I know it’s just the preseason, but the Senators have had some players that have really impressed
Thankfully, as preseason comes to an end, the Ottawa Senators have had some great performances from multiple players, including many of their key pieces.
Josh Norris and Shane Pinto are the top-six centres for now and the future
Talented centremen Josh Norris and Shane Pinto have been arguably the Senators two best players throughout training camp and the preseason. Norris has 3 goals and 5 points in just 3 appearances, collecting those 5 points in a pair of games versus the Montreal Canadiens. His best performance came on October 7th, when the sophomore forward recorded 2 goals, one being a blistering one-timer from his office on the powerplay:
That spot of the ice belongs to Josh Norris.🎯 pic.twitter.com/bymkBLKkZH
— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) October 7, 2021
Norris has looked like a man amongst boys for the majority of this preseason, controlling play with his tremendous vision and underrated skating ability, add that with Norris’ deadly one-timer and you have yourself a number one centre. Starting preseason pegged as the fourth-line centre with Chris Tierney getting reps in the top-six, Shane Pinto has forced Senators coach D.J. Smith’s hand so much to this point that there’s no doubting that the 20-year-old will start the season on the second line.
Pinto has played 4 games this preseason, recording 4 points and a pair of goals, the coaching staff isn’t afraid to play the youthful centreman – Pinto played 20+ minutes in 3 of 4 games. His excellent two-way ability and strong faceoff results make him an ideal do-it-all centre that can contribute to both special team units.
Erik Brannstrom deserves to be in Ottawa
Many pundits expected Brannstrom to start the season in the AHL because of his two-way contract that makes him ineligible for waivers, something that other members of the Senators defence don’t have the luxury of. This is apart from the fact that D.J. Smith has made it clear he isn’t Brannstrom’s biggest fan, but with how well the offensively talented defenceman has played this preseason, Smith even had to give him praise:
Smith – I’ve seen big changes in Brannstroms game with his confidence and the way he moves the puck. Its the best I’ve seen him.
— TSN 1200 (@TSN1200) October 7, 2021
During the preseason Brannstrom produced solid offensive numbers with 3 assists in 4 games, he appears to be making faster decisions with the puck and is showing more flashes of his tremendous offensive potential. Meanwhile, the other option appears to be 31-year-old journeyman vet Michael Del Zotto, who’s been very underwhelming up until this point. A newly created pairing of Nick Holden and Brannstrom has been performing well together, their play should slot themselves in as the team’s bottom pairing.
Matt Murray looks… good?
Yes. He does. I know it’s the preseason but Murray’s offseason changes look to be rewarding the 27-year-old netminder, he added some weight during the course of the summer and has been looking more stable in between the pipes. Murray has stopped 49/53 shots over his two starts this preseason, good for a 0.925 save percentage and a much better start to the season than last year.
Matt Murray – I put on 12 or 13 pounds. They wanted me to come back heavier. Just trying to eat a lot of calories and work out. I feel really good. Its the heaviest I’ve ever been.
— TSN 1200 (@TSN1200) September 23, 2021
It seems Murray has made some significant changes, changing his diet and putting on some good weight prior to one of the more crucial seasons in his experienced career. The key for the Senators to start the season on track is for their goaltending to play up to their potential, if they get a few saves, they could outperform expectations.