In the Pipeline: Ottawa Senators Defence

OTTAWA, ON - JUNE 25: Ottawa Senators Prospect Defenseman Erik Brannstrom (26) during the Ottawa Senators Development Camp on June 25, 2019, at Bell Sensplex in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Back in April, we took a look at the Ottawa Senators goaltending future. However, now comes the time for the Ottawa Senators defence and what it holds. Throughout this article, I’ll take a look at all three defenders who could make an impact for the Senators in the foreseeable future.

The Value in the Ottawa Senators Defence

The Senators are in a very intriguing position in today’s time. The team has gone from being a goal away from the final to selling all their key assets. Considering the sheer incompetence management has shown, they’re still somehow around in hopes of leading a successful rebuild. Throughout their days of selling, they traded away Erik Karlsson which left many fans in frustration.

The silver lining is that the Ottawa Senators defence isn’t too bad. The organization had drafted some promising defenders in hopes of them making an impact one day. This was bolstered by some prospect accusation through trades. Heading into the 2019-20 season, three young defensemen have a great shot at helping the rebuild. Remember that these players have either had a limited impact so far or none at all for the Sens.

Christian Wolanin

Our first candidate is defensemen Christian Wolanin. The 24-year-old was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL draft. Wolanin has seen his fair share of time among the Ottawa Senators defence so far. He has played a total of 40 NHL games and has 15 points registered to his name. Those numbers don’t jump out but it’s his stability that makes him what he is. He’s definitely a player that the Senators can surely use in their rebuild on the blueline.

Wolanin played a significant role with the Ottawa Senators defence last year. He ranked sixth among all defenders with 15:24 time on ice at 5v5. The 24-year-old also finished the season with a CF% of 46.5% which ranked him third-best among the teams defencemen. While playing a healthy amount of even-strength hockey, Christian Wolanin saw some man-advantage time as well. He averaged 1:52 on the powerplay for the Sens, ranking him third once again among all Sens defenders. For someone that spent 55% of his season with Cody Ceci, the numbers you see should entice you more than they might.

Where Christian Wolanin will end up in the mix of the Ottawa Senators defence is still a question that’s left unanswered right now. But one thing is pretty safe to bet, he’s one of the best defenders on that blueline when the puck drops for the Sens in the fall. The team already has shown that he brings value to the table, now how they’ll manage Wolanin is the real question.

Erik Brannstrom

Erik Brannstrom is not a homegrown player for the Ottawa Senators organization. Whether the Sens drafted him or not, Brannstrom is probably the best prospect in the organization right now. Some may put rookie Drake Batherson ahead, but Brannstrom is top two indefinitely. Originally drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights, Brannstrom came over in the Mark Stone deal. In nine AHL games with the Belleville Senators, Brannstrom tallied a total of four points.

The 19-year-old will turn 20 just days before the Senators 2019-2020 training camp opens. Meaning that there is still question marks around him actually making the roster. With the Senators signing Ron Hainsey in free agency, it creates a logjam for young players like Brannstrom trying to crack the opening night roster.

Brannstrom is clearly a significant player for the Ottawa Senators defence outlook. Now it’s just a matter of time before he’s ready to make the jump to the show. Considering his ceiling and skill level, fans probably cannot wait to see someone like him on the backend.

Maxime Lajoie

Defensemen Maxime Lajoie is another interesting player in the Ottawa Senators Defence squad. Lajoie got to play on opening night in 2018 and his season started out with a bang. In his first four games, Lajoie saw himself rack up five points with three of those being goals. He also found himself third on the team’s TOI per game in defensemen.

But as the season grew on Maxime, it was evident that he began to struggle. When playing against more skilled teams, Lajoie struggled more than normal. Whether it was because of which opponent’s lines was on the ice with him, or whatever else, Lajoie was just not the same player the Senators had seen earlier on. Towards the end of the season, the organization finally made the move of sending the youngster down to Belleville to improve.

Although getting sent down isn’t ever what a rookie wants to face, sometimes it’s a decision that has to be made so their potential doesn’t plummet. Lajoie can still be a key piece for the Senators as they continue to crawl through their rebuild. Much like Brannstrom, the backend seems to be a tight squeeze. The fact of the matter is, even if Lajoie doesn’t find himself in Ottawa on opening night, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to get called up.

Ottawa Senators Defence Extras

To close out, two main points about the Senators backend and what it has in store for the future. With the players they already have, and the newly drafted Lassi Thomson, the defence is at a good place right now. Notable mentions include Jonny Tychonick and Jacob Bernard-Docker who also seem to be bright spots.

Now for the Ottawa Senators, it’s about how they manage this group of talent as they continue their way to hopefully being a contender eventually. While it’s hard to scout talent, it’s also just as hard to make sure you manage it properly when you have it. That’s a crucial point for the Senators to succeed on. The Ottawa Senators defence doesn’t seem like a worrisome part in Sens land, but you never know what can happen with their management.

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