2021 TSP: Ottawa Senators Prospects

Jake Sanderson, 2021 Top Ottawa Senators Prospects
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Welcome to the 2021 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2021 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. 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 2021 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the 2021 Ottawa Senators Prospects.

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 2021-22 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.

2021 Ottawa Senators Prospects

Ottawa Senators Off-Season

The start of last season was a disaster for the Senators and they were out of the playoff race before they could even get in it. However, the team showed a lot of heart and grit. They played much better in the second half of the season, giving Sens fans hope that with a strong off-season they can push for a playoff spot next year. Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle established themselves as core pieces of the NHL team, joining Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot. If the team can surround them with quality vets, and other strong young players coming through the system, the future will be bright in Ottawa.

The big news this off-season was the hiring of Pierre McGuire into a management role. His hiring was controversial and it remains to be seen how the former TSN/NBC broadcaster transitions back into hockey management after being out for approximately 20 years. The team also moved on from Evgeni Dadonov, trading him to Vegas for Nick Holden and a pick. Other additions include Michael Del Zotto, Kole Sherwood, and Pontus Aberg.  The additions may seem a bit underwhelming, but its clear that the Sens plan is to continue to integrate the youngsters this year. They may be another year away from seriously contending for a playoff spot, but it could be worth it in the long run.

2021 NHL Draft Picks:  Tyler BoucherZack Ostapchuk, Ben Roger, Oliver Johansson, Carson Latimer, Chandler Romeo
Graduations: Tim Stutzle, Drake Batherson, Erik Brannstrom, Josh Norris, Joey Daccord (expansion)

 

2021 Top Ottawa Senators Prospect: Jake Sanderson

Left Defence — shoots Left
Born July 8th, 2002 — Whitefish, Montana
Height 6’2″ — Weight 185 lbs [188 cm/84 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 1st round, #5 overall, at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

Sanderson played a top-four role for the University of North Dakota as a freshman, taking minutes in all situations. He was solid at both ends of the ice and put up two goals and 13 assists for 15 points in 22 games. He also won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Juniors, picking up two assists in the seven-game tournament.

Skating

Sanderson plays a strong two-way game that is based on his excellent skating ability. He moves well in both directions, with very good speed and excellent acceleration. Sanderson can join the rush or pinch at the blue line and still get back defensively. He also has very good edgework and agility. This allows him to cover a lot of ice and get into good positions. His smooth pivots allow Sanderson to quickly transition from offence to defence and vice-versa. He is also strong on his skates. Sanderson is able to avoid forecheckers and is tough to knock off the puck. He is also able to win battles along the boards and clear the front of the net. As he matures and adds muscle to his frame, this aspect of his game should improve even more.

Offensive Game

Sanderson can help produce at the offensive end of the ice. His strong skating and puckhandling allow him to move the puck out of his zone and up the ice. He can also carry the puck through the neutral zone but is more likely to make a strong first pass to a forward rushing up the ice. Sanderson can join the rush as a trailer and has good instincts of when to take advantage of such opportunities. When he does rush the puck up the ice, he makes good decisions and can pass the puck to a teammate to set up a scoring chance.

Sanderson shows good vision and passing skills and can quarterback the play from the point. Sanderson has a decent point shot, but it is not a howitzer. He understands how to keep it low and to get it on the net. Sanderson uses his agility to walk the line and create shooting and passing lanes. He is especially adept at faking a slap shot and quickly changing directions to make a slap pass to a teammate. He likes to sneak down from the point and can utilize an accurate wrist shot with a good release from that area. Sanderson also moves well in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick, changing the angle of attack and opening up additional options to set up a teammate for a scoring chance.

