The Ottawa Senators have had a disappointing season both in the Canadian capital and in Binghamton. Although analysts and fans alike have decried the state of the system, the team has more talent in the pipeline than most probably realize. And with Owner Eugene Melnyk threatening big changes, opportunities could become available to the club’s youngsters sooner than later.
The Senators didn’t exactly dominate last fall, but they played well enough to find themselves in playoff contention in December. However, many pundits predicted a fall for the Senators, who were consistently outshot by a wide margin and got by on high shot percentages and superior goaltending.
The naysayers were correct. Since December, Ottawa has been one of the worst clubs in the NHL, thanks to an anemic powerplay and MIA defensive mentality. The team has fared slightly better since acquiring Dion Phaneuf in exchange for spare and overpaid parts, but by then it was clear there would be no magical run to the playoffs like last season.
The season hasn’t been a total loss from a development standpoint. Many players among the team’s top 20 have had the unexpected opportunity to contribute for the big club. Some of them have moved up as a result of their performance, others have dropped. Either way, this is a somewhat different looking top 20 than Hockey’s Future published last August, particularly among the bottom half.
20. (NR) Miles Gendron, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 3rd round (70th overall), 2014
Miles Gendron could be one of the fastest skaters in the NCAA, but unfortunately, that has never translated into much offense for him. However, he has been able to use it to be a solid possession player. A forward-turned-defenceman, Gendron hasn’t worked out as well as the Senators hoped when they selected him 70th overall in 2014, but he will have plenty of time to improve as a likely four-year member of UConn’s hockey program.
19. (NR) Kelly Summers, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 7th round (189th overall), 2014
With Shane Prince and Mikael Wikstrand out of Ottawa’s top 20, that means Kelly Summers is back in. Summers had another solid year with Clarkson University and was a key defenceman for a team that doesn’t have too many stars, but has capable, balanced scoring throughout its lineup. He finished with 14 points in 37 games, a mild improvement over last season’s offensive totals.
18. (NR) Christian Wolanin, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 4th round (107th overall), 2014
Christian Wolanin has been a pleasant surprise for the University of North Dakota, with 15 points in 31 games. His plus-15 rating shows that he has fit in nicely at both ends of the rink. He has had the benefit of playing for a stacked UND team that hasn’t been able to dress him every night, but ultimately, being part of a winning club can mean nothing but good things for a player’s development. He’ll have a larger role next year, and he has produced—and impressed—with the opportunities he has had.
17. (NR) Filip Ahl, LW, 6.5 C
Drafted 4th round (109th overall), 2015
Filip Ahl has had trouble moving up from the SuperElit, and has been a bit of a journeyman in trying to find the best environment to develop in. He is a goal-per-game player as a junior, but call-ups to the SHL and Allsvenskan have been fruitless until recently. He became a more consistent contributor for Sundsvall, and contributed three goals for Kvalserien in the playoffs.
16. (18) Max McCormick, LW, 6.5 C
Drafted 6th round (171st overall), 2011
Max McCormick played well in call-ups to Ottawa but has yet to develop the basic scoring touch that most NHLers have, and he isn’t big or effective enough to just be a checker. He repeatedly failed to complete tap-ins and other scoring chances that could have turned his time with the big club into a home run. Still, he will always have the capacity to come up and fill in when needed, even if he never translates it into a full time job—which he will have more chances to do in the future.
15. (12) Chris Driedger, G, 6.5 C
Drafted 3rd round, (76th overall), 2012
Chris Driedger started the year well, but the steady onslaught of rubber wore him down over time, a lot like what happened to Craig Anderson in Ottawa. He should be good enough to get an extended look in the NHL at some point, but the questions is, will Matt O’Connor be ready first? Most seem to think so, despite Driedger’s head start.
14. (10) Ben Harpur, D, 6.5 C
Drafted 4th round, (108th overall), 2013
Ben Harpur was reassigned to the ECHL’s Evansville Icemen after continuous defensive lapses landed him with a minus-13 rating. However, he quickly showed that there isn’t much for him to learn at that level of hockey—so he was called back up to Bingo. Since rejoining the team, he has been steadier and more effective offensively. If he can continue to build on this next season, he will re-establish himself as one of the team’s best defensive prospects.
13. (20) Francis Perron, LW, 7.5 D
Drafted 7th round (190th overall), 2014
It’s been a lights-out year for Francis Perron. He finished with 108 points in 62 games, well above the 76 he piled on in 2014-15, and has led the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to a QMJHL-best record of 54-9-5. Although he still has to work on his speed, he has shown that when he does get the room to handle the puck, he is an equally dangerous shooter and passer. The Senators were quick to sign him to an entry-level contract once the regular season ended, and he will provide Binghamton with some much-needed offense next year—but not before a gruelling summer in the weight room.
12. (13) Matt O’Connor, G, 7.5 D
Signed as a free agent, May 2015
O’Connor has had a challenging season. He started disastrously for Binghamton, but the good news is that he has shown steady improvement throughout the season. It certainly hasn’t helped that Binghamton was regularly shelled during the first half of the season, as did Andrew Hammond when he was in the AHL—with similar results. Expect his numbers to tighten up next year.
11. (8) Marcus Hogberg, G, 7.0 C
Drafted 3rd round (78th overall), 2013
Marcus Hogberg has been a valuable asset for Linkoping HC this season, where he has a 2.31 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. As far as Ottawa is concerned, he is running out of time to come overseas. With Anderson and Hammond going nowhere, that means O’Connor and Driedger won’t be either—so don’t expect Hogberg in a Senators uniform anytime soon.