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McKeen’s 2020-21 Hockey Yearbook: Ottawa Senators Top 20 Prospects

McKeen's Top 20 New York Rangers prospects for the 2020-21 season. You can read an organizational assessment prior to the draft in Ryan Wagman's article found here. Following the draft we provided a review on each teams performance based on our rankings found here.

  1. Tim Stuetzle, LW/C (3rd overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

Stuetzle has seen a steady rise last year thanks to his strong play at all levels. What makes him so dangerous and dynamic is his combination of dazzling puck skill with high end skating, featuring an explosive first few steps with elite agility. He also has an effortless stride and can change direction on a dime. He can maintain possession of the puck while in full stride, or through sudden movements East/West. His hands are elite, he can corral passes while at full speed, or stickhandle through traffic without being touched. A pass first player, he creates for linemates and demonstrates excellent vision at a fast pace.  While he commits the occasional turnover, he generally makes good decisions in the offensive zone, understanding when to push the pace and when to slow things down, when to take risks and when to play conservatively. He still needs to grow as a three-zone player, improving his engagement level in the defensive end. Stuetzle may still require additional strength for the NHL level, but things are moving in the right direction. He makes those around him better and has the high-end skating ability to dictate pace at the NHL level. – BO

  1. Jake Sanderson, D (5th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

Looking like a solid, if unspectacular, prospect entering the year, Sanderson exploded in the second half, playing at a very high pace, leading the rush more often, generating chaos in the offensive end. Instead of holding the puck passively at the point, or walking the blueline to seek out openings, he would zip up the wall and find a horizontal lane instead. He was also a physical force off the puck. The biggest difference from the first half to the second was in his acceleration. He now explodes out of a static position and reaches overdrive immediately. This brought explosiveness to every facet of his game. He was more comfortable shooting the puck. His passing game also played up, by activating more in the offensive zone, looking for horizontal and diagonal passing lanes. His hands played as fast as his feet. His physical game also went up a few notches, and he regularly laid opponents flat just by dropping a shoulder. Finally, Sanderson’s ability to read the game became more uncanny at his new top speed. He now looks like a potential number one as long as he keeps the gains he has made last season. – RW

  1. Jacob Bernard-Docker, D (26th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 1)

Having continued to watch Bernard-Docker develop with the Fighting Hawks as well as with Team Canada at the WJC, we see a defender who reasonably projects as a first pairing blueliner at the NHL level, playing upwards of 25 minutes a minutes a night, in all situations, and shutting down the opposition’s finest. The native Albertan does everything at an above average level, but has high end hockey IQ, allowing the entire package to play better than the sum of his parts. Without being a dynamic skater, he moves his feet very well. He can be both safe and creative when he carries the puck out of his zone. He is not a blueline bomber, but he has a very impressive wrist shot from the point that he can use to pick out targets when he takes his time. His own zone play is remarkable for his mature positioning and tight gap control. As a right handed shot, there will soon be room for Bernard-Docker to line up alongside Thomas Chabot, giving the Senators a long term first pairing (not to mention the other great blueline prospects in the Ottawa system) that can play against anyone and excel. - RW

  1. Josh Norris, C (Trade: Sep. 13, 2018. Originally: 19th overall, 2017 [San Jose]. Previous ranking: 2)

Norris finished his rookie pro season leading Belleville in points and earning a brief three game stint with the big club. Although he is a great playmaker and team player, his shot, paired with his individual effort on the ice, are what make him a deadly player. The fact that he finished nearly even in both goals and assists is indicative of the versatility of his offensive contributions. Norris is a good-sized forward and a strong skater. He is agile, reads the play well, and possesses an NHL level skillset with hands and a shot to go alongside his skating abilities. He has a full bag of tricks with no real negatives in his game, all working together to make his transition from college to the pros practically seamless. He is approaching NHL readiness and will be seen again in an Ottawa Senators jersey as soon as next season, if not full time then at least as Ottawa’s first forward call up. He is a naturally good all-round player with a high ceiling and the potential to be a first line forward, top six at the very least, when his time comes back in the NHL. - SC

  1. Drake Batherson, C (121st overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 3)

Batherson still has a few small details to touch up and tighten up with his game, but overall he has grown tremendously as a player and his maturity has come a long way with time spent up with Ottawa as well as on the farm. As a hard-working forward who plays both wing and center, he is versatile and can also be relied upon to play both powerplay and penalty kill. He is a good two-way player but can still work to improve his defensive coverage and play with more patience in his own end. As a bigger forward, Batherson has the potential to be a very dominant force when it comes to getting to the net and finishing plays but he will have to be more confident on NHL ice, which will come with time. He is almost at the point now where he has outgrown the AHL and is ready for a bigger challenge. He should have no worries when it comes to making a full-time adjustment to the league and finding a spot in the Ottawa top six in the near future. - SC

  1. Alex Formenton, LW (47th overall, 2017. Previous ranking: 4)

Formenton is the type of forward that every team should have, fast and forechecks well, handles battles safely, keeps his feet moving, and has the offensive mindset of a natural goal scorer. He will need to find a way to better protect his own end and work on his two way mindset, but other than that, he simply needs to maintain the same performance level and high energy when he gets called back up. He stands out, which means he needs to find a way to up his confidence and force his way to a prominent role. This past season with Belleville there were issues with consistency of effort and speed and as he relies heavily on his high end top speed, he will need to bring consistent effort each game in order to fulfill his potential and be deserving of a full-time, permanent spot with Ottawa. Formenton has the skillset, the speed, and the potential to be a top six forward but he cannot simply coast. - SC

