Players: Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Josh Norris
The first two additions into the elite tier were pretty easy as Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot have been the faces of the franchise since the beginning of the rebuild and deserve to be thought of highly. However, Josh Norris’ inclusion onto this list will come as a surprise to some people, but based on his play from this season there’s no doubt the Senators’ number one center should be included in the “elite” tier.
Tkachuk is the heartbeat of the Ottawa Senators, mainly due to his tremendous offensive and physical abilities that create tons of problems for opposing teams. The 21-year-old led all Senators skaters with 36 points and combine that with the fact that he was second in the entire NHL in shots (220) and hits (248). Due to the way that Tkachuk plays, he’s able to create plenty of high-danger chances from right in front of the net, this is the main reason why his advanced analytics are so strong. He carries an xGF% of 50.51% which is 5th on the Senators and his HDCF% which quantifies high-danger chances stood strong at 54.09%, good for 4th on the team.
The Senators’ top defenceman enjoyed a bounce-back season after he ran into some struggles during the 2019-20 campaign. Chabot would finish with 31 points in 49 games while he logged top-minutes, averaging 26:17 TOI/game. The Sainte-Marie, Quebec native makes a big difference when he’s in the lineup, there’s nobody else on the roster who can transition the puck up the ice as well as Chabot, and his consistent minute munching is nearly impossible to replace.
Including Norris in the “elite” tier might be open to some criticism, but first, let me make my case. The 22-year-old could be relied upon in any situation for head coach D.J. Smith and despite how good Norris was in the offensive zone, he may have been even better in the defensive zone.
The young, promising center was able to find an extra gear to finish the season, in his final 20 games, Norris had 9 goals and 17 points. Used mostly on the second power-play unit in favour of Evgenii Dadonov at the start of the season, Norris would eventually force his way onto the unit and would immediately reap the rewards. His lethal one-timer and wicked wrist-shot allowed Norris to feast on the man advantage, where his 14 points trailed only Drake Batherson.