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MCKEEN’S 2023-24 NHL YEARBOOK – OTTAWA SENATORS – Top 20 Prospect Profiles – Organizational Rank #20

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 11: Ottawa Senators Center Ridly Greig (17) before a face-off during second period National Hockey League action between the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators on February 11, 2023, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire)

Top 20 Ottawa Senators Prospects

1. Ridly Greig

Greig’s path has continued to climb upwards since he started in the WHL and that trajectory is a big reason why he’s going to be a graduate from this list in short order. The forward wrapped up a strong WHL career in 2021-22 as the captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings, putting up 63 points in only 39 games, while also helping Canada to a gold medal at the World Juniors. He’s practically the epitome of the “Pesky Sens'' as a hard-fought, gritty player who is absolutely fearless, while playing a highly competitive brand of hockey. At the same time, he brings an impressive shot, and hands that look softer and softer every time he hits the ice. Greig is already playing in the NHL after starting last season with a strong showing in the AHL and it seems that he’ll there stick as a middle-six asset and fan favorite.

2. Zach Ostapchuk

A bit of a surprising selection by the Senators when they called his name 39th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft, Ostapchuk has spent the last two seasons proving doubters wrong. On top of two World Juniors appearances where he won two gold medals, his WHL career has taken off. In 2021-22, he was named captain of the Vancouver Giants and showed that he’s a big-game player, taking his game to another level in the playoffs, where he contributed nearly two points-per-game. With over a point per game last season, he looks too good for the WHL now and is ready to take the next step. Ostapchuk is hard on the puck, brings a physical edge, and plays a solid two-way, slightly defensive-leaning game. He also has great speed and is capable of generating great plays. His game looks like it will translate very well as a bottom nine winger.

3. Mads Sogaard

Standing at a hulking 6-7”, Sogaard doesn’t need to do much in the net to stop the puck. Drafted 37th overall in 2019, the Danish goaltender made the interesting jump from the NAHL to the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, where he had a very good rookie season. He spent one more season in the WHL, performing well, before the pandemic hit. He started the 2020-21 season in Denmark and played very well, before jumping to the AHL at the end of the year. He spent more of 2021-22 in the AHL getting used to the pace and he split his time fairly evenly between the AHL and NHL last season. He moves well but can let through a bad goal a little more often than one would like. His path to the NHL may have been a little faster than anticipated as Sogaard is still pretty raw, but it looks like he’s now in the NHL to stay.

4. Egor Sokolov

Another prospect that fits the mould of a Senator, Sokolov made the jump from Russia to the QMJHL in 2017-18, his draft year. He had a solid rookie year but was ultimately passed over in the NHL Draft. He took a step forward with the Cape Breton Eagles the following year but was once again passed over. In his final year of draft eligibility, his game took a big leap in the right direction , with 92 points in 52 games, and the Senators took notice, calling his name 61st overall. He immediately made the jump to the AHL, emerging as one of the Belleville Senators' top players ever since. At 6- 3”, 223 pounds, he’s a big body who is so hard to knock off the puck, he knows how to get to the dangerous areas, and has a great shot. Sokolov’s skating is a little slow and rough, but he has the tools to slide in as a bottom six forward.

5. Lassi Thomson

Drafted 19th overall in 2019, it hasn’t seemed to come together for Thomson and that has to be a concern moving forward, with reasonable doubts not that he ever will live up to expectations. Making the jump from Finland to the WHL in his draft year, Thomson slid in seamlessly with the Kelowna Rockets, putting up good numbers and looking comfortable in doing so. After the draft, he headed back to Finland to play in the Liiga, looking ready to take a step forward in the first season before struggling in the second. He moved back to North America in 2020-21, and has mainly stuck in the AHL ever since. His game is more defensive leaning at this point, bringing physicality and good timing, but his processing with the puck is a real issue. He has the tools, but just hasn’t been able to put it all together and may have hit his ceiling as a call-up option.

6. Tyler Kleven

Kleven won’t be a blueliner who piles up the points, but he could very well become a consistent, top six defender. Drafted 44th overall in 2020, Kleven had just wrapped up his time with the USNTDP and was poised to make the jump to the University of North Dakota. After three seasons on campus, he signed his entry-level deal last year, and made the jump straight to the NHL. He is a big, defence-first prospect with a heavy shot and no qualms about playing a physical game. He’s a little slow and you don’t want him to hold on to the puck for too long, but his ability to play hard and break up plays should allow him sticking in the league. The hope would be that he can figure out his on-puck play while standing out in his off-puck performance.

