Boasting 5 players in this years Christmas tournament, Senators fans have a lot of storylines to follow
Still housing one of the better prospect pools in the NHL, the Ottawa Senators have plenty of top prospects taking to the ice in Edmonton and Red Deer, including two first-round picks from the 2020 Draft in Jake Sanderson and Ridly Greig.
All five of the Senators’ prospects will play a crucial role for each one of their teams.
Ridly Greig – Team Canada
The Senators’ 28th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft has enjoyed a superb year with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, scoring 28 points in 19 games. However, Greig’s offensive production won’t be the only thing he will be relied upon for this tournament, his gritty, two-way game has allowed coach Dave Cameron to place him on the third line in between Jake Neighbours and Justin Sourdif on the team’s “shutdown” line.
Greig was held pointless in the Canadians 6-3 win over Czechia, but don’t expect the 19-year-old forward to remain off of the scoresheet for much longer.
Roby Järventie – Team Finland
The Senators 33rd Overall selection from the 2020 Draft, Järventie will look to build on his porous performance from last year’s championship where he had little impact in his 6 games (0 points). Järventie caught a bad break to start the tournament, he had contracted Covid in his travel to Edmonton:
However, it was just announced today that the 19-year-old forward will suit up in Finland’s game versus Austria on December 27th, and should be good to go for the remainder of the tournament. Järventie has had a bit of an up-and-down season to this point with Belleville, his 9 points in 21 games place him 6th on a low-scoring Baby Senators squad.
It appears Jarventie will slide in next to top players Oliver Kapanen and 2022 projected top-3 pick Joakim Kemell on Finland’s second-line.
Tyler Kleven – Team USA
Another member of the Senators 2020 Draft class, Kleven brings a physical bite to the game with his large 6’4″, 214-pound frame. The 19-year-old defenceman currently finds himself on the third pairing alongside 2021 4th overall pick Luke Hughes on the third pairing for the Americans. Kleven will see plenty of deployment in the defensive zone, whether on the penalty kill or while holding a lead. Expect to see Kleven delivering hits similar to this one from earlier in his college season:
Kleven appeared in two games for the Americans in last year’s tournament, he’s expected to play a much bigger role in this year’s tournament. The big, rangy defenceman will be crucial if the Americans want to repeat as world champions.
Leevi Meriläinen – Team Finland
As of now, it appears that the Senators’ third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft (71st Overall) is the starting goaltender for Finland. The 19-year-old puck stopper has posted solid stats in his first year in North America, with Kingston of the OHL, he carries a save percentage of 0.897% and a goals-against-average of 3.19, with an impressive 14 wins which ranks him second in the entire league.
Meriläinen helped his cause in pre-tournament play, his impressive performance in the first half of the game versus the Americans, plus one of the best saves you will ever see:
In Finland’s opening game versus the German’s, the athletic netminder stopped 24 of 25 shots in his team’s 3-1 opening day victory.
Jake Sanderson – Team USA
The 5th Overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Sanderson wears the “C” for the Americans and is widely regarded as one of the best players in the tournament. Sanderson’s steady play was one of the reasons the Americans captured the championship last year, now with another year under his belt, expect the two-way defenceman to dominate.
Plenty of pundits view Sanderson as the best player in college hockey and it’s definitely a debate between him and 2021 first overall pick Owen Power of Canada, Sanderson’s 19 points in 15 games with North Dakota are already four more than he had all of last season, in seven fewer games. Sanderson will patrol the top-pairing alongside Ian Moore, there’s no doubt that the Senators’ top prospect will be the main catalyst for the Americans, and if the Americans walk away victorious yet again, it wouldn’t be a surprise if their captain took home the Tournament MVP.
Draft Eligibles of Interest
Joakim Kemell RW – Team Finland
Kemell has been one of the more impressive 2022 draft eligibles so far this season, his 12 goals and 18 points in just 21 games in the Liiga are extremely impressive, also considering that Kemell is just 17-years-old. The uber-talented winger is positioned on the second line and will have plenty of chances to produce offensively.
Simon Nemec D & Juraj Slafkovsky LW – Team Slovakia
Two of my favourites for the upcoming NHL draft, at least one of the two will likely be on the board when the Senators make their pick in the 2022 Draft. Nemec has enjoyed a tremendous year in the top pro league in Slovakia, adding 13 assists in 22 games with HK Nitra. While Slafkovsky has played some games in both the Finnish Junior League (U20 SM-sarja) with 18 points in 11 games and 20 games in the Liiga with TPS (4 points). Both will be huge factors for a much improved Slovakian team.