Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will go team by team through the NHL bringing you a look at each Teams Top Prospects. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we will be doing is linking 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 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Ottawa Senators Prospects
What a difference a year makes. In 2016-17, the Ottawa Senators were a goal away from the Stanley Cup Final. The 2017-18 edition of the team finished in 30th place in the NHL. Meanwhile, the team has been hit with one off-ice crisis after another. To say things did not go exactly as planned would be an understatement.
This has led to changes at the trade deadline and through the off-season, with more rumoured to be on the way. Derick Brassard is in Pittsburgh, Dion Phaneuf is in Los Angeles, while Mike Hoffman is in Florida. Meanwhile, rumours continue to circle around Erik Karlsson who is just one year away from free agency. The team is also reportedly desperate to move Bobby Ryan. Top line centre Matt Duchene, acquired last season, is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Overall, it looks like the Senators are headed into a rebuild, and do so without their 2019 first round pick, which belongs to the Colorado Avalanche.
2018 NHL Draft Picks: Brady Tkachuk, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jonny Tychonick, Jonathan Gruden, Angus Crookshank, Kevin Mandolese, Jakov Novak, Luke Loheit
Graduations: Thomas Chabot, Ben Harpur, Max McCormick
Top Prospect: Brady Tkachuk
The Senators drafted Tkachuk with the 4th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Tkachuk. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#2 Prospect: Logan Brown
Centre — 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
After a rough 2016-17 season, Brown bounced back strong this year. Splitting the campaign between the Windsor Spitfires and Kitchener Rangers, he put up 48 points in 32 games. He also impressed in the OHL playoffs with 27 points in just 19 games. Brown also made the American team for the World Juniors but played just three games before suffering an injury. If there is a concern with Brown, it is the injuries as this is the second straight year that he missed significant OHL time.
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. He can maneuver his way through traffic and get open for a pass. 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. This also helps him to win battles on the boards, as well as to fight for position in the slot, without the puck.
Big and strong, Brown can be a dominant player below the hash-marks. 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 playmaker. Brown seemed to shoot a bit more this season though, which keeps defenders off-balance. He is still mainly a playmaker though. 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 forecheck, as well as to win battles for pucks down low, and establish his 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 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 look to make the Sens in training camp, as he did last season playing four games before being sent back to junior. He would benefit from time in the AHL, adjusting to the stronger and faster competition that he will face in the pro game. Brown should get some NHL time this year, expect call-ups if injuries occur, or if the Senators continue to deal NHL players for picks and prospects. However, one should not expect Brown to be a full-time NHLer before the 2019-20 season.
#3 Prospect: Colin White
Centre — 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 bounced between Ottawa and Belleville last season. He put up two goals and six points in 21 games in the NHL, and a further 27 points in 47 AHL games. White was also invited to play for Team USA at the Men’s World Championships, picking up two goals and an assist at the tournament.
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. Some improvements were already seen over his first pro campaign. White also has good agility, and the edgework 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 an accurate shot and a quick release that causes issues for goalies. He could shoot a little harder though. 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 for the Senators, it should not have been expected from a rookie either. 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 all of the recent turnover in Ottawa, and more expected, there could be a spot available. Expect him to be given every opportunity to earn that opportunity on a full-time basis. Even if sent to the AHL, expect to see White get some games as an injury fill-in or could force a mid-season call-up with strong play. He should be a full-time NHL player very soon.
#4 Prospect: Filip Gustavsson
Goalie — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born June 7th, 1998 — Skelleftea, Sweden
Height 6’2″ — Weight 179 lbs [188 cm / 81 kg]
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2nd round, #55 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Traded to the Senators in February 2018
Gustavsson got in 22 games for Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League last season, putting up a 0.918 save percentage. He also got in seven games for the J20 team, dominating at that level. Gustavsson was part of Sweden’s World Championship team but did not play. He also got in seven games in Belleville with a 0.912 save percentage.