7. Leevi Merilainen

Ever since the Senators called Merilainen’s name 71st overall in the 2020 Draft, there has been excitement around him from the Senators fanbase. He was drafted out of Karpat out of the U20 SM-sarja where he had very strong numbers and that continued into his DY+1 season. He then made the jump to the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs for a an up-and-down season, with a good record but not-so-great underlying numbers and was overall just a little inconsistent. He went back to Finland last season to play in the Liiga where he looked better - enough to earn a call back to North America to spend more time with the B-Sens and Senators. Merilainen is a very agile, athletic goaltender, but he’s not consistent enough to be considered a future No. 1. If he can figure it out, he could be a reliable No. 2 or 3.

8. Tyler Boucher

Speaking of players who surprised the industry by when they were drafted by the Senators, Ottawa called Boucher’s name 10th overall in 2021, one of the biggest first round draft shocks of the last decade. Ottawa has made some good calls recently though, so perhaps they knew something no one else did. The USNTDP forward then jumped to Boston University where he was unable to put things together before jumping to the OHL Ottawa 67’s. He’s a bit of a complicated prospect in that his physicality is what could carry him to the NHL, but his development has been repeatedly marred by injuries over the past few years, questioning his durability, especially considering his power forward role. Boucher has a great, hard shot, but there are concerns with the rest of his game. At this point, he projects as a bottom six winger - maybe. It’s not likely he lives up to the weight of lofty draft standing.

9. Stephen Halliday

The Senators are no stranger to selecting double-overage players in the Draft. First eligible in 2020, Halliday did not hear his name called until two years later, 104th overall in 2022. Spending the three years prior with the USHL Dubuque Fighting Saints, Halliday popped off in 2021-22, doubling his production and being named to the First All-Star Team. He moved up to the NCAA with Ohio State last season, continuing to play very well, producing over one point-per-game as an older freshman. He has a big body and protects the puck extremely well with a pleasing level of creativity in his game. He can dish the puck out well too, but his overall ceiling, especially considering his status as a late bloomer, may be muted. He’s likely an AHL regular at this point but could earn the occasional call-up. However, he has surprised in the past.

10. Maxence Guenette

A late draft pick in the 2019 Draft, the Senators called Guenette’s name 187th overall. The QMJHL defender for the Val-d’Or Foreurs has so far been a success. After spending two more seasons in the Q, he made the jump to the AHL and has been a very consistent, reliable defender. He can play big minutes, he’s light on his feet, moves very well, and plays a solid overall defensive game. He doesn’t have a whole lot of offensive upside but there is enough for him to become a bit of a two-way rearguard as opposed to being a strictly defensive guy. Guenette is very reliable. He won’t be a top guy but has the potential to slide into a bottom pairing. For a player selected in the 7th round to be on that path has to be considered a win so far for the Senators.

11. Roby Jarventie

Jarventie showed very promising progression last year in his second AHL season, even if he missed a chunk of time due to injury. He plays a straightforward North/South game and can put the puck in the net. A dark horse to earn significant time with the Senators this year?

12. Jacob Bernard Docker

We’re just not sure why we keep seeing Bernard-Docker high up on prospect lists given how little his offensive game has translated to the pro level. He should play in some capacity, but will he ever be more than an average bottom pairing defender?

13. Angus Crookshank

Is there a more underrated prospect in the Sens system than Crookshank, who led Belleville in goal scoring last year; one season removed from a significant knee injury? He’s a hard worker who could end up being a great complementary piece in Ottawa’s middle six.

14. Phillippe Daoust

The former Memorial Cup standout missed nearly the entire 2022-23 AHL season with an upper body injury. He will be looking to bounce back healthy this season and emerge as one of Belleville’s go-to offensive players.

15. Jorian Donovan

One of the most improved players in the OHL last season, Donovan’s confidence with the puck exploded as he became more aggressive, looking to use his skating and skill to be an impact puck mover. There is still work to be done defensively but his growth thus far has been profoundly positive.

16. Tomas Hamara

Conversely, Hamara’s season in the OHL was not a positive one, as he struggled mightily in the defensive end for the Kitchener Rangers as a rookie. He will return to Kitchener this year and will be asked to play a larger role on a rebuilding team.

17. Kevin Reidler

The hulking Swedish netminder had a good season in the J20 league and will be moving to the USHL this season to play with Dubuque. He likely has his eyes set on the NCAA route.

18. Donovan Sebrango

A former standout with the Canadian WJC team, Sebrango needed a fresh start after toiling in the Detroit system. Now in Ottawa, he will look to earn a large role in Belleville and get his career back on track.

19. Hoyt Stanley

Stanley was a McKeen’s favourite for the 2023 draft and, in our opinion, the Senators got a possible steal as late as they selected him. The mobile defender is incredibly raw and is very much a long-term project. The Cornell program should be great for him.

20. Oskar Pettersson

An effective straight-line attacker, Pettersson was solid in a supporting role for Sweden at the recent World Juniors. The hope is that he can earn more ice time and responsibility at the SHL level this coming season.