Ottawa Senators 2022-23 Report Cards: Forwards

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Brady Tkachuk #7 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates with teammates Claude Giroux #28 and Tim Stutzle #18 after scoring the overtime game-winning goal against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 02: Brady Tkachuk #7 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates with teammates Claude Giroux #28 and Tim Stutzle #18 after scoring the overtime game-winning goal against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The NHL Playoffs are underway, but for the Ottawa Senators, it’s the offseason. With the offseason comes player evaluations and deciding who should come back and who should not. This piece will start a mini-series of Yearly Report Cards. Let’s start with the Forwards. We will evaluate each forward to finish the season in the Ottawa Senators Organization.

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Brady Tkachuk: A

Brady Tkachuk just completed his second season as captain of the Ottawa Senators and did not miss a game for the second time in his career (the first time was in the 56-game season in 2020-21). In 82 games, he was able to score 35 goals and 48 assists for 83 points. His presence wasn’t felt on the ice, but also off of it. He launched a brand-new charitable arm with BGC Ottawa this season “Tkachuk’s Captains”. Tkachuk has continued to establish himself as the Ottawa Senators and is improving in all facets of the game. I give him an A because while he’s been amongst Ottawa’s best players, I still think he has one more gear he can achieve.

Tim Stützle: A+

Like Tkachuk, Tim Stützle has continued to improve in each of his three NHL seasons thus far. This season, the 21-year-old established career highs in goals, assists, and points. He was able to score 39 goals and 51 assists for 90 points. Stützle is the first Ottawa Senator to score 90 points since the 2007-8 season when Jason Spezza scored 92. Stützle was able to earn head coach DJ Smith’s trust on the defensive side of the game too, playing on the first penalty kill unit for a good majority of the season. He’s an offense-first guy, but he is getting a lot better in his own end, which is important for a core player. Stützle averaged 21:16 TOI, which ranked sixth amongst all forwards in the NHL.
Claude Giroux: A+

When signing in Ottawa, Claude Giroux was not expected to put up a career year in terms of goalscoring, but he was expected to be a great leader and a good player. Instead, Giroux scored 35 goals (career high), and 44 assists for 79 points. Entering the season I expected him to score between 60-70 points, but he outdid that. He scored his 1000th career NHL point and was instrumental in the development of pretty much everyone on the team. Whatever line he was put on, he elevated each player he played with.

Alex DeBrincat: B

Alex DeBrincat had an off-year by his standards, which is why I’m only giving him a B. However, an off-year still resulted in him being 4th in team goals with 27, 5th in assists with 39, and 4th in points with 66. I’ll give DeBrincat a pass as he played on a brand new team for the first time in his career, and I’m excited to see what he can contribute next season with the Senators. (No, I don’t think he’s getting traded.)

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Shane Pinto: B

Shane Pinto entered in his first full NHL season this year and was impressive considering the circumstances. I for one did not expect him to score 20 goals this year. He totaled 35 points this season, playing the majority of the season on the second line. Even if his elevated role was due to an injury to Josh Norris, Pinto played well as a rookie second-line center. Ideally, Pinto is a third-line center who can be elevated in case of injury, and that’s exactly what happened this year. The reason he only gets a B is due to his poor defensive play this season. I’m not ready to call him a defensive black hole, because he’s a young player, but his play on the defensive end of the game is definitely going to need some improvement if he will be expected to be a key penalty killer.

Drake Batherson: B-

For a player that achieved career highs in goals, assists, and points, you’d think I’d have Drake Batherson as at least an A, but I don’t. Batherson scored 22 goals and 40 assists for 62 assists. My issue with Batherson was his consistency. There were many points in the season where he was played in the bottom 6 because it was simply not safe to play him in a top 6 role because he was not providing enough offense to justify him in that role. Other nights, he was Ottawa’s best player, or close to it. I hope he’s able to find that next gear to take a step up and get closer to the near-point-per-game player I expect him to be.

Mathieu Joseph: C

In his first full season with the Ottawa Senators, Mathieu Joseph left more to be desired with his play. It’s not like he’s been a bad player by any means, cause he hasn’t. My issue with Joseph’s play this season was the lack of consistency. At times he looked like the best player on the ice, and at other times he looked like the worst on the ice. My hope is that he is able to find a happy middle where he’s consistently a good player that can be trusted at both ends of the ice on the third line. In 56 games this season, he scored 3 goals and 15 assists for 18 points.

