Welcome to the 2016 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2016 I will be featuring 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.
What I 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 2016-17 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 my darkhorse to make the NHL. The cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Ottawa Senators Prospects
In a year where all seven Canadian teams missed the playoffs, the Ottawa Senators finished as the best of the bunch. However, that is little consolation to the franchise, or the fans. The Senators battled hard all year, but just didn’t have enough. Changes were made as a result. General manager Bryan Murray stepped aside, and Pierre Dorion is the new man in charge. Head coach Dave Cameron got the axe, with Guy Boucher taking the reigns. Joining Boucher behind the bench will be associate head coach Marc Crawford. Ottawa was not done. They made a multiple player deal with the New York Rangers, with Mika Zibanejad as the headline piece leaving Ottawa and Derick Brassard being the key piece to return. Long-time Senator Chris Phillips retired this summer, punctuating the changing of the guard in the organization.
Ottawa Senators Prospects Scouting Reports
Top Prospect: Logan Brown
The Senators drafted Brown with the 11th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Brown. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#2 Prospect: Thomas Chabot
Defense — shoots Left
Born Jan 30 1997 — Ste. Marie-de-Beauce, PQ
Height 6’2 — Weight 180 lbs [188 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in round 1, #18 overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Chabot had an outstanding season with the Saint John Sea Dogs. He scored 11 goals and 45 points, upping his production despite playing 19 less games. In the playoffs he was outstading with 21 points in 17 games. He was also one of Canada’s best defencemen at the World Junior Championships.
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 and 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. He can sometimes get caught flat footed and beaten wide on the rush, when moving backwards. This is another area that is continually improving and happening less and less often. It would not be surprising if he cuts it out of his game almost entirely this year.
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 is decent, and he has good accuracy. He has added power over the last year, though of course it can continue to get better. He also has a decent 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 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 its a knack to hit 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 doesn’t always look for the huge hit, and will not let such hits get him out of his position. Chabot maintains good gap control and when that big hit is available, he will take advantage. He uses his stick to break up passes, and to use his body to block shots.
Expect to see Chabot back in Saint John next year. The Sea Dogs should have an excellent team, with many of the pieces in place that will be necessary to challenge for the QMJHL Championship. Chabot will also likely be a big part of Canada’s World Junior team.
#3 Prospect: Colin White
Center — shoots Right
Born Jan 30 1997 — Hanover, MA
Height 6’0 — Weight 183 lbs [183 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in round 1, 21st overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
White put together a solid freshman campaign at Boston College. He stepped into a top six role and was immediately one of the most dangerous forwards on the team with 19 goals and 43 points in 37 games. He finished third on the team in goals and second in points scored. White won a bronze medal playing for Team USA at the World Juniors. He had three goals and seven points in seven games.
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 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, and 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. He was not given the same responsibilities as a freshman, but it would not be surprising to see him get that role this year. 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.
There was some talk that White could turn pro after last season, or this summer, but that does not seem to be happening. He will be back at Boston College in the fall and looking to take the Eagles to a National Title. It seems likely that White will turn pro after the season, and could get a game or two for the Senators in April depending on how the team is looking, and how his season has gone.
#4 Prospect: Francis Perron
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Apr 18 1996 — Blainville, PQ
Height 6’0 — Weight 163 lbs [183 cm / 74 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in round 7, #190 overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
It was a historic season for Francis Perron. He led the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to the best record in the QMJHL, as they lost just nine regulation time games all year. Perron also led the Huskies through the QMJHL playoffs as the dominated the league and won the Championship. Awarded both the QMJHL Regular Season MVP and Playoff MVP for his work; he scored 108 points in 62 regular season games, 33 points in 18 playoff games and eight points in five Memorial Cup games. It was not quite enough though, as the Huskies fell to the London Knights, in overtime of the Memorial Cup final.
Perron is a very quick skater. His top end speed is very good, but it is the first step quickness and acceleration that sets Perron apart. He wins races to loose pucks due to that quickness. It also makes him very elusive, and able to beat defenders one-on-one. He does this off the rush and in the cycle game. Perron possesses excellent agility and edge work as well. He needs to improve his core strength though, in order to win more board battles and to establish position in front of the net against professional opponents.