Gustavsson has strong reflexes and plays a solid butterfly technique. He stays square to the shooter and gets in and out of his stance quickly and efficiently. Quick legs take away the bottom of the net. He has a very good glove and blocker as well. For such a young goaltender, Gustavsson’s rebound control is very good. That is not to say he does not need continued work, just that he is ahead of where most goaltenders are at 20-years-old. Gustavsson has powerful legs and gets side-to-side in his net extremely quickly. He tracks the puck well, though he does occasionally over-commit when moving from post-to-post. This is an area that should be fixable though.
Coming in at 6’2″ tall, Filip Gustavsson is a decent size, but at the lower end in terms of the goaltenders we see drafted highly in the NHL right now. What makes this a little bit more problematic though is that Gustavsson plays very deep in his crease. He prefers to stay back to defend against cross-ice passes and dekes, but this means that shooters do see a bit more of the net coming down on him. He could also stand to fill out his frame, as he’s a bit skinny right now.
Gustavsson shows poise and leadership in the face of adversity. He remains calm in the face of an onslaught of shots, something that regularly happened during the Under 17, and the Hlinka tournaments earlier in his career. The other quality teams in those tournaments were regularly outshooting the Swedes, but Gustavsson remained calm, and his teammates fed off of it as the tournaments went on. While every goalie will allow the occasional bad goal, he doesn’t let getting scored on bother him and bounces back quickly to his normal high level of play.
Gustavsson will play in the AHL with the Belleville Senators this season. He will need time to develop but he is the Senators best bet to be the team’s goalie of the future. That is at least a couple of years away though.
#5 Prospect: Drake Batherson
Centre/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born April 27th, 1998 — Fort Wayne, Indiana
Height 6’2″ — Weight 188 lbs [188 cm / 85 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 4th round, #121 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
After being a fourth-round pick in 2017, Batherson had a breakout year. He started with Cape Breton but was moved to Blainville-Boisbriand at the trade deadline. Overall he scored 29 goals and 77 points in 51 games. He was even better in the playoffs with 33 points in 22 games. Batherson was the surprise scoring star of the World Juniors with seven goals, helping Team Canada to a gold medal.
Batherson is a good skater. He has a very good first step and quick acceleration and can surprise defenders with his changes in speed. He is more quick than fast. He is also exceptionally shifty, with excellent edgework and agility. Batherson can weave in and out of traffic both with and without the puck. He can continue to add lower-body strength, which would increase the power in his stride and make him harder to knock off the puck
Batherson is a talented stick-handler who makes plays with the puck. He can control the puck on an offensive zone entry, speeding up or slowing down the game while he waits for his linemates to get open. Once they do, he has the vision and passing skills to set up a scoring chance. He anticipates the movements of his teammates well and can pass through tight areas.
Batherson is a sniper. He has a very heavy wrist shot and quick release. Batherson also has the quick hands to beat a goaltender in tight and the good hand-eye co-ordination to get tip-ins, pounce on rebounds, and bang in one-timers in close. With added size and strength Batherson has become better at battling in front of the net and in the corners. While he can still fill out his frame, he’s already made some big strides over the course of his junior career.
Batherson works well in his own zone. He supports the defence on the backcheck, pressuring opposing forwards and creating turnovers. Once there is a turnover, he transitions quickly to offence. Batherson has good hockey sense. He reads the play well and is in position to cut down passing and shooting lanes.
Batherson will head to the AHL and play for the Belleville Senators this year. He has made great strides in a short time, but there is still some areas of his game that can continue to develop. Expect a year or two in the AHL before he is ready to move up to Ottawa.
#6 Prospect: Filip Chlapik
Centre — 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
Chlapik had a strong rookie season with the Belleville Senators, scoring 11 goals and 32 points in 52 games. With all the injuries the Senators faced, he also got plenty of NHL time but put up just one goal and four points in 20 games. It was a tough start for Chlapik who wasn’t really ready for the speed of the NHL game at this point in his career.
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 playmaker, 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. Chlapik 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 good 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 backchecking 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 needs a bit more AHL time and should go back to Belleville for the start of the new season. The flashes of skill are there, but he sometimes struggles to understand the limited time and space that he has at the NHL level. He can continue to adjust and become a stronger player in the AHL, before being ready to take the next step on a full-time basis. Chlapik could again see some NHL time this year if injuries hit the Sens line-up.