  1. Shane Pinto, C (32nd overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 5)

A very late bloomer, Pinto is now developing at a rapid clip. He has enough muscle on his 6-3” frame to play in a power role, hanging out near the opposition net and preventing defenders from dislodging him. Not only does he serve as a distraction for the netminder, but he also is an ace shot tipper, demonstrating high end hand-eye coordination to get his blade on point shots in mid-air and angling them just so to squeak past the goalie. He uses his body well when carrying the puck, to shield defenders off, and maintain possession of the puck. There is little fancy about his game, as he is most effective playing largely in straight, North-South lines, but he can be extremely effective as a foil for two more highly skilled linemates. Most comfortable below the hashmarks, Pinto still has many possible outcomes for his career. He can fit anywhere in the middle six, including both at center and at right wing, where I think he might ultimately be most effective. One more year of consistent performance, and possibly a little extra jam would prove that he is ready for the pros. - RW

  1. Ridly Greig, C (28th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

Always on the hunt, Greig looks to play through defenders on the forecheck to separate them from the puck. Occasionally he crosses the line and could stand to improve his discipline, however his tenacity provides a ton of value. He excels down low and along the wall, where he works hard to gain or prolong possession. He is also aggressive in driving through the middle, crashing the net for scoring opportunities. With his high energy level, he excels as a three-zone player and penalty killer. Greig is also a highly intelligent player, who maximizes his own skills while playing an effective two-way game. He impresses with his ability to play at his pace, how he uses space and how he can hold the puck for that extra second to create a passing seam. A high-volume shooter, he is aggressive in putting pucks on net with a quick release. He demonstrates good vision, with his head up working the half wall and the cycle. He keeps his feet moving, providing constant energy. Greig can impact the game in many different ways and is sure to become a fan favorite because of his intensity level on the ice. – BO

  1. Logan Brown, C (11th overall, 2016. Previous ranking: 6)

Despite being able to transfer all his skills and his game to the AHL, Brown, a former high first round pick, seemed to have trouble converting those same skills to the NHL, notwithstanding his offensive production. During the time spent up with Ottawa last season, he seemed to have difficulty adjusting to the pace of the NHL, meaning he will need to quicken the pace at which he moves the puck as well as his overall footspeed heading into next season. Brown is a strong player with a very big body and a lot of talent. If he can find a way to get to the net consistently and make faster plays, he will be a deadly playmaker and a forward who is a bear to stop. He has good hands, a hard shot, and a good eye during odd man rushes that would all be welcomed assets to Ottawa’s bottom six when he is up to speed with his game. - SC

  1. Lassi Thomson, D (19th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 7)

Thomson’s first pro season was a somewhat difficult one. As a first round NHL Draft pick, he joined Ilves with high expectations, yet he struggled with consistency and decision making from time to time. He was the captain of the Finnish team at the World Juniors, but even there his play left a lot to be desired. He is a very physical defenseman who hits with authority when defending. He does not shy away from contact, plays the body and is tough to play against. He can close gaps quickly with his skating speed. His acceleration is very good, and he can carry the puck from his own end. Thomson has a hard, heavy slap shot and one-timer with good wind up. His wrist shot is accurate, and he can release it without much set up. His decision making, especially with the puck, was an occasional issue in the past season. The potential that he displayed in the WHL is still there, he just needs to put all the pieces of his game together. In the long run, Thomson projects as a top-four NHL defenseman with special teams’ assets. – MB

  1. Tyler Kleven, D (44th overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

While the game moves more and more towards speed and skill, Tyler Kleven is the epitome of the old school. The USNTDP grad has a frame and game that is very reminiscent of fellow Program alum Mattias Samuelsson. He is 6-4”, broad, and specializes working in his own zone. Rarely involved directly in the offensive game, he actually has some decent offensive tools, primarily his powerful point shot. Unfortunately, he rarely fires the puck. He moves the puck well, and can play with it, but prefers to make simple passes, either D-to-D in his own zone, or the occasional break-out pass crossing one or two lines. On the other hand, he frequently bangs the puck off the glass to exit the zone. On the other hand, Kleven is a shutdown defender using positioning, a smart stick, and his long frame. He reads the opposition very well and consistently gets himself into shooting and passing lanes to disrupt the attack. He has the strength and desire to stop opponents in a way they will remember. Not as exciting as Sanderson or Bernard-Docker, but Kleven can eat a lot of minutes at even strength and the PK. – RW

  1. Roby Jarventie, RW (33rd overall, 2020. Previous ranking: NA)

A big winger who can skate, Jarventie is blessed with power in his stride that allows him to be an effective North/South attacker. He is a skilled goal scorer, possessing multiple weapons to find the back of the net. His inconsistent draft year could be tied to his physicality and moreover his play without the puck, which still need work. He doesn’t use his reach and frame to play through the middle enough, and he can be too easily pushed off the puck when unable to beat defenders wide with his speed. There is hope that these issues become rectified as he completes his physical maturing. His speed is an asset in transition, especially combined with his strong lateral mobility. Defenders have a difficult time minding their gaps and keeