With Craig Button’s release of the Senators‘ top-10 prospect list, I take a stab at trying to decipher the team’s interesting pool of prospects
With the recent graduations of Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, Tim Stützle, Alex Formenton, and Erik Brannstrom, the Senators prospect pool has no doubt dropped in status, but it still has some enticing prospects that could make a name for themselves as soon as next season.
Button laid out the Senators top-10 prospects as so:
- Jake Sanderson
- Ridly Greig
- Filip Gustavsson
- Mads Sogaard
- Lassi Thomson
- Jacob Bernard-Docker
- Egor Sokolov
- Tyler Boucher
- Tyler Kleven
- Roby Jarventie
Shane Pinto was left off of Button’s list but will qualify for ours as he’s played in just 17 games with Ottawa, for a player to qualify for the list, they will have to have less than 25 games played at the NHL level.
1. Jake Sanderson (D)
North Dakota (NCAA)/Ottawa (NHL)
2021-22 Season Stats: 23 GP, 8G-18A-26P, +5, 66 shots
Ranked amongst the cream of the crop in virtually every prospect list you can find, Sanderson has been marinating at the college level for two years and is more than ready to step into the NHL.
This past season, Sanderson was arguably the best player in college hockey, dominating at both ends of the ice, especially showing tremendous improvement on the offensive end. His 1.13 points-per-game ranked him 1st among all NCAA defencemen this past season, there are plenty of reasons to suggest he was the best rearguard on both ends of the ice in college hockey.
One of the biggest reasons for Sanderson’s breakout on the offensive end is confidence, his creativity at the offensive blue line is top-level, and will stand out at the NHL level, expect to see more plays similar to the one below:
With Sanderson’s play at the defensive end already being NHL-ready, and his refined offensive game blossoming into one of the best in college hockey, the only thing separating Sanderson from graduating from prospect status is games. Still dealing with the injury he sustained at the tail end of his collegiate career, it remains to be seen if Sanderson will suit up for the Senators before the 2021-22 season comes to a close.
2. Shane Pinto (C)
Ottawa (NHL) – IR
2021-22 Season Stats: 5 GP, 0G-1A-1P, 5 shots
This is a tough one, I genuinely thought about going with Greig here, but I have to side with Pinto and his intriguing upside. Since his draft year, Pinto has done nothing but improve, scoring 28 points in 33 games in his freshman season at North Dakota, and concluding his two-year stint with the program as a Hobey Baker Finalist, recording 32 points in 28 games.
Following his tremendous 2020-21 collegiate campaign, Pinto had no choice but to join the Senators, a true testament to the growth in his game over the last couple of years, and unsurprisingly he made an immediate impact. Playing the majority of his 12 games with Ottawa last season as the second-line centre, Pinto registered 7 points and looked primed for the top-6 the following season. Even at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, Pinto looked really good in the preseason and even scored a beautiful overtime winner against the Jets:
His shoulder injury suffered early into the 2021-22 season put a wrench into that, but at just 21-years-old, Pinto has plenty of runway to return to form and is trying his hardest to make his return before the season ends.
Despite not having a ton of NHL experience, D.J. Smith consistently raves about Pinto’s details away from the puck, his game is very accurately described by the Senators’ head coach:
Ideally Pinto starts next season as the team’s third-line centre, using his defensive acumen to stifle the opponent’s top line, while also having the ability to chip in on both aspects of special teams.
3. Ridly Greig (LW)
2021-22 Season Stats: 39 GP, 26G-37A-63P, +26, 180 shots
For some reason, Greig has flown under the radar for much of this season, despite posting gaudy numbers so far this season, his 1.62 points-per-game ranks 2nd amongst WHL skaters. Everyone knew Greig had a chippy side to his game when he was drafted with the 28th overall pick in 2020, and while he still isn’t shy on the ice (92 PIMS this season) but over the last two seasons, he has consistently dominated with his skill and scoring ability.
His vision has improved significantly along with his overall game, he’s become dominant every time he steps on the ice and clearly looks ready for pro hockey. It will have to be decided in training camp next season if Greig can crack the opening night roster, but one thing is for sure, it won’t be easy on Senators management.
4. Lassi Thomson (D)
2021-22 Season Stats: 36 GP, 9G-16A-25P, +3, 74 shots
When it comes to the Senators’ most improved prospect this season, the answer has to be Thomson, the 21-year-old defenceman is having a great year at the AHL level and has been playing as the team’s top option for most of the season. Thomson’s mobility and shot were always NHL-level, and now that he’s cleaned up the details of his game, he is inching closer to becoming an NHL regular. I wrote about Thomson’s rise a little while ago, it can be seen here.
Thomson’s offensive game has taken a huge step forward and is one of the main reasons for his meteoric rise this season, he’s chipped in with 6 power-play goals, using his heavy shot with regularity.
