AHL: A Mid-Season Recap of the Belleville Senators

LAVAL, QC, CANADA - JANUARY 16: Drake Batherson #7 of the Belleville Senators in control of the puck against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell on January 16, 2019 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC, CANADA - JANUARY 16: Drake Batherson #7 of the Belleville Senators in control of the puck against the Laval Rocket at Place Bell on January 16, 2019 in Laval, Quebec. (Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images) /

While the Ottawa Senators are having a terrible year, some Belleville Senators are giving fans hope for the future.

With most of the eyes in the hockey world on the NHL All-Star Game emanating from San Jose (Where the Ottawa Senators sent Thomas Chabot as their sole representative), some may not have seen that the AHL just had their All-Star Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts.

So with the AHL season past its midway point, let’s take a look at Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, the Belleville Senators.

The Senators entered the All-Star break with a 20-23-2-1 record, good enough for 43 points and last place in the North Division and the Eastern Conference.

That doesn’t sound good, at all, but there is actually reason to be excited for the remainder of the Belleville season.

There are some culprits for Belleville’s rough season, but the positives should give Sens fans hope to seem some of these faces playing for the Ottawa Senators in the coming years.

Drake’s Fortune

A highlight of the season so far has been Drake Batherson, a 2017 fourth-round pick of the Senators back in 2017. In his rookie season he has amassed 31 points in 31 games and was the lone Senator named to the All-Star Classic last weekend. Batherson was also named MVP of the Classic after scoring five times in the round-robin games and scoring a shootout goal in the championship game that the North Division would go on to win.

Batherson was called up the play for Ottawa in 17 games. In his first game, he scored his first NHL goal on his first shot, and would go on to score three goals and five assists during his stint in the NHL. Batherson has a bright future ahead of him in Ottawa and will hopefully only get better as time goes on.

The Offense Is…Actually Promising

In fact the scoring ability of the Senators hasn’t been a problem. The team has scored 140 goals in 46 games (3.04 goals per game). Jack Rodewald leads the team with 33 points and his 15 goals has him tied in goal-scoring with Rudolfs Balcers (Who was acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade). The power play also shows promise, scoring 37 times on 193 man-advantage opportunities (19.2%, fourth in the North Division).

The scoring is coming from the entire lineup, with 13 players currently on the roster having five-plus goals and five players have ten-plus goals and seven players with 20-plus points.

It’s a shame that the defense, penalty kill and goaltending have let the team down on numerous occasions this season.

Defense, Penalty Kill and Goaltending…OH MY

The Senators have been scored on 153 times (3.32 goals per game) ultimately undoing any positive strides Belleville may make offensively.

Goaltending hasn’t been much help. Filip Gustavsson has started 28 games, the most of any goalies the Senators have used this year. His numbers have not inspired confidence: 11-15-1-0, 3.51 GAA, .884 SV%. In Gustavsson’s defense, team in front of him has left him out to dry by allowing 787 shots  during his starts, putting him sixth in the AHL in shots faced.

Marcus Hogberg, has also gotten starts in Belleville. He’s been in net for 12 games and has put up respectable numbers despite an average 5-4-2-0 record. He has 2.37 GAA and a .917 SV%, much better than Gustavsson, but in a smaller sample size. Hogberg started the last four games before the All-Star break, so maybe the Sens will be using him on a few more occasions as the season progresses.

The other downside for the team has been the penalty kill. The Senators have the worst penalty kill percentage in the AHL with 74.4%. They have allowed 51 goals and have been shorthanded 199 times (Tied for sixth in most times shorthanded this season).

Not A Lost Season

As the teams return to action, the Belleville Senators have 30 games remaining and are only seven points back of fourth place in the North Division, which would qualify them for a playoff spot. If the goaltending can get under control and the offense can keep up the pace, then the Senators may be able to contend for a playoff spot.

Next. Building the Foundation for a Rebuild. dark

The Ottawa Senators may be letting down their fans this year, but the Belleville Senators still have a chance to give hockey fans in Canada’s capital some form of hope for the future of the organization.