Defensive Game

Sanderson’s biggest strength comes in his own end. His strong skating ability makes him very difficult to beat off the rush. Good gap control and strong defensive instincts allow him to play against the other team’s top line. He is willing to play a physical game but is disciplined enough to not get himself out of position looking for a big hit. Instead, Sanderson is more than willing to engage in the physical game along the boards or in front of the net. He also has a quick stick which creates turnovers and cuts down passing lanes. Sanderson is not afraid to put his body on the line to block shots.

Outlook

Sanderson has the skills to develop into an all-around defenceman at the NHL level, playing in all situations, working on the power play and killing penalties. If he reaches his potential, he could become a huge minute eater and play on the top pair. Sanderson is headed back to the University of North Dakota. He could sign with the Senators in the spring and make his NHL debut.

 

#2 Prospect: Shane Pinto

Center/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born November 12th, 2000 — Franklin Square, New York
Height 6’3″ — Weight 187 lbs [191 cm/85 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2nd Round, #32 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft

There were some questions about Pinto’s offensive potential in his draft year. Over the last two years, he has produced at the University of North Dakota and answered those questions. Last season he scored 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points in 28 games as a sophomore. He also signed his ELC with the Senators, playing 12 games with the team. He again showed his offensive ability, scoring one goal and seven points in 12 games.

Skating

Pinto is a powerful skater. He generates good speed, but more importantly, it is tough to knock him off his stride. Pinto can fight through checks and take the puck to the front of the net. He is also strong along the boards and in front of the net. His acceleration is excellent. Once he gets a step on a defender, he can blow by his opponent and cut to the front of the net. He can also change speeds to beat defenders, slowing down to open up a passing or a shooting lane. Pinto has improved his footwork. This has led to improvements in his agility and lateral movement. There is still even more room for improvement though.

Offensive Game

Pinto is a shooter. He has a very good release on his wrist shot and he is effective at one-timing a cross-ice pass into the back of the net. He finds open spaces and gets himself in a good position to take that pass from a linemate. Pinto’s shot has good but not great power though. He is at his best getting his shot off from inside the faceoff dots. From further out, he can have issues beating goaltenders. This could improve as he gets stronger. However, Pinto does a good job of creating a shot in high danger areas. His speed on the rush can also create offensive chances. If defenders back off to protect against that speed, Pinto can use the defender as a screen and fire the puck on the net.

Pinto can also set up teammates. He does this by controlling the puck down low and finding the open man. He is not going to deke defenders one-on-one or try to make a creative saucer pass through a tight opening. Instead, Pinto plays a simple but effective game. He moves the puck quickly and finds an open teammate on the cycle game. Pinto then darts into an open space and looks for the give and go. Pinto is not afraid to play in the dirty areas and will take a hit to make a play. However, he is not the type to initiate physical contact.

Defensive Game

Pinto could play more of a physical game in his own end. He can use his body better to contain opponents in the cycle game or to backcheck and help his defence to clear the front of the net. Pinto reads the play well though and uses his long stick to cut down passing lanes. Pinto improved his positioning and does a good job to keep himself between his man and the net. He can intercept passes and start the transition game in the opposite direction though. The strong work in his own end has helped him to generate more scoring chances in college. That said, like all rookies, there will be some work to do and lessons to learn at the NHL level.

Outlook

Pinto could become a top-six forward in the NHL. His skating is good enough to keep him at centre, and the Sens will give him every opportunity in camp to be the second or third-line centre. It would be nice to see him be a little more physically as he matures though.

 

#3 Prospect: Jacob Bernard-Docker

Defence — shoots Right
Born June 30th, 2000 — Canmore, Alberta
Height 6’1″ — Weight 187 lbs [185 cm/85 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 1st round, #26 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft.

Bernard-Docker finished his college career with a solid junior season putting up three goals and 18 points in 27 games with the University of North Dakota. After signing his ELC, he made his NHL debut and played five games for the Sens down the stretch. He was also part of Team Canada at the Men’s World Championships, helping the team to a gold medal.

Skating

Bernard-Docker is an outstanding skater. He has very good speed in both directions. His first step and his acceleration are outstanding as he reaches that top speed in just a few strides. The stride itself is extremely smooth. He can appear to be gliding above the ice. Bernard-Docker also generates the power to fight through checks and be strong on the pucks. His agility and edgework are strong. He changes directions quickly and does this both going forward and backward. Bernard-Docker makes sharp, smooth pivots. He transitions quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. The strong-skating ability is the key to every part of Bernard-Docker’s game. It is this foundation that allows him to be an excellent two-way defenceman.

Offensive Game

Bernard-Docker has a good slap shot, as well as a strong one-timer. His shot was feared throughout the NCAA and despite the fact that teams would often shade his way to take it away, he was still very effective on the power play. He uses his excellent agility to walk the line and make sure he can get it on the net. He also understands when to keep it low to give his teammates an opportunity to get tip-ins and rebounds. Bernard-Docker has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. He can sneak down from the point and let that shot go from the top of the face-off circle. He also lets it go when other teams cover him hard at the point.

Bernard-Docker is more of a trigger-man than a true power-play quarterback. He does not have the puck on his stick for long at the point, preferring to move it quickly, passing if no shot is available. He is smart with his passes and finds the open man to keep things moving. However, Bernard-Docker is not the type of defenceman who makes dangerous passes through seams, or through tight areas to set up a teammate. Instead, he simply finds the open man on the perimeter.

Bernard-Docker is willing to join the rush or pinch at the blueline. He has learned to pick his spots at the NCAA level but the game is even faster in the pros. He needs to continue to make good decisions of when to push the pace and when to be conservative.

Defensive Game

Bernard-Docker is strong against the rush. His skating allows him to maintain excellent gap control. He is very tough to beat in one-on-one situations and uses an excellent stick to poke check opponents. Bernard-Docker could be more physical, especially in battles on the boards and in front of the net. If he can get stronger, this may be an area that improves as a result. He also needs to be better at maintaining his position and staying with his man when he is away from the puck. He has a tendency to puck-watch a little bit at times. Bernard-Docker did this less often as the season went on though, so there are already improvements showing in his game.

Outlook

Bernard-Docker still needs a little development but has the potential to be a top-four defender at the NHL level in time. Expect to see the Senators take their time with him, starting him in the AHL but having him up for call-ups when injuries hit. He could be a full-timer by the 2022-23 season.

 

#4 Prospect: Ridly Greig

Center/Left Wing — shoots Left
Born August 8th, 2002 — Lethbridge, Alberta
Height 5’11” — Weight 162 lbs [180 cm / 73 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 1st Round, #28 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.

Greig had the chance to compete for a spot on Canada’s World Junior Team, but had a positive COVID test took that opportunity away. Once he recovered, and the season started, he had a strong year with the Brandon Wheat Kings scoring 10 goals and 32 points in 21 games. He also had the opportunity to play seven games for Belleville picking up a goal and three points.

Skating

At 5-foot-11 and just 162 pounds, Greig will need to fill out his frame to be effective at the next level. Greig makes up for his lack of size with his skating ability. His first few steps are very good. He also has very good acceleration. While Greig’s top-end speed is only a little above-average, those first few steps and the acceleration make up for it. It is rare to have a 200-foot race to a puck in a hockey game. It is about much shorter distances. Greig’s quickness is more valuable than top-end speed. His edgework and agility are also good, and Greig can avoid defenders both with and without the puck. He also has a low centre of gravity which helps his balance and makes him difficult to knock off the puck.

Offensive Game

Greig combines his strong skating with excellent stickhandling. He can make plays at top speed, which makes him extremely dangerous off the rush. Greig has excellent vision and playmaking skills. He has the ability to quickly move the puck through tight areas and set up his teammates. Greig is good at controlling the puck in the cycle game, keeping the puck moving and getting open to get a pass back from a teammate. He is very good at playing the give-and-go off the wall and taking the puck to the net for a scoring chance, either for himself or a teammate.