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5. Mads Sogaard
2021-22 Season Stats: 31 GP, 16-13-1, 0.906 SV%, 2.87 GAA
Sogaard introduced himself to the Senators organization last season with some stellar performances down the stretch in Belleville, winning all 7 of his starts to end the season, carrying a solid 0.917 save percentage.
Heading into this season, the 6-foot-7 native of Aalborg, Denmark was one of the more sought after goaltenders in the system, and entered the season as the backup to Filip Gustavsson. However, not squandering his opportunity, Sogaard was able to establish himself ahead of the incumbent Gustavsson at points, gaining the confidence of Belleville head coach Troy Mann.
Due to the way that the organization speaks about Sogaard, and along with his play being excellent, it seems as if there’s a bit of an expectation that he may be the team’s goalie of the future. Comments like these from Senators head coach D.J. Smith suggest the team’s intent with the talented goaltender:
6. Jacob Bernard-Docker (D)
2021-22 Season Stats: 53 GP, 2G-6A-8P , +10, 54 shots
Bernard-Docker has been steadily gaining traction in his first full professional season, and has quickly solidified himself as one of the team’s premier shut-down defenceman. Bernard-Docker will never be a huge point producer, which is indicative of his production this season, but he always makes the simple, efficient play, offering a calming presence on the defensive end of the ice.
Last night, Bernard-Docker’s ability on the penalty kill really shined through, blocking three consecutive shots without hesitation, carving out a nice niche for himself in Belleville:
With the way Bernard-Docker has been playing on a game-to-game basis in Belleville, there should be opportunity for him to stake his claim at training camp next season.
7. Egor Sokolov (RW)
2021-22 Season Stats: 59 GP, 19G-26A-45P, +10, 159 shots
The progression of Sokolov has been amazing over the last few seasons in multiple different areas, selected with the 61st overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft as a double overager, Sokolov has been Belleville’s most consistent offensive threat.
Last season Sokolov scored 15 goals and 25 points in just 35 games to lead the team, and this season he only trails Jake Lucchini by 2 points, despite playing 8 fewer games. Standing at 6-foot-4, Sokolov can use his big frame to shield off puck carriers before using his wicked shot to beat goaltenders clean. The talented forward has also shown an ability to attack off the rush, which combined with his dangerous shot makes him a threat whenever he enters the offensive zone, a prime example if featured below:
8. Roby Järventie (LW)
2021-22 Season Stats: 65 GP, 11G-22A-33P, -6, 120 shots
One of the more intriguing storylines surrounding the Senators’ prospect pool this season has to be the impressive transformation that Järventie has made in his game this season. The 6-foot-3 forward has brought a newfound energy to his game, thought of in the past as being a
“passive” player, Järventie has ratcheted up his intensity and looks like a completely different player on most nights.
Järventie is also the youngest player on the Belleville roster and throughout the majority of the AHL, he doesn’t turn 20 until August and he will certainly be one of the more fascinating prospects to watch develop.
9. Filip Gustavsson
Belleville (AHL)/Ottawa (NHL)
2021-22 Season Stats: (NHL) – 15 GP, 3-11-1, 0.886 SV%, 3.78 GAA
(AHL) – 18 GP, 9-6-1, 0.913 SV%, 2.49 GAA, 2 shutouts
Gustavsson was superb last season, and looked to have a fast track at the backup position due to injury concerns surroundings Matt Murray, allowing the 23-year-old net-minder to get more opportunity at the start of the season. In his 15 starts, Gustavsson has struggled to find his game, in part due to the team’s performance in front of him, but regardless, improvement at the NHL level will be crucial.
His struggles in Ottawa have overshadowed his solid play in the AHL, where his numbers actually rank quite favourable among other Senators goaltending prospects, boasting a better save percentage and goals-against average than other prospects like Mads Søgaard and Kevin Mandolese.
Despite some obvious progress with Belleville, Gustavsson still needs to show a little bit more at the NHL level than he did this season to warrant his one-way contract next season.
10. Zack Ostapchuk
2021-22 Season Stats: 60 GP, 26G-17A-43P, 184 shots, -5
Ostapchuk started the season on a bit of a slow pace, only scoring 12 goals and 26 points in his first 40 games, but over the last month the 6-foot-3 power forward has been finding the back of the net on a regular basis, notching 14 goals over his last 20 games.
Now the captain of the Giants, Ostapchuk has shown solid leadership skills and has upped his physicality in the stretch run as the Giants made their run to the postseason. Ostapchuk is in my opinion one of the more underrated prospects in the team’s prospect pool, he boasts some sneaky skill along with some enticing physical traits.
- Tyler Boucher (RW) – (67s, OHL) – 24GP, 7G-7A-14P
- Mark Kastelic (C) – (Belleville, AHL) – 60GP, 12G-14A-26P
- Tyler Kleven (D) (UND, NCAA) – 38GP, 7G-3A-10P
- Maxence Guenette (D) (Belleville, AHL) – 46GP, 6G-12A-18P