Ottawa Senators 2022-23 Report Cards: Defense

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 02: Jake Sanderson #85 of the Ottawa Senators controls the puck during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on April 2, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 02: Jake Sanderson #85 of the Ottawa Senators controls the puck during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on April 2, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

In a piece I posted a few days ago, I graded each forward the Ottawa Senators utilized in the 2022-23 season, report card style. Today let’s continue with the defenseman. If you have not read the Forwards edition, I recommend reading it, you’ll find the link in this article under this blurb. Tomorrow, we’ll visit the netminders.

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Thomas Chabot: B-

Thomas Chabot is this team’s number 1 defenseman and is expected to lead the charge. He led the team in time on ice, and was 9th overall in the league with 24:58. Chabot scored 11 goals and 30 assists for 41 points, ranking him 30th amongst all NHL defensemen in points this year. Statistically speaking, this season was technically Chabot’s second most productive season under his belt. However, he did not feel like the regular Thomas Chabot Sens fans have come to love. It felt like he was missing a certain edge that makes him one of the best defensemen in the NHL. This can most likely be attributed to the fact that Chabot played the entire season with injuries. The good thing is that Chabot at 70% is better than 90% of the NHL. I expected a big step from Chabot this year, I hope he can reach it next season.

Artem Zub: B

Artem Zub is a stay-at-home defenseman who lets his partner shine offensively, whomever he plays with. He was mainly utilized as Thomas Chabot’s partner this year but saw time with pretty much every defenseman on the team. He won’t score many points but can provide a surprise goal here and there. He scored 3 goals and 7 assists for 10 points this season, but like I said, his presence is more felt on the defensive side of things. He wasn’t as good as last season in my opinion, but he still was pretty good.

Jake Sanderson: A+

Definitely the only A+ on this team in terms of defensemen, Jake Sanderson turned heads during his rookie season. I expected him to prove himself as a capable defenseman in the NHL this season but I did not expect him to establish himself as the team’s best defenseman this early on. Sanderson should be heavily considered for the Calder trophy this season as rookie of the year. Sanderson managed to score 4 goals and 28 assists for 32 points in 77 games played. Sanderson has already established himself as the best defenseman of the 2020 Draft Class, I expect a lot out of him in the future.

Jakob Chychrun: B+

Having only played 12 games with the Ottawa Senators so far, I felt it was hard to give Jakob Chychrun a grade. For the sake of this article, I opted to give him a B+ as he impressed me quite a bit with his short time with the Sens so far, but I can say I expect more out of him. In all fairness, he had not found his permanent partner before being put on the injured reserve to end the season. It can also take time to acclimate to a new team and a new defensive structure under a new coach. I expect Chychrun to suit up long-term with Thomas Chabot. In 12 games, Chychrun was able to score 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points.

Erik Brannstrom: B+

This season was filled with opportunities for Erik Brannstrom as the season was plagued with injuries. Brannstrom was able to establish himself as one of Ottawa’s best defensive defensemen, which is something I never thought I’d say about him. He was supposed to be the 50+ point puck-moving guy. Near the end of the season, Brannstrom was able to earn an opportunity in the top 4 as injuries sent guys like Chabot and Chychrun to the press box. Brannstrom has certainly put himself into quite the situation. The question arises is if he’s played himself out of Ottawa. I won’t comment on if I think Ottawa should keep or trade him in this piece (that’s a topic for another day), but his value is probably at the highest it’s been in quite some time.

Travis Hamonic: B

I was not expecting much out of Travis Hamonic this season. I honestly expected him to be one of those 6th defensemen forced to play in the top 4, and thus being a defensive liability. He did play above his intended role for quite a good part of the season, but he actually held his own. I’m not going to say that he’s completely turned back the clock and has become a top-pairing defenseman once again, but he’s been pretty good for a veteran defenseman. He was mainly paired with Sanderson during the season before trades were able to lead him to play in a more ideal 3rd pairing role. Hamonic is a pending unrestricted free agent, and I can actually say I’d like the team to bring him back on a one or two-year deal, if he were to be utilized on the third pair or as a 7th defenseman. He also provides quite a lot of leadership and good vibes.

Nick Holden: C-

Nick Holden played pretty well in his first year with the Senators last season, but the same cannot be said this year. He slowed down quite a bit this year and played himself out of the lineup unfortunately. I will say I’m still a big fan of his due to the role he played in Ottawa’s lockerroom and will add that he will be missed as it’s been announced he will not be offered a new contract, but that’s okay. He accomplished his role as best as he could, and it’s time to move on. I hope he finds a new team this off-season.

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The Others:

The following players did not play enough in the NHL to be graded, but I will still mention them with a quick thought.

Jacob Bernard-Docker: appeared in 19 games this season, and seemed to look better with each game he played. He will definitely fight for a spot in the opening night lineup next season.

Tyler Kleven: made his NHL debut and appeared in 8 games this season, looking extremely competent in his own end. I’m excited to see more of the K-Train. He will also challenge for a roster spot early next season. I would not be upset if he spent a year in the AHL first hand though.

Lassi Thomson: Only played in two NHL games this season but did not look overly out of place. Could also challenge for a spot in the NHL lineup next season.

Max Guenette: made his NHL debut in the final game of the season against the Buffalo Sabres and did not look too much out of place. I have no idea what his future holds in terms of NHL potential, but he has definitely made some strides in the AHL. I could see him fight for an NHL spot, even if he doesn’t earn it at first next season.

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Closing Thoughts

Man, does Ottawa have a young d-core, with only one player being over the age of 30 who is expected to be in the lineup next season (that is if Hamonic re signs, if not there will be zero players over the age of 30 on the blue line). I’m excited to see each player continue to develop and turn Ottawa into a contender. I can say that this is the first time in a LONG time that Ottawa’s blue line will be looked at as a strength.