Nearly Untouchables Tier
Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, Erik Brannstrom, Drake Batherson
These are the players that, in columns like this, would often be deemed untouchable. The phrase untouchable though often brings to mind a General Manager hanging up the phone the second the player’s name is brought up. While these four players are very good, they likely fall short of that high of a distinction.
Instead, these are the players that, if the Sens were to move on from, would have to be in a franchise-altering move, with a superstar calibre player coming back the other way.
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While a move like that is certainly not impossible, Ottawa doesn’t seem to be in a position quite yet to shake up the very fabric of the league with a seismic move, meaning these players will almost certainly be Senators next season.
Tkachuk and Chabot are here for obvious reasons, as the two best players and still just 20 and 23 respectively, they’re likely to be the cornerstones of the franchise for the better part of the next decade. They are also both in the upper echelon of players at their positions and will likely just keep getting better.
Despite my best efforts to limit this to established NHL players, it was inevitable that some players showing up here would be in some way or another seen as prospects. Both Brannstrom and Batherson both firmly fit into that category as they’ve yet to play a full year in the NHL, but have been with the big club enough that I feel justified including them here.
While Brannstrom hasn’t quite developed into the type of game-breaking defenceman that the team and fans alike hoped for when he was the centrepiece of the Mark Stone trade, he’s still far and away the team’s best defensive prospect. While he was by no means horrible last season, his value has deteriorated a bit, making now the worst possible time to pull the chute. Brannstrom just turned 21 at the start of the month, so the idea that he’s anything close to a bust at this point in his career is unfounded.
Rounding out the upper quartet is Drake Batherson, who may not be as sexy as pick as the other three, but with 19 points in 43 games over parts of two seasons in Ottawa, as well as finishing second in points last season on a very good Belleville team, Batherson projects as a top-six player with great skill and scoring touch (Josh Norris was first on Belleville in scoring and would likely be in this tier too had he not played only three games in the NHL). While he is a bit on the older side at 22, that also means that his emergence into a top-six role may be imminent, which would put him close to the same value as Tkachuk has right now. He shouldn’t quite get to Tkachuk’s level of course, but top six forwards don’t grow on trees, so the Sens will in all likelihood hold on to the ones they have in the system.