There will be openings on the NHL roster for the Senators, and unless Bryan Murray goes shopping at Free Agency to fill them, there will be opportunity for a couple of the Senators’ top prospects to step in and contribute right away. So which prospect will take the proverbial bull by the horns and make an impact. In my mind there are 4 players who could make the jump right into the NHL.
1. Jakob Silfverberg – The Swedish forward got a sniff in the playoffs, and showed there will be a period of adjustment. He also showed that he will be more than capable of playing every day, it is only his ability to adapt to a new style of play that may hold him back.
2. Mika Zibanejad – The other Swedish forward probably would have seen action in the playoffs as well if not for a concussion. Although he is a centre, I think he would be more suited to play the wing in the NHL and that is his best road to a top -6 slot next year.
3. Mark Stone – The WHL’s second leading scorer played one playoff game with the Senators, notching a very impressive assist on a Jason Spezza goal. He has great hands and size, but his skating ability might mean he starts in the minors rather than on the 4th line.
4. Shane Prince – Perhaps the best player in the OHL over the second half of the season, Prince showed that he was a steal in the second round last summer. A great skater who is a horse with the puck, he needs to add some size to his frame to play in the NHL next season, but should get the opportunity.
I saw Prince play live probably 35 times this season, and his development from solid contributor to “alpha” player was astounding. However, he struggled in the playoffs for large stretches of time which shows that he still needs to develop consistency throughout his game.
With the return of Daniel Alfredsson still in question, there will be one and perhaps as many as 3 spots available in the top 6 forward ranks. Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris have secured slots in the top two lines. Ditto Alfredsson if (or when) he decides to return. Nick Foligno played well when finally given the opportunity on the second line and could be in line to keep that spot. Don’t forget that oft-injured Peter Regin and second year pro Stephane DaCosta will also be fighting for those roles, although the Senators are deep at centre and both of those players might struggle on the wing in the NHL.
In all likelihood, the Swedes will crack the opening day lineup, with Silfverberg and Zibanejad finding their roles in some combination on the first and second line. Stone and Prince (along with the likes of Stefan Noesen and Matt Puempel) will get a look but will likely be bound for Binghamton, at least to start the season.