Dylan Gambrell: C

Dylan Gambrell is a 13th forward on any contending team, and that’s part of the reason the Ottawa Senators did not make the playoffs this year. Gambrell was utilized as a mainstay in the bottom 6 (and even saw some looks in the top 6). He’s a shutdown forward who really provides little to no offense. Ideally, I’d have him as no more than a fourth-line center who also plays on the penalty kill. If that were his role on the Sens, I would have ranked him B+ or higher as he is perfect for that role. Unfortunately, he was overutilized by DJ Smith and sees himself being in the C range for his report card. In 60 games, he scored 4 goals and 6 assists for 10 points. Here’s to hoping he finds a new home in his correct role. I would not bring him back if I were General Manager because Ottawa has better options available to them for a 13th forward who gets the occasional look in the lineup like another name I will mention later.

Mark Kastelic: B

Mark Kastelic is a fourth-line center who plays with a lot of grit and can provide (a tiny bit) of everything when he’s at his best. He was not at his best every night, but when he was, he was great. I’ll give him a pass as this season was technically his rookie NHL season. Kastelic managed to score 7 goals and 4 assists for 11 points. I expect him to return next year as the permanent fourth-line center for the Senators, and see occasional opportunities on the penalty kill to shake things up.

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Derick Brassard: B+

Derick Brassard entered the season on a PTO and did not even have the certainty of an NHL paycheck at first. He battled all the odds and made it to the NHL this season as the Senators’ 13th forward, not quite being a mainstay in the lineup, until he was. Injuries may have helped open up opportunities, but he took it and ran, Brassard appeared in his 1000th NHL game this season and was easily Ottawa’s best bottom 6 forward this season. He will be back next season (if he chooses to continue his playing career) on another PTO Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion said in his recent media availability. Brassard scored 13 goals and 10 assists for 23 points in 62 games this season. He did see some time in the top 6 for a bit but mainly played in the bottom 6.

Austin Watson: C

In his third season with the Ottawa Senators, Austin Watson did what he did best. He played the agitator role, attempting to protect Ottawa’s young stars. He finished the season tied for second most in fights. It’s safe to say Watson will do anything he can for his team, except for winning the fights he starts. He’ll throw down against anyone in the league but can’t seem to finish the bouts victorious.

Patrick Brown: C

Pierre Dorion made one trade on trade deadline day, acquiring veteran forward Patrick Brown to serve as a rotation player in the bottom 6. In 18 games with the Senators, Brown managed to score 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points. At best, Brown is a replacement-level player, but the issue is the Senators’ bottom 6 was almost entirely comprised of the same level of player. Brown would be a serviceable 13th forward, but I’d rather employ Derick Brassard or Dylan Gambrell in that role.

Julien Gauthier: B-

I can’t say I had the highest expectations for Julien Gauthier when he was acquired as part of the return for Tyler Motte close to the trade deadline. When acquiring him, I expected Gauthier to be yet another replacement-level 13th forward, and that’s basically how he was utilized. He did not play in every game from his acquisition to the end of the year, but when he did play he provided a lot for the team. He’s a speedy skater with a big frame who can make guys pay at times. He formed some nice chemistry with Mathieu Joseph, and Joseph played his best hockey this season when he was paired with Gauthier. I liked what he provided. He scored 3 goals and 2 assists in 17 games, and I think he should be one of the players being considered as the team’s fourth-line right winger, or as the 13th forward.

Parker Kelly: D-

Entering the season I was optimistic to see Parker Kelly earn a full-time NHL job. Unfortunately, he pretty much played himself out of a job this year. He provided zero offense while also not being great defensively. In 55 games he scored 1 goal and 3 assists for 4 points. The only thing that Kelly was able to provide this season was grit. Unfortunately for him, you can’t get a job in the NHL anymore just based on heavy hitting. You have to be good at more than just one thing to remain in the NHL. Hopefully, he’s able to make his way back to the NHL soon, but I think ultimately he may need more time in the AHL to develop other aspects of his game.

The others:

The following players did not play enough NHL games this season either due to being injury callups, or being injured, for me to mention in this piece.

  • Josh Norris: Missed all but 8 games due to injury. Hope he can return to form at the beginning of next year.
  • Egor Sokolov: Only played 5 games near the end of the year, and scored his first-ever NHL goal.
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Closing Thoughts

I’m sure I missed a couple of players who are currently in the AHL they would most likely belong in the same tier as Sokolov, not playing enough games. I think the theme I’ve noticed amongst the forwards is that the top 6 guys mainly produced close to my expectations or surpassed them. The bottom 6 was mainly underwhelming for me. I look forward to the rest of this series, it’s officially the offseason.