Greig also has a very good wrist shot and quick release. He has quick hands and can change the angle on his shot which helps to fool goalies. Greig does not have the hardest shot, but his accuracy and that release make up for it. He is also not afraid to fight in the dirty areas of the ice, getting to the slot and other high-traffic areas. Greig is a battler who is not afraid to take a hit to make a play. He gets in quickly on the forecheck, pressuring defenders and can deliver big hits at times. He is also a very smart player, moving the puck to good areas, and getting open without it.

Defensive Game

Greig brings his work ethic to all three zones of the ice. He is good at bringing back pressure and supporting the defence in transition. He can also play down low and support against the cycle. Greig’s size can be an issue as he may get pushed around a bit by bigger forwards. However, with his strong balance and quick stick, he is also able to create turnovers and move the puck up the ice quickly. Greig needs to continue to improve in the faceoff circle.

Outlook

Greig will need to continue to bulk up, while not losing his skating ability, to be able to play his game at the pro level. That likely means another year in junior and potentially some time in the AHL as well. There is potential to become a top-six forward. Greig is the type of player who has the coach’s confidence in any situation. If he can’t bulk up, it may lead to him moving to the wing at the next level.

 

#5 Prospect: Alex Formenton

Left-Wing — shoots Left
Born September 13th, 1999 — Barrie, Ontario
Height 6’2″ — Weight 185 lbs [188 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2nd round, #47 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft.

Formenton split time between Ottawa and Belleville last year. He put up four goals and six points in 20 games with the NHL team. He also added four goals in 13 games with Belleville.

Skating

Formenton is an outstanding skater. He has an excellent first step, very good acceleration, and his top-end speed is close to elite. He can absolutely fly out there. Formenton also has very good edge work. He can change directions quickly and turns on a dime. Formenton has gotten stronger over the last two years. This has helped him to be stronger on the puck, to fight through checks, and to win more battles along the boards and in front of the net. Formenton is better on the cycle game now, working hard down low to create offensive opportunities.

Offensive Game

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 good release on his wrist shot and good accuracy. He could stand to add more power though. His one-timer is also decent but can still be improved.

Formenton has worked to improve his ability to create his own shot. He is much better at using his quick feet to create space from defenders and fire the puck on net. He can also score goals if set up by a teammate, finding open space without the puck. 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 has become more effective in high traffic areas with his added upper-body strength. Formenton is willing to play a gritty and physical game but the real test will come this season when he is playing against men.

Defensive Game

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 the added muscle has helped. His positioning is very good. Formenton uses his stick to poke check opponents or to intercept passes. When a turnover is created, he can quickly transition the puck up the ice.

Outlook

Formenton will look to make the Senators full-time out of camp. His blazing speed can be a real asset to the team, especially one this young that will want to play that up-tempo game in order to have any chance of success this season. Expect Formenton to get a long look at training camp and be a full-time player on the Senators this year. The question is if he can produce enough offence for a top-six role, or will he be an energy player further down the lineup.

 

#6 Prospect: Tyler Boucher

The Senators drafted Boucher with the 10th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Boucher. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.

 

#7 Prospect: Filip Gustavsson

Goalie — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born June 7th, 1998 — Skelleftea, Sweden
Height 6’2″ — Weight 183 lbs [188 cm / 82 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 started last season with Sodertlje in the Allsvenskan. In 19 games he had a 2.30 goals-against-average and .919 save percentage. When the North American season got started, he split time between the NHL and AHL.  In nine games with Ottawa, Gustavsson had a 2.16 goals-against-average and .933 save percentage. Gustavsson also put a 2.86 goals-against-average and .910 save percentage with Belleville.

Talent Analysis

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 21-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.

Mental Makeup

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.