Perron has excellent puck handling skills and is very creative. He can stickhandle in a phone booth, and avoid defenders off the rush or in the cycle game. The Huskies leader will try (and make) some very tough passes through the tightest of openings. He has the poise to extend plays, the vision to find open teammates and the ability to saucer a pass over sticks, or thread the needle to make a tape-to-tape pass to a linemate. He also has a very accurate and effective wrist shot. Perron has a quick release which beats goaltenders. His hockey IQ is off the charts. He reads the play tremendously well, and makes smart plays with the puck.
Over the last year, Perron has worked on becoming stronger and playing a gritter game. By adding grit to his finesse game, he’s really upped his production and his contribution to the Huskies. Listed at just 165 pounds, Perron will need to continue bulk up to be able to continue to battle in corners and in front of the net as he reaches the pro level.
Perron works hard in the defensive zone, but his size is a real detriment. He gets pushed off the puck and has trouble containing bigger forwards in the cycle game. Good anticipation and hockey IQ allow him to shut down passing lanes and create turnovers, though. This allows Perron to quickly transition to offense.
Perron is ready to take the next step in his career. Some areas of his game need development. He will likely start the season in the AHL, though he could see some call-ups if the Senators are hit by injuries. Adding muscle, while still maintaining his speed and elusiveness will be key to making the NHL on a full-time basis.
#5 Prospect: Jonathan Dahlen
The Senators drafted Dahlen with the 42nd overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Dahlen. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#6 Prospect Nick Paul
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born Mar 20 1995 — Mississauga, ONT
Height 6’4 — Weight 223 lbs [193 cm / 101 kg]
Drafted by the Dallas Stars in round 4, #101 overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft
Traded to the Ottawa Senators as part of the Jason Spezza deal (summer 2014)
Nick Paul had a pedestrian first campaign in the AHL with six goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 45 games. He also got in 24 games with the Senators. He scored five points in that time, playing mostly a bottom line role. While he didn’t set the league on fire, he didn’t really look out of place in a grinding role.
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.
Nick Paul looks like he will have an NHL career. Upside remains the question mark though. Is there enough offense in his game to be a top 6 player, or will he end up sticking in the bottom line grinder role that he played for the Senators last season. While its unfair to expect Paul to come in and be an NHL scorer right away, it is still a bit concerning that he has never been a big-time point getter at any level. It seems that he has a good chance to fulfill the role of depth player in Ottawa this season, and going forward
Sleeper: Matt O’Connor
Goalie — shoots Left – Catches Left
Born Feb 14 1992 — Sault Ste. Marie, ONT
Height 6.06 — Weight 205 [198 cm/93 kg]
Signed as an undrafted free agent, 2015
With Andrew Hammond injured to star the season, O’Connor was the Senators backup. He actually started the Senators home opener. It wasn’t the start that he, or the Senators owner, Eugene Melnyk wanted, as the team fell to the Montreal Canadiens. They lost the game, and he would soon find himself back in the AHL. O’Connor struggled in his first year as a pro with just an .895 save percentage for Binghamton. While it wasn’t an ideal season, by any means, there is still plenty of potential here. O’Connor has hope for the future.
It really took some time for O’Connor to adjust to the pro game. The good news here is that he got better as the season went along. Early in the year, he really struggled and found himself well behind Chris Dreidger for starts in the Binghamton crease. As the season went along though, he gained confidence and by the end of the year was performing as he was expected to coming out of college.
O’Connor has excellent size, and uses its extremely well. He gets out of the crease and cuts down the angle, giving shooters very little to look at. O’Connor has very good lateral movement and tracks the puck well, cutting down a lot of cross-ice plays in the zone. He also has very quick legs, and a tight, efficient butterfly style. He’s so big there is little room upstairs even when he goes down. He could stand to work on his rebound control going forward though. He also has to be a bit more composed in the net. O’Connor sometimes seems to let a bad goal get to him, and things spiral out of control as a result.
Expect O’Connor to start the season in the AHL, where he will continue to refine his game. He could be NHL ready by the time training camp rolls around in 2017.
The Senators system is not as strong as it has been in the recent past, but there are still some quality pieces. Their best goalie prospect, Marcus Hogberg, spent last season in Sweden. Significant defensive depth, Christian Jaros and Andreas Englund were also plying their trade overseas. The Sens will want to get all three over to North America as soon as possible.
Upfront, the team still has Matt Puempel, but he’s fallen well down our rankings after not showing much progression this past season. He could have real NHL potential, but must start showing it soon. There are also players like Ryan Dzingel, Gabriel Gagne and Filip Chlapik making their way through the system. The Sens hope one of these players is a diamond in the rough, like Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone were in previous years.