#7 Prospect: Alex Formenton
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born September 13th, 1999 — Barrie, Ontario
Height 6’2″ — Weight 165 lbs [188 cm / 75 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2nd round, #47 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Formenton surprisingly made the Senators out of training camp last year but played just one game before being sent back to London of the OHL. Once there he put up 29 goals and 48 points in 48 games. He also added seven points in four playoff games. Formenton was also part of Canada’s entry at the World Juniors, scoring four points in seven games on the way to a gold medal.
Formenton is an outstanding skater. `He has an excellent first step, very good acceleration, and his top-end speed is amongst the best in this draft class. He can absolutely fly out there. Formenton also has very good edge work. He can change directions quickly and turns on a dime. Formenton could improve his lower body strength though. This would help in being stronger on the puck, as well as winning more battles along the boards. Formenton could stand to be stronger on the puck in working the cycle game.
Alex Formenton uses his skating as his key offensive weapon. He gets in quickly on the forecheck, pressuring defenders and creating turnovers. Formenton can also get behind the defence on a breakout and can take the long pass to create a breakaway. When he has the puck on a rush, he can take the puck to the outside on a defender and cut to the net. If the defence back off to respect his speed, he can use the defender as a screen and fire a shot on net. Formenton has a very good release on his wrist shot and good accuracy. However, he can stand to bulk up and get even more power on it. His one-timer is decent, but can still be improved.
Formenton has spent the last year improving his ability to create his own shot. It has improved but still has a ways to go. If set up by a teammate, he can score goals. In terms of his ability to be a playmaker, Formenton plays a very simple and straightforward game. He makes the safe pass, keeping possession, and the play moving. However, he does not really try to make passes through tight spaces or to try and create something when it would be more of a difficult play. Formenton will need to play with a creative playmaker if he is to reach his full potential. He could also stand to bulk up, in order to be more effective in the high traffic areas. He tries to play a physical game, but this will be ineffective at high levels unless he gets a lot stronger.
Formenton is a willing back checker, who fights for loose pucks, and can be very annoying to opposing players. He is tenacious with his support and back pressure and tries to be physical against his opponents. This is another area where he can be even better with more muscle.
#8 Prospect: Jonny Tychonick
The Senators drafted Tychonick with the 48th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Tychnoick. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#9 Prospect: Jacob Bernard-Docker
The Senators drafted Bernard-Docker with the 26th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Bernard-Docker. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
Sleeper Prospect: Christian Jaros
Defence — 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 three goals and 13 assists for 16 points in 44 games with the Belleville Senators in his first season in North America. He even got called up for a couple games in Ottawa. Following the season, Jaros represented Slovakia at the Men’s World Championships.
Jaros has good mobility. He skates well in both directions, with good speed and acceleration. He also has decent agility, edgework 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 offence 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.
Jaros will likely start next season in the AHL again. However, he is progressing nicely and could be up with the Senators before the season is out. He may not have top-pairing upside, but he plays well enough defensively and moves the puck enough to help the team as depth on the bottom pair.
The Senators are deep in goal. In addition to Gustavsson, they have Marcus Hogberg and Jordan Hollett. While they aren’t blue chip goalie prospects, all three have NHL potential at this point. Scouting goalies is a bit of voodoo though, so one never knows if they have a future number one goalie or someone who won’t get past the AHL.
Up front, the Senators also added the gritty Jonathan Gruden in this year’s draft. They have a deep group with Tkachuk, White, Brown, Chlapik, Formenton, and Batherson already profiled. Add in Nick Paul, Gabriel Gagne, and Aaron Luchuk who could surprise, and the depth here is strong.
The defence was a bit weak heading into the NHL Draft, but the additions of Tychonick and Bernard-Docker have helped alleviate those concerns. Along with Jaros and Christian Wolanin, the Senators have a decent group. It obviously looks even better when you consider that Thomas Chabot just missed the cut as a prospect, but is just 21-years-old with a strong rookie season under his belt.
Main Photo: DALLAS, TX – JUNE 22: Brady Tkachuk poses after being selected fourth overall by the Ottawa Senators during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018, in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)