An Alternate Reality: How Close Were the Ottawa Senators to Drafting Rasmus Dahlin?

OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 28: Olli Maatta #2 of the Detroit Red Wings battles with Brady Tkachuk #7 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period at Canadian Tire Centre on February 28, 2023 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 28: Olli Maatta #2 of the Detroit Red Wings battles with Brady Tkachuk #7 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period at Canadian Tire Centre on February 28, 2023 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

With the First Overall Pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Level Draft, the Ottawa Senators select Rasmus Dahlin…

Those are lines that General Manager of the Ottawa Senators Pierre Dorion were one loss away from uttering at the 2018 NHL draft in Dallas. Before I continue this alternate reality deep dive, I must specify that I am not saying that I would rather have Rasmus Dahlin over Brady Tkachuk. I am simply stating that the Senators were one loss from drafting the Swedish defenseman instead of the franchise’s current captain.

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First, let’s take a look back to the 2017-18 season

Just a few months after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals, the Ottawa Senators began their 2017-18 campaign with high expectations. The team had just finished in second place in the Atlantic Division and had completed back-to-back upsets against the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins…I hate to be that guy, but for the purposes of this alternate reality, let’s take a look at that gut-wrenching goal.

Now that that’s back in our brains, let’s examine what was next for the Sens. The Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Draft. The Golden Knights opted to select veteran blue-liner, Marc Methot. They almost immediately traded him away to the Dallas Stars in a trade that has impacted the Senators in more ways than one. The Second Round pick that was sent to Vegas was then traded to Ottawa alongside Erik Brannstrom and Oscar Lindberg in exchange for star winger Mark Stone.

On November 5th, 2017, the Ottawa Senators decided to go all in and complete a three-way trade to acquire disgruntled star center, Matt Duchene. The package was enormous and will be looked back on in another article, but let’s take a minute to appreciate the first-round pick involved in this trade. Pierre Dorion sent a conditional first-round pick in the 2018 draft. The condition was that the pick was top 10 protected, if the pick were to be in the top then, the Senators would have the choice to either give the Avalanche that pick or send them their 2019 first-round pick (this one would remain unprotected).

At first glance, nobody would have thought that the first would need to slide as the Senators were poised to make the playoffs, but then a free-fall happened. The Ottawa Senators would lose several games and drop down to the bottom of the standings.

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From Eastern Conference Finals to 30th place

Near the end of the season, the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres were 30th and 31st in the NHL standings and were quite close in terms of points. So much so that the 31st spot would not be claimed until the very end of the season when both teams met on April 4th, 2018, in Buffalo. The Ottawa Senators would go on to win 4-2, which would then allow the Buffalo Sabres to clinch 31st overall.

Being 31st in the NHL in standings, the Buffalo Sabres would be rewarded with the best odds at winning first overall points in the NHL Draft Lottery. On April 28th, 2018, just 24 days after the game that would clinch the final spot in the league, the Buffalo Sabres would win the NHL Draft Lottery, earning the first overall pick. The Ottawa Senators finishing 30th would receive the second-best odds, but would ultimately pick at 4th overall and select the now-captain Brady Tkachuk.

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What would the Sens look like with Dahlin?

The question arises if the Senators draft Dahlin, what else changes? For starters, the Sens would probably not have drafted Jake Sanderson with the fifth overall pick in 2020. At fifth overall, I’ll predict that the Sens instead pick Alexander Holtz. That would make a current top 6 of

Alex DeBrincat – Tim Stutzle – Claude Giroux

X – Josh Norris – Drake Batherson

At that second left wing slot, I could see the Sens opting to play Norris at the left wing to give either Ridly Greig or Shane Pinto that second-line center, and when Holtz would be ready for the NHL I could see him take Claude Giroux‘s spot after his contract expires. This top 6 would be purely skill with little to no brawn, which is NOT Ottawa’s identity. Not to forget that Tkachuk isn’t only brawn, he is also a goalscorer and is an undoubted leader.

The next thing to consider is the captaincy. Having noted that Brady Tkachuk would not be there to get the role of captain, my assumption is that Thomas Chabot would get that nod. Giroux would obviously get that first “A” and I could see the Sens rotating the second A until someone else steps up to permanently earn it, most likely Dahlin.

The last thing I will consider is the Jakob Chychrun trade. At first glance, you wouldn’t think that Ottawa would make this trade if they already have Dahlin and Chabot, as Chychrun is a left-shot. However, in the real universe, we run into the same situation, so I’ll say that the trade still happens and he would play with Dahlin.

Based on Ottawa’s current lineup, and these changes, here is what the Ottawa Senators would look like in this alternate universe.

Alex DeBrincat – Tim Stutzle – Claude Gioux

Josh Norris – Shane Pinto – Drake Batherson

Mathieu Joseph – Ridly Greig – Julien Gauthier

Derick Brassard – Mark Kastelic – Austin Watson

Thomas Chabot – Artem Zub

Jake Chychrun – Rasmus Dahlin

Brannstrom – Hamonic

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Closing Thoughts

Now that I’ve opened up some old wounds across the Ottawa Senators fanbase, I want to reiterate that I believe that Brady Tkachuk is more valuable to the Ottawa Senators than Rasmus Dahlin would be if he were the pick on that day. In a redraft, Tkachuk definitely goes higher than 4th overall, but this was not a re-draft, it was a fun little alternate reality piece. With Ottawa, Tkachuk has played in 348 games, and has scored 120 goals and 144 assists for 264 points. So far this season, in 71 games he is currently at 30 goals and 42 assists for 72 points. He is the team’s captain and face of the franchise and has become a fan-favorite for the Senator’s fanbase.