Ottawa Senators: Mid-Season Awards

CALGARY, AB - MARCH 4: Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 4, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - MARCH 4: Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 4, 2021 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /
Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators  (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators  (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

Despite a disappointing start to the season, optimism is high in Ottawa with the emergence of a handful of key players

The Ottawa Senators are already halfway through the 2020-21 season and despite their poor record (9-19-1), they have gotten some stellar performances from some key, young players.

MVP/Top Defenceman: Thomas Chabot

2020-21 Stats: 26GP-3G-16A-19P

The most important player on the Senators roster is Thomas Chabot and it’s not up for debate. Sure, Chabot has had his moments in his own end and that’s to be expected with the supporting cast he currently has at his disposal.

The Senators bonafide number one defenceman is 5th in the league in TOI/Game at 25:37, missing two games due to injury a few weeks ago, it was pretty apparent that Chabot was missed in the team’s play.

Chabot is enjoying a solid year offensively so far with 3 goals and 16 assists, his 19 points lead the team, at even strength he’s been pretty solid as well, leading all Senator skaters with 15 points at even strength. The Ste-Marie, Quebec native is also in a deadlock at 9th place in scoring amongst defenceman.

The Senators prized defenceman also holds his own analytically, placing 4th in the league in xGF (expected goals-for) at 21.55, trailing just Darnell Nurse, Connor McDavid and Morgan Reilly – pretty good company.

There’s no other player on the Senators roster who’s absence would hurt the team greater than if the Senators lost Chabot, replacing his minutes and losing his great offensive prowess would sink the team even further than they have this season.

Honourable Mentions: Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson

Top Forward: Brady Tkachuk

2020-21 Stats: 28GP-9G-9G-18P

Tkachuk has been one of the better forwards in the entire NHL in creating scoring chances for himself, despite not jumping out on the box score, what Tkachuk has been able to accomplish is nothing short of impressive.

Here are some of the power forward’s ranks throughout the entire NHL:

  • 124 shots (1st in NHL)
  • 42 iHDCF (any individuals high-danger scoring chances, Tkachuk ranks 1st in NHL)
  • 11 rebounds created (1st in NHL)
  • 8.05 ixG (individual expected goals, Tkachuk ranks 1st in NHL)

There’s no secret where Tkachuk gets all of his scoring chances from, the front of the net. Constantly creating havoc in front of the goal and with the emergence of players like Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Tim Stützle, his numbers in these areas should continue to increase.

Tkachuk also leads the league in hits with 121, an impressive pace and one that we Senators fans have come to expect with the tenacious power forward. One of the leagues better forwards in terms of analytics, a stark contrast from his pre-draft criticisms, Tkachuk has surprisingly become an analytics darling.

Honourable Mentions: Drake Batherson, Josh Norris

Top Rookie: Josh Norris

2020-21 Stats: 29GP-5G-10A-15P

A bit of a surprise here as many would expect Tim Stützle to be leading this race, but Norris has been better than the dynamic German so far this season, due to Norris’ great, consistent play.

Last season’s AHL Rookie of the Year has been a consistent presence inside the top-six for the Senators, averaging 15:35 minutes per game, while being featured occasionally on both the top and second power play units. Norris is 4th on the Senators in points but it hasn’t been all about his offensive game, the rookie has shown great two-way ability and has been rewarded with an increased role as the season has went on, even seeing limited time on the penalty kill.

Younger players usually struggle in the face-off circle, but not Norris, his 53.1 win percentage on draws ranks him 2nd on the team as he’s quickly become one of the Senators most trusted players. Norris also carries a 50.97 CF% which ranks top 10 on the Senators alongside his impressive 2.71 xGF/60, trailing only Brady Tkachuk who is one of the leagues best. Already driving play down the middle of the ice at just 21 years of age, the future looks bright for the savvy forward.

Honourable Mention: Tim Stützle

Biggest Surprise: Artem Zub

2020-21 Stats: 20GP-2G-4A-6P

Expectations were low when Zub came over from the KHL, especially after the Senators added Erik Gudbranson, Braydon Coburn and Josh Brown in the offseason, the Russian defenceman started the season on the outside looking in.

After the Josh Brown and Braydon Coburn experiments didn’t work out (surprise), Zub was inserted into the lineup and hasn’t relinquished the opportunity. Paired with Mike Reilly on the 2nd pairing they have formed a very solid duo that has produced great numbers, especially analytically.

Zub’s CF% has decreased a bit since his hot start to the season, however, it’s still solid and currently stands at 50.19 which is good for 3rd among Senator defenders. The pairing of Zub and Reilly have performed admirably when it comes to xGF% where Reilly is 3rd on the team at 53.38% and Zub is trailing closely behind at 52.59. No other Senator defenceman is over 50%, even more evidence to how much of a revelation the Reilly-Zub pairing has been.

The 25-year-old doesn’t light up the box score but has been able to produce some respectable numbers with 2 goals and 6 points in just 20 games, but Zub is one of only 2 Senator regulars with a positive plus/minus rating, he sits at plus 1 while Nick Paul is a plus 4.

Honourable Mentions: Josh Norris, Nick Paul

Matt Murray #30 of the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Matt Murray #30 of the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

Biggest Disappointment: Matt Murray

Stats: 22GP, 7-12-1, 0.880 SV%, 3.84 GAA

When Pierre Dorion traded for Matt Murray he was expecting much better performances than the ones veteran goaltender has been providing.

In 11 of Murray’s 20 starts this season he’s had a save percentage below 0.900, despite some of the poor performances in front of him, the 26-year-old has still been one of the NHL’s worst goalies. Goals saved above expected is a useful metric in defining a goaltender’s play in a season and the top goalies like Andrei Vasilevskiy and Marc-Andre Fleury both have metrics over 12, while on the other side of the spectrum Matt Murray sits in dead last at -20.9.

Signed to a 4-year $25 million contract following the deal from the Penguins, Murray will have to perform much better in the second half to give the Senators any confidence heading into the offseason.

Honourable Mentions: Logan Brown, Josh Brown

Best Defensive Forward/Selke: Nick Paul

2020-21 Stats: 29GP-3G-8A-11P

I usually wouldn’t include this award because it’s usually not the flashiest and doesn’t grab headlines but the way Paul has played this season on the defensive side of the puck has been remarkable.

Paul is tied for 6th in the NHL in takeaways with 23, just 3 behind leader Mark Scheifele and only trailing former Senator and takeaway master Mark Stone. The 25-year-old forward is near-impossible to take the puck away from either, he’s so efficient whether he has the puck or doesn’t. Paul has only given the puck away 4 times this season and his takeaway plus/minus stands first in the league at +19.

Used primarily as a matchup forward on the 3rd line, Paul is now the Senators clear cut best defensive forward and has likely carved out a crucial role on the team in the present and for the future.

Honourable Mention: Connor Brown, Josh Norris

All stats/metrics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Money Puck