will head to Belleville, to gain experience playing on North American sized ice, with the different angles that requires and dealing with more traffic around the crease. This may take some time, but he is a high end prospect. Craig Anderson is not getting any younger, and Hogberg is a good bet to be his eventual successor.
#7 Prospect: Christian Jaros
Defense — shoots Right
Born April 2nd, 1996 — Kosice, Slovakia
Height 6’3″ — Weight 201 lbs [191 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 5th round, #139 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Jaros scored five goals and 13 points in 36 games with Lulea HF in the SHL. He also had a goal and an assist in four games in the Champions League.
Jaros has good mobility. He skates well in both directions, with good speed and acceleration. He also has decent agility, edge work and pivots. The agility allows Jaros to move laterally and keep attackers in front of him. He funnels them to the outside off the rush. He also has good balance and is strong on his skates.
There is not a lot of offensive skill here. Jaros is mainly a stay-at-home defenceman. He has a powerful slap shot, but most work to get it through to the net and improve accuracy. He can make a decent pass to get the puck out of the zone and start the breakout, but does not handle the puck much, or run offense from the point in the offensive zone.
Jaros has good size and is not afraid to use it. He can throw a big hit if a forward comes down his side of the ice with his head down. He also battles hard in the corners and clears the front of the net. Jaros is willing to use his body to block shots. He also uses his long stick to cut down passing lanes.
At development camp the Senators indicated that Saros will make the transition to North America and start in Belleville this year. He could get some time with the Senators if injuries hit. (Hat-tip to reddit user MarkStone61).
Sleeper Prospect: Nick Paul
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born March 20th, 1995 — Mississauga, Ontario
Height 6’4″ — Weight 223 lbs [193 cm / 101 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 4th round, #101 overall at the 2013 NHL Draft
Traded to the Ottawa Senators as part of the Jason Spezza deal (summer 2014)
Paul put up 15 goals and 37 points in 72 games for the Binghamton Senators in his second pro season. He played just one game with the Ottawa Senators after playing 24 games in 2015-16.
A power winger, Paul has a long and powerful skating stride. While his speed is just average, it is the power and balance that will be his biggest assets as he goes forward. Paul can fight through checks, and protects the puck extremely well down low, due to his size and skating ability. He wins battles along the boards, and is difficult to move from the front of the net, due to that strength and balance. His agility and edgework are also decent.
Paul is very good at maintaining puck possession. He can make solid passes or take the puck to the net off the cycle. He battles in the corners for loose pucks and goes to the front of the net without it. Paul could stand to work on his stick handling though, as he will need to improve this or will be limited to being a grinder at the next level. He does have a good shot, and strong release, as well as the ability to tip in pucks and pounce on rebounds in front.
Paul plays a strong two-way game. He is willing to block shots, and cuts down passing lanes extremely well. Paul has been strong in the face-off circle at lower levels. He could be used on the penalty kill once he gains experience in the pro game.
Paul looks to win a bottom line role with the Senators in training camp. He brings an element of grit and two-way play that could be useful. He will need a good camp to beat out established veterans though. Expect Paul in Belleville and to be one of the team’s first call-ups in case of injury.
The Senators system has two elite prospects in Chabot and White and then really falls off. The reality is that Brown struggled last season, and is not on the same plane as the top two picks in the system. He needs a bounce back year as questions have begun to emerge. In addition their 2017 draft was really limited by having just four picks. This lack of depth will need to be addressed in future years.
In terms of players we have not mentioned yet. The Senators took a chance on Alex Formenton, hoping that he will be the next member of the London Knights to see his numbers explode post draft. They also have Gabriel Gagne, a big forward who struggled in the AHL last year and got sent to the ECHL. Sometimes bigger forwards take time to develop though. Filip Ahl had a mediocre season with the Regina Pats, and heads back to Sweden this year.
On defence Ben Harpur got some NHL time last year, but seems to project as a bottom pair player at best. Andreas Englund is another big, defensive defender who got in five games with the Senators last year. Max Lajoie showed some offence in the WHL and moves to the AHL this year.
In goal, Chris Dreidger will battle Hogberg for starts in Belleville. Jordan Hollett was drafted in the 6th round this year.
OTTAWA, CANADA – OCTOBER 18: Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the Arizona Coyotes during his first career NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on October 18, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)