Outlook

Matt Murray is set to be the Senators starter. However, there may be some competition for the backup goalie position. Gustavsson, now 23-years-old will battle with Anton Forsberg, who is in the last year of his contract with the Sens. With a solid camp, he could certainly win the position. However, it would not be unusual if the Senators determine that Gustavsson should see plenty of action in Belleville before becoming a backup goalie in 2022-23.

 

#8 Prospect: Egor Sokolov

Right Wing/Left Wing — shoots Right
Born June 7th, 2000 — Yekaterinburg, Russia
Height 6’3″ — Weight 222 lbs [191 cm/101 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2nd round, #61 overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.

After Sokolov was undrafted in both the 2018 and 2019 drafts, he had a breakout season in 2019-20 with 46 goals and 92 points in 52 games with Cape Breton in the QMJHL. The Senators took a chance on him, drafting him in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft, relatively high for a player who had passed through the draft twice. Ottawa was rewarded for the pick. Sokolov joined Belleville and with 15 goals and 25 points in 35 games last year, he showed that the offence of his 19-year-old season was more than just a player putting things together in his final year of junior. He is a legitimate prospect.

Skating

Sokolov’s skating is a bit of a work in progress. Once he is at full speed, he moves well enough and can keep up with the play. It’s getting there that is a bit of an issue. Sokolov can work on his first step and acceleration. His stride is a bit choppy in start-up and this takes away from his speed over short bursts. Since hockey is a game based on short bursts, races to open ice and loose pucks, this is a bit of an issue and something to work on. His skating has certainly improved the last few years, but there is still work to be done. He could also work on his edgework and agility. Sokolov is built like a truck though. He has excellent balance and power. He wins his battles on the boards and it is very difficult to move him from the front of the net.

Offensive Game

Sokolov is a big forward who uses his body to protect the puck extremely well down low. With his strong stickhandling and big frame, it is extremely difficult to knock him off the puck. He extends plays and keeps possession for his team. Sokolov can play the role of playmaker when working down low. He has good vision and when he spots an opening, he can make a quick pass to a teammate to set up a scoring chance. Sokolov has the type of soft hands where he can make a quick move to open up a passing lane and get the puck to a teammate. He is also effective on the forecheck, creating pressure on opposing defenders and causing turnovers. Sokolov is not afraid to throw a big hit on a defender retrieving a loose puck or to take a hit to make a play.

While he can set up teammates, the best part of Sokolov’s game is his own ability to score goals. He uses his size effectively, driving to the net both with and without the puck. Big and strong, Sokolov also uses his soft hands to bury goals in tight to the net. He has the quickness to elevate the puck in a hurry and into tight spaces. He also has the hand-eye coordination to deflect pucks and pounce on rebounds. Sokolov can also score from further out. He has an excellent wrist shot with plenty of power and good accuracy. With his soft hands, he is able to toe-drag and change his release point just prior to shooting and this makes things more difficult on goalies.

Defensive Game

Sokolov is willing to use his frame and his physical play in all three zones. He supports the defence down low and is more than willing to put the effort into the backcheck. His positioning is also good. However, his lack of quickness can become a liability when facing shifty opponents. His lateral agility can be an issue in staying with his man and preventing him from finding open ice. This is the biggest area where his game will need to improve before he is ready to make an impact at the NHL level.

Outlook

Sokolov’s skating has improved over the off-season in each of the last three years. If he can take another jump in that regard this summer, he could challenge for a spot in Senators training camp.  It would not hurt for him to start the season in the AHL if he needs a little more time though. Still it won’t be long until Sokolov is ready for the NHL game.

 

#9 Prospect: Mads Sogaard

Goaltender — Shoots Left — Catches Left
Born December 13th, 2000 — Aalborg, Denmark
Height 6’7″ — Weight 196 lbs [201 cm/89 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2nd Round, #37 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.

