Which New Ottawa Senator Will Make The Biggest Impact This Season?


The Ottawa Senators roster will look a lot different at the beginning of this season than it did last October. With the loss of several key players throughout last season and during free agency, Ottawa has many new faces joining the team through the draft in June, prospects making their way up to the big league, and the off-season acquisitions that will end up making the Sens a completely new team.

Today I’m going to look at the new players and prospects and see which one will possibly make the biggest impact this year. Keep in mind that it is not necessarily individual skill but how they can help the team or how important they are to the team, making things such a their position a factor. Since this is also specific to the upcoming season and immediate impact, age and experience have an effect as well.

The first player I would like to mention is Nikita Filatov. Filatov looked really good at development camp but he seems to be somewhat of a wildcard in that he could put up very big points, or very small points. He has a great, accurate shot with a quick release, however he needs to start using it more as he often opts to pass instead. As a team who finished 29th in the league in goals per game, a lot of help offensively is needed. The Sens need Filatov to be able to fill the role of a top-6 forward. If he shows up this season as the highly skilled player that got him selected 6th overall in 2008, he could easily be the biggest difference-maker for the Sens this season.

Next is a good example of someone who may not seem overly talented on their own, but who brings important qualities to the team. Alex Auld may not be a flashy goalie, but he will be helpful to the Sens this season. It’s no secret that the Sens have had goaltending issues over the years, and the problem was caused not only by lack of a true starting goalie, but the lack of a goaltending duo with two consistent goalies. The Sens have Craig Anderson already but it’s important to have a reliable back-up too. Auld knows what is expected of him, and he is good at playing that role. It may be a minor one, but it’s important, and helpful for the team. If Auld does this well, it will be a big step for the Sens in improving from last season.

David Rundblad is one that is obviously skilled on his own, and perhaps our best prospect. There’s no doubt that he will do great things for this team, but there are a few obstacles that may stop him from being the difference-maker this season. First would be the crowded blue line on the Sens roster. This is where position comes in as a factor.  Something is going to have to change on the Sens roster for Rundblad to get an opportunity this year. Another question is how well he will adjust to the NHL? However, I don’t think this will be too much of an issue for Rundblad because of the time he’s waited and the experience he’s gotten in other leagues. All in all, Rundblad is hard to predict because his spot next year is unknown, but depending on the situation with the Sens defense, he could still be a very important player to them this year.

Another talented defenseman who faces similar problems is Jared Cowen. Cowen is another one who is definitely a top prospect for the Sens and who has lots of skill. He is more of a stay at home defenseman, likely to play a shut-down role similar to that of current Sens Chris Phillips and Brian Lee, however with a bit more offensive production as well. If he is in the NHL this season he will be a big help in lowering Ottawa’s goals against per game average which is 24th in the NHL last year.

The last player I’m going to look at is Mika Zibanejad. As I mentioned previously, the Senators need lots of help scoring goals and Zibanejad will be the player to do it, however, he might not get the chance this season. Like Filatov, Zibanejad was a 6th overall selection but he is a few years younger and may need more time to develop. It wouldn’t be surprising if he were to spend another year in Sweden honing his game, but it is also a possibility that he goes straight into the NHL this season. If he ends up with the Sens he will be perfect for the second-line center role behind Jason Spezza, and could be a huge offensive threat. His impact on the Sens this year will depend on his training camp performance and the Murray’s decision on where he plays.

Overall I think Filatov is the most likely candidate to be the difference maker this season because of both his skill and Ottawa’s offensive need. I think Zibanejad may be NHL ready but should spend more time developing as there is no need to rush him at this point. Rundblad and Cowen are also likely to have a big impact when they come into the NHL but it’s hard to predict where they will both fit into this year’s roster, or which one of them makes the jump first if only one does to start the season.

We’ll find out which player could make an impact this year as the Sens rookie tournament kicks off September 10th to 13th in Oshawa. The Sens’ rookies will take on other rookies from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Here’s the Sens rookie roster for this year’s tourney (from ottawasenators.com).

The Ottawa Senators’ 2011-12 rookie tournament roster is as follows:

Goaltenders: Robin Lehner (Binghamton – AHL, Ottawa – NHL), Matej Machovsky (Guelph – OHL, Brampton – OHL).

Defencemen: Mark Borowiecki (Clarkson – ECAC, Binghamton – AHL), Jared Cowen (Spokane – WHL, Binghamton – AHL), Eric Gryba (Binghamton – AHL), Jordan Fransoo (Brandon – WHL), Josh Godfrey (South Carolina – ECHL, Hershey – AHL, Chicago – AHL), David Rundblad (Skelleftea – SEL), Patrick Wiercioch (Binghamton – AHL, Ottawa – NHL).

Forwards: Louie Caporusso (Michigan – CCHA), Corey Cowick (Elmira – ECHL, Binghamton – AHL), Jakub Culek (Rimouski – QMJHL), Stephane Da Costa (Merrimack College – Hockey East, Ottawa – NHL), Derek Grant(Michigan State – CCHA, Binghamton – AHL), Wacey Hamilton (Medicine Hat – WHL), Darren Kramer (Spokane – WHL), Stefan Noesen (Plymouth – OHL), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Gatineau – QMJHL), Andre Petersson (HV 71 – SEL), Shane Prince (Ottawa – OHL), Matt Puempel (Peterborough – OHL), Mark Stone (Brandon – WHL), Mika Zibanejad (Djurgardens – SEL).
*Roster subject to change.

2011 rookie tournament schedule at Oshawa’s General Motors Centre
Saturday, Sept. 10: Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa, 2 p.m.; Chicago vs. Toronto, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 11: Ottawa vs. Chicago, 2 p.m.; Toronto vs. Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 13: Chicago vs. Pittsburgh, 2 p.m.; Toronto vs. Ottawa, 7 p.m.

Only nine days until we see some hockey action. GO SENS GO!!!!


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