There will be plenty of intriguing players to follow over the final 38 games of the Senators season
The Senators survived a bumpy first half of the 2021-22 NHL season and now sit with a record of 17-24-4, good for 6th in the Atlantic and 13th in the Eastern Conference. The team has somehow been able to play some of their best hockey of the season over the last few weeks, despite injuries to crucial forwards Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, and Connor Brown.
The remainder of the Senators schedule should bring a ton of excitement despite the playoffs being out of reach, the return of Josh Norris, Colin White, potentially Drake Batherson or Shane Pinto, and the pending arrival of college superstar Jake Sanderson, there’s plenty of intrigue heading into the second half.
2021-22 First-Half Stats: 44 GP, 8G-15A-23P
Starting the season on the left-wing for the second consecutive season, Tim Stützle wasn’t supposed to find himself firmly supplanted as one of the Senators’ centre’s in their top-6, but as of now, the 19-year-old forward has shown he belongs in the middle. Moved to the middle on November 25th, Stützle has amassed 7 goals and 16 points in 28 games and has looked much more dangerous at centre. Playing centre, Stützle is afforded the opportunity to have the puck on his stick more often, and is able to make highlight-reel plays when the other team is caught sleeping:
NHL Video Highlight – Tim Stutzle scores against the Columbus Blue Jackets to make it 2-1. pic.twitter.com/ZJtBuzeYqU
— Blue Jackets Game Bot (@CBJGameBot) January 24, 2022
Stützle blows by highly-regarded defenceman Zach Werenski, before pulling off a nice move on Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins for the phenomenal finish, and one of the better goals of Stützle’s early career. With this move to centre, Stützle is able to use his dynamism more frequently throughout the game, and the play seems to flow through the Senators soon to be superstar.
It will be interesting to see if Stützle is still used as the Senators top centre when Josh Norris recovers from his shoulder injury, his play has improved so much to the point where this is a valid argument. At moments, the Senators 3rd Overall Pick in the 2020 NHL Draft has shown to be the team’s most dynamic forward, his speed and competitiveness could hold him in the top spot for the foreseeable future.
2021-22 Season First-Half Stats: 21 GP, 7G-17A-24P
Sanderson has enjoyed a phenomenal breakout season in North Dakota, and it seems as though the American defenceman will be dawning a Senators jersey as soon as North Dakota wraps up their season. Sanderson has been regarded by many as one of the better players outside of the NHL, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he could immediately improve the Senators top-4 if he were to be inserted into the lineup. Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion like the rest of us is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Sanderson, and the 19-year-old apparently has a free invitation to join the team at any time:
Pierre Dorion says prospect Jake Sanderson has an “open invitation” to leave UND and join the #Sens at any time
— Kyle Bukauskas (@SNkylebukauskas) December 28, 2021
The Whitefish, Montana native has shown to be too good for the NCAA, consistently toying with opponents with his skill and elite skating ability. Considering Sanderson is also 6’2″ and 190 pounds, there likely won’t be too much of an adjustment period to the NHL.
Now, when can Senators fans expect Sanderson in the Senators lineup? There’s a chance that it could be as early as late March. North Dakota plays in the NCAA Regionals from March 25th-27th, and if they don’t advance, Sanderson would likely put pen to paper as soon as he can, in an attempt to play the final 17 games of the season in Ottawa. If North Dakota makes the NCAA Frozen Four, taking place from April 5th-7th, Sanderson would play in around 10 games.
2021-22 Season Stats: N/A – Shoulder Injury
Holding one of the most polarizing contracts on the entire Senators team, Colin White’s performance after his approaching return from injury will be paramount heading into the offseason. Signed through 2024-25, with an AAV of $4.75 million, it will be important for the 25-year-old forward to once again establish himself as a crucial part of this team following a tough couple of years. After being signed prior to the 2019-20 season, following great production in his contract year, where he produced 41 points, White has just 41 points since, in 116 games.
With a return targeted over the next two weeks, White could form a role for himself in the bottom-six, and be that reliable, 200-foot centre that he was praised to be by the organization. Seeing White play in 30+ games to finish the season, the Senators staff should have a good idea if his play on the ice dictates his contract.
All stats via Hockey Reference