Welcome back to part two of our 2019 Ottawa Senators opening night lineup series. In the first part, we looked at the forwards and their potential lines. Now, it is time to focus on the defence and goalies. As the Zack Smith trade showed today, the potential lineup can change at any time. However, this is our best guess at what the 2019 Ottawa Senators opening night lineup will look like.
2019 Ottawa Senators
The 2019 Ottawa Senators defence core could very easily be switched multiple ways. For starters, it is entirely possible Wolanin is in the top four at some point in the season. However, with such a logjam in the NHL, he may just be the casualty that is sent down due to being on a two-way deal.
It’s a no brainer that Thomas Chabot is on the first pair. This is maybe the only for sure thing about Ottawa’s defence. However, his partner is still in the air. He and DeMelo played well enough last year, but it seems like Ottawa may be wanting to bring in Hainsey so he can play a role as he did in Toronto. While this would not be at all effective, giving him 3.5 million dollars signals they likely don’t plan on playing him on the third pair.
DeMelo is a better 5v5 defenceman than Zaitsev so it may be seen that he gets the top four favourite over him. As for the left side, Borowiecki absolutely can’t play top-four minutes, but it also seems unlikely he is out of the lineup entirely. So, unless they run 7D it looks like Brannstrom will start in the second pair. His ice time can be adjusted accordingly given his results, but if he has a good camp there is no harm in keeping him there to start.
The third pair of the Sens could easily see a rotating cast. All of Wolanin, Jaros, and Borowiecki will be looking top slot in and out of the lineup. Mix this with Hainsey and Zaitsev possibly switching, as well as DeMelo and you get lots of potential pairings.
For the starting night lineup it seems unlikely Borowiecki is out as previously stated, and given Zaitsev may get PP2 and Penalty Kill time, he won’t be out either. That leaves both a third pair to start but also the 7th D in Wolanin. Wolanin has more than earned a spot on this team but will have to work to overthrow a veteran like Borowiecki.
A rotation in and out of the lineup may very well be used this year, but to start the season it would make sense the veteran gets the start. Wolanin is going have to play lights out at camp or have someone like Brannstrom falter to crack the opening lineup. He is in a tough spot playing behind two great defencemen on the left but has every right to be the third pair guy as the year goes on.
As for the right side, depending on the team or matchup, Zaitsev, Hainsey, or DeMelo could be in there. However, given that DeMelo is better 5v5 and Zaitsev will likely get special teams time, it is fair enough to think that Zaitsev could get fewer minutes at even strength.
Jaros struggled last season and likely should have been sent down at some point. It is possible Wolanin takes the sword and is sent down, however, Jaros likely needs to work on his game more. He will absolutely be with the Sens at some point this season though.
The starter job was easy to predict, it’s Nilsson’s to lose. Anderson has shown that he just doesn’t have it as a starter anymore. The Sens will likely still use him as a tandem backup but that means a significant amount will fall to Nilsson. The Sens will likely hope to start him at least 50 games this year and it seems obvious one of those would be the opening night game.
As for the backup position, Marcus Hogberg has a shot too but given that Anderson and Nilsson are both on one-ways it would make sense if he stays down to start. Look for Hogberg or whoever is running Belleville’s crease to come up post-deadline like last season. The Sens have a logjam of goalies in the minors but a trade to move Anderson seems unlikely. On top of that, carrying three goalies when there is a roster limitation isn’t a great use of assets. Naturally, that leaves Anderson as the backup. It will be interesting to see if a lighter workload helps his results or if he is truly cooked. He has struggled heavily over the past two seasons supporting a starters job and has shown desperate signs of needing rest.
Hogberg and Filip Gustavsson will likely share Belleville’s net again. While someone like Joey Daccord may get the ECHL net to start. This team has lots of potential young players up and down the lineup but not enough space to put them.
Overall, the skill of the backend is a bit concerning. The left side could be one of the better ones in the league in a few years. However, Chabot, Brannstrom, and Wolanin all still need to develop. This is fine, but as always there will be growing pains this year. On the right side, the 2019 Ottawa Senators are much less talented. Hainsey and Zaitsev both looked in over their heads in Toronto and will get similar roles here in Ottawa. As for DeMelo, he is a solid guy but he shouldn’t be the best RHD on a team.
Nilsson was a surprise last season and a solid pickup, but it seems unlikely he will be able to save the day. The Sens will hope for at least league average goaltending from him but he will have to play above that if this team wants to compete.
Overall, it’s OK that this roster won’t be good. As long as they help the young guys develop. Getting guys like Brannstrom, Chabot, Wolanin, and even Hogberg lots of ice time this season is crucial. Win or lose, the focus needs to be on development.