After a pair of successful years in the WHL, Sogaard returned to Denmark with the pandemic delaying the start of the hockey season in North America. In 16 games in the countries’ top men’s league he put up a .922 save percentage. He also played seven games for Belleville in the AHL, putting up a 2.40 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.

Skating and Talent Analysis

At 6-foot-7 Sogaard is a huge goaltender. His size allows him to take up large portions of the net and gives shooters little to look at. He uses an effective butterfly technique. Even when he is down in the butterfly his chest still reaches the crossbar and covers a lot of the net. Sogaard tracks pucks well and moves side-to-side quickly. However, he isn’t always under control, and he can sometimes overslide leaving net open. With his long legs, he can also give up a big five-hole when he is moving side to side. He is very good at stopping the first shot. For his age, he shows good rebound control, but like most young goalies there is still room to improve. His legs are powerful and quick. He also has a good glove hand and strong blocker.

Sogaard likes to get out of his net and play the puck. He moves well, skating behind the net to cut off dump-ins and help his defenders. Sogaard is able to make a solid first pass to his defencemen, easing the pressure and getting the breakout started. He can sometimes try the long pass if he sees the other team making a change, but is not always accurate on those.

Mental Make-up

Sogaard has shown the ability to compete under heavy pressure. When playing for Denmark, he is often bombarded with shots and high-quality chances. Despite the sometimes lopsided scores, he keeps his head up, competes hard and looks to make the next save. Sogaard has also shown the ability to keep calm and cool for Medicine Hat in close games. He stays cool under pressure and is a leader for the team. When the Tigers are under pressure, he has a knack for knocking a puck out of play off his blocker or catching/covering up and getting his team a face-off to cool things down.

Outlook

Like most young goaltenders, Sogaard is a long-term project, likely at least two or three years away from the NHL at earliest. He will need to continue to work on his rebound control, covering up his five-hole, and his side-to-side movements going forward. With the proper development, Sogaard could become a franchise level goaltender. Of course, with goaltenders, nothing is guaranteed and there is plenty of risk in development. He should be back in Belleville this season.

 

#10 Prospect: Tyler Kleven

Defence — shoots Left
Born January 10th, 2002 — Fargo, North Dakota
Height 6’4″ — Weight 200 lbs [193 cm/91 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2nd Round, #44 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft

Kleven had a solid freshman season with the University of North Dakota, scoring five goals and seven points in 22 games. He also played at the World Juniors but was limited to just two games. He picked up an assist and came home with a gold medal as part of Team USA.

Skating

Kleven is an excellent skater for his size. His forward speed is decent as is his acceleration. However, he is even better at moving backwards. His agility and edgework are also very good. This allows him to maintain gap control and keep attackers in front of him. He also has smooth pivots, allowing him to switch from offence to defence quickly and vice-versa. Kleven has a powerful lower-body. This gives him very good balance. He is strong on the puck, winning battles in the corners. He is also able to use his balance and strength to help keep the front of the net clear.

Offensive Game

Kleven plays a very simple game at the offensive end of the ice. He has a bomb of a shot from the point. He can get his slapshot off as a one-timer as well. His agility allows him to walk the line and open up shooting lanes and get his shot on net. Kleven also has a powerful wrist shot and snapshot. Kleven is more of a shooter than a playmaker though. He doesn’t have a lot of poise and creativity with the puck. Once he gets it, he’s either looking to move it quickly to a teammate, take a shot on the net or dump it into a safe area.

Kleven helps the transition game by getting back quickly and retrieving loose pucks. He moves it up the ice with a good first pass. However, Kleven is very much a stay-at-home style of defender. He is unlikely to carry the puck through the neutral zone or to join the rush as a trailer.

Defensive Game

Kleven’s bread and butter is his work in his own end of the ice. He makes good use of his size, playing an extremely physical game. He battles hard along the boards and does a good job of keeping the front of the net clean. If an attacker comes down his side of the ice with his head down, he can expect to be plastered into the boards.

