Every Ottawa Senators “Era” has a fan favorite Third Line player, usually a center. Key examples are Antoine Vermette, Mike Fisher, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau to name a few. Shane Pinto projects as the third-line center for the foreseeable future. Could he garner such a reputation as the aforementioned players?
Let’s look at Pinto’s best attributes
Shane Pinto was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft, specifically with the 32nd pick. Just before the draft, Pinto was ranked anywhere from pick 40 to pick 100, with the general consensus being within the 50-60 range. At first, Sens fans were quite skeptical of the pick, but he has since won fans over.
Pinto would make his way to college hockey where he would play with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks to continue his development. In his first collegiate season, he would suit up in 33 games while scoring 16 goals and 12 assists for 28 points. In his sophomore season, he would explode. In 28 games he scored 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points. More than just points, Pinto would establish himself as an elite two-way center at the collegiate level and would win more faceoffs than anyone else, winning over 60% of his faceoffs.
Pinto’s faceoff prowess did not immediately translate to the NHL level, but that is to be expected out of a young center. He is continuing to improve each game for the most part. His faceoff percentage this season is 52.1% and ranks second on the team. In his first stint in the NHL in 2020-21, his faceoff percentage was 40.9% followed by a FO% of 32.7 in 2021-22. Learning from Claude Giroux has certainly helped. Giroux’s FO% of 58.19% is currently 8th in the entire NHL and he has always been known for his elite faceoff skills.
Other skills that Pinto has been recognized for are his dangerous shot, puck-distributing skills, and above-average hockey sense. Simply put, he is advertised as a great offensive talent who could and should work on the defensive side of his game.
Taking those attributes, who does he best compare to?
Let’s start by looking at each player I mentioned and elaborate on each of their strengths
Mike Fisher: Fisher was known as a phenomenal two-way center who was a great forechecker. He was a penalty-kill specialist who was able to contribute a reasonable amount of offense, but nothing spectacular on that front as he would average a total of 20 goals, 23 assists, and 43 points per year, which for me is a high-end third-liner to a lower end second liner in terms of offense.
Antoine Vermette: Vermette played in 5 different seasons for the Senators before being traded away. In his time with the Senators, he would score 80 goals and 87 assists for 167 points in 359 games. His career average is 18 goals and 22 assists for 40 points. Vermette was very proficient in the faceoff circle as his career faceoff percentage was 56.9%.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: As the only currently active player I am choosing to compare Pinto to, it will be easier to compare as he is playing in a more modern NHL than the two others. Entering the 2011 draft, he was regarded as a great two-way center who excelled at faceoffs, hockey sense, and special teams. His weaknesses have always been tied to his size and giving up turnovers. In his career, Pageau has a career faceoff percentage of 53.6 while scoring an average of 18 goals and 20 assists for an average of 38 points per year. Two key skills that Pageau has developed throughout his NHL career are his netfront ability and being able to be extremely gritty despite his small frame.
Considering all of these players’ attributes, I don’t think Pinto compares to just one of these players but has certain elements of each player. I will however mention he most resembles Pageau in terms of play style for me.
This article was honestly just a fun exercise to look at the history of the Ottawa Senators and compare it to the now, and future. I think that Shane Pinto’s best projects as a better Jean-Gabriel Pageau but is not nearly as physical. I’m not saying that Pinto will cap out as a third-line center who is good for 35-40 points, but in my eyes, it’s what he will get to as a minimum in his NHL career.