Ottawa Senators Expansion Draft Preview: Forwards

OTTAWA, ON - APRIL 14: Nick Paul #13 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his first-period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Canadian Tire Centre on April 14, 2021 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - APRIL 14: Nick Paul #13 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his first-period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Canadian Tire Centre on April 14, 2021 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /
Nick Paul #13 of the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Nick Paul #13 of the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /

This article will consider the forward options the Senators have and who they should protect. This is the third in a mini-series regarding the expansion draft for the Senators. The last article was looking at deciding which defenders the Senators should protect. The Senators will likely go the 7-3-1 route in the expansion draft, meaning they need to protect seven forwards.

Brady Tkachuk

Drafted 4th overall in 2018, Brady Tkachuk is starting to become a star for the Ottawa Senators. He is a key part of the rebuild, a cornerstone piece for the team. He is also a leader on the team, a player that is often put forward among fans when talking about who the next captain should be. Along with this he lives with teammates, Josh Norris and Tim Stutzle and is good friends with them.

This season, he was on pace to have 300 shots and 300 hits in a regular 82-game season. If this were to be achieved, he would have been the first NHLer to do this. On the team, he finished first in points and tied for second in goals scored. He also had pretty good underlying numbers as well, having the highest HDCF% and xGF/60 (out of players who are eligible for the expansion draft). The reasons are why he is a player that certainly should be protected in this upcoming expansion draft.

Evgenii Dadonov

Evgenii Dadonov was one of the biggest free agents last year, and the Senators were able to sign him. Many expected him to perform well but he didn’t live up to the expectations, scoring just 13 goals and had 20 points. However, his underlying numbers were pretty solid, finishing third in terms of CF%, fifth in HDCF% and seventh in xGF%. Interestingly, his xGA/60 was lower (lower = better) than any of the previous three seasons. The stat that stood out the most was his CF% against elite competition, in which he had the highest on the team. It wasn’t like the sample size was that small either, as he finished sixth on the team in terms of TOI while facing elite competition.

His G/60 this season was 0.9, which is a decline from the past three seasons where he has over 1.0. A reason for this may be because of the decline in shots he took which declined in any situation whether it was on the powerplay or even strength. This is interesting to look at as if Dadonov were to take more shots, he most likely would have scored more goals at a rate similar to the past three seasons. A reason for his decline in Shots/60 maybe because of his linemates, Nick Paul and Colin White whom he played with the most throughout the season. Possibly it was not having stronger teammates that further cemented the fact that his GF/60 was much lower than his past three seasons. The past three seasons he had GF/60 all over 3.5 but this season it was 2.5.

Fellow forwards, Paul and White are two players who aren’t known for their offence, although they did have a positive SF% on a line with Dadonov. Along with this, these two players are not close to the quality Dadonov got to play with for most of last season in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. It is likely that Paul and White didn’t give Dadonov the scoring opportunities that Barkov and Huberdeau may have given him. Allowing Dadonov to play with more skilled players such as Stutzle or Batherson may increase the chances Dadonov gets, potentially increasing his goal total. Dadonov is a player who should be protected and is a great bounce-back candidate, especially if he takes more shots and has better offensive linemates.

Colin White

One of the players on Dadonov’s line was Colin White who is also a player that is eligible for the expansion draft. He was drafted 21st in the 2015 draft and is 24 years old, entering his prime. He played 45 games this year and had a pretty good impact: second highest CF% against elite competition on the team and forward with highest xGF% on the team. His underlying numbers overall were pretty solid and played decent against elite competition. White is a player that should be protected as he is a player that could potentially be a really good middle 6 centre. Another possibility is that he could be moved to right-wing, especially with the number of centres on the team and lack of right-wingers in the future. On top of this, he is good friends with Thomas Chabot, a franchise cornerstone, so keeping the locker room chemistry high would be great for the team.

Connor Brown

Connor Brown came in the trade with the Leafs in 2019 and was a pleasant surprise on the team this year. He led the team in goals with 21 goals; on pace for 31 goals in an 82 game season. Of his total TOI this season, he played 48% against elite competition and performed decently against them. He had adequate underlying numbers on the team: finishing top 6 in CF%, xGF% and SF%. On top of this, he made a formidable PK duo with Nick Paul, scoring 4 goals and only allowing 5 while those two were on the ice. These two also made an impact in the 2021 World Championships as well. In addition, Brown and Paul represented team Canada and won the gold medal. So, Connor Brown is a player who should be protected in the upcoming expansion draft. He made a solid impact as a veteran on the Senators, providing leadership as well. He could become a top 6 winger in the league if he can replicate the offensive impact he showed he could produce towards the end of the 2020-21 season. However, he looks like he is suited for the third line, shutting down top lines and playing on the top PK unit.

Nick Paul

Nick Paul is starting to come along as a solid NHLer, playing in all 56 games with the Senators this past season. He finished the season with 20 points, which was the exact same as last year (in the same amount of games as well). He isn’t a player who can make a big impact offensively but is reliable defensively and it showed in his stats as well, he had the lowest xGA/60 among forwards. This is while he faced elite competition for around 50% of his total TOI. On top of this, he was on a PK unit with Connor Brown, as mentioned above. Nick Paul is trusted by the organization to be a leader as he was an alternative captain this past season. For these reasons, he is a player that should be protected in the Seattle expansion draft. This is because he could potentially play on a line with Brown and have a similar role to him: shut down top lines and play on the top PK unit. Furthermore, he can also provide leadership to an up-and-coming team.

Drake Batherson

Making the jump to the NHL full-time this season, Drake Batherson is another player who is eligible for the expansion draft. He broke out this season putting up 34 points (17 goals and assists), on pace for around 50 points in a regular 82 game season. He was red-hot at one point this season, having a six-game goal streak. He had solid underlying numbers this past season, finishing second in terms of xGF/60 and fourth in HDCF%. He was on a line with Josh Norris and Tkachuk, forming a trio that could play together for years to come. Batherson is a player who should be protected by the Senators and this should be an easy decision. At 23 he is relatively young making him an important part of the Senators rebuild. Furthermore, the position he plays, right-wing, is pretty thin which makes him even more important to the team.

Logan Brown

The 11th pick in the 2016 draft, he has developed into the player many thought he would be but he still has some potential. He has been a top player for the Senators AHL affiliate club but hasn’t been able to stay healthy for long periods. He has also been pretty inconsistent and seems to lack effort at times. He only played one game for the big club this season and for just under ten minutes. Something interesting to note in the one game that he played was that he wasn’t sheltered. He didn’t have any shifts that started in the offensive zone and the opponents he faced were mostly elite (59.9% of his total TOI) and the rest were middle. Although it is a very small sample, in this game, he finished with a CF% of 72.73%, which is interesting. He is a player the Senators should protect as he does have some value as a former first-rounder.


The 7 forwards the Senators should protect in the upcoming expansion draft are Tkachuk, Dadonov, White, Connor Brown, Paul, Batherson and Logan Brown. If these players were to be protected, Austin Watson and Chris Tierney are two players who will be unprotected. Of course, other forwards would be exposed as well but these two players are the most notable ones. Watson is a fourth-line winger who plays with grit and is labelled a player with “character” by the organization. He doesn’t have the best stats and is a player who could easily be replaced through free agency or via trade. Tierney could be a third-line centre but maybe pushed out due to the number of players down the middle. He didn’t have the best stats and doesn’t really have the pace to keep up with the game either.

Stats come from Frozenpool.dobberprospects, NaturalStatTrick and PuckIQ

Stats were also filtered for players who played even-strength and played at least 300 TOI