Kleven is willing to put his body on the line to block shots. He keeps good gap control against the rush and pushes forwards to the outside, taking them away from prime scoring areas. Kleven retrieves dump-ins quickly and can make a good first pass, starting the transition game and limiting the time spent in his end of the ice. He is also good at using his long stick to cut down passing lanes. He is especially effective on the penalty kill.

Outlook

Kleven does not have the offensive skills necessary to be a number one defender in the NHL. However, he potentially could become an important shutdown defender playing big even strength and penalty kill minutes in the top four. Kleven is headed back to North Dakota where he will be a top four defender on the team and used in shutdown situations. He could sign with the Senators as early as the spring.

 

Sleeper Prospect: Angus Crookshank

Left Wing — shoots Left
Born October 2nd, 1999 — North Vancouver, British Columbia
Height 5’11” — Weight 178 lbs [180 cm/81 kg]
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 5th round, #126 overall at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

Crookshank put up nine goals and nine assists for 18 points in 20 games in his final college season with the University of New Hampshire. After completing his junior season, he signed his entry-level contract with the Senators and played 19 games with Belleville. It was a solid professional debut as he scored five goals and 16 points in 19 games.

Skating

Crookshank is a good but not great skater. He has a decent stride and generates good speed with decent acceleration. Crookshanks always keeps his feet moving and this makes him seem even faster. He also has very good edgework and agility. This allows him to get away from defenders both with and without the puck. Crookshank has a strong core and a low centre of gravity. This helps him to be strong on the puck. He does a good job battling in the corners and in front of the net.

Offensive Game

An undersized forward, Crookshank plays bigger than his frame would suggest. He keeps his feet moving and is always found in the middle of the action. He loves to get to the front of the net and cause havoc, both with and without the puck. When he gets there Crookshank has shown the soft hands to beat a goalie in tight as well as the hand-eye coordination to score on rebounds and deflections. He can also score from further out, showing both a good snapshot and wrist shot. Crookshank has a quick release. His ability to pull the puck in and fire it from different angles creates issues for goalies.

Crookshank is quick to get in on the forecheck and force opposing defenders to move the puck quicker than they are comfortable with. He also is good at using his low centre of gravity to battle on the boards and win loose pucks. Crookshank plays well on the cycle. He moves the puck quickly to the open man and then looks for a give-and-go type play. He’s not that creative but is effective with a hardworking north-south game.

Defensive Game

Crookshank brings his non-stop motor and high-end work ethic to all three zones. He supports the defence down low and battles hard for loose pucks and to contain the cycle. His size can be a bit of a liability though, as he can be pushed around by bigger and stronger forwards. His positioning is also good. He does a good job cutting down passing and shooting lanes. There were some mistakes made in the AHL but it wasn’t something that was seen in college from Crookshanks. This may just be moving up a level and he will get back to his strong defensive play with time.

Outlook

Crookshank should be back in Belleville this season. He needs a bit more development time to adjust to the speed of the pro game as well as to continue to bulk up. If he develops, he could push for a bottom-six role in the next couple of years.

 

Other 2021 Ottawa Senators Prospects

The Senators have a very deep prospect pool. In goal, they also have Leevi Merilainen and Kevin Mandolese. On the blue line, the Sens also have Lassi Thomson, Jonathan Tychonick, Maxence Guénette,  and Jonathan Aspirot worth keeping an eye on. The real depth is upfront though. Logan Brown remains a prospect but time is running out for him to make an impact in Ottawa. Vitali Abramov is in the same situation. Meanwhile, players like Roby Jarventie, Philippe Daoust, Viktor Lodin, Parker Kelly, Cole Reinhardt, and Mark Kastelic are worth keeping an eye on.

 

2021 Ottawa Senators Prospects Main Photo:

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EDMONTON, AB – DECEMBER 25: Jake Sanderson #8 of the United States skates against Russia during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 25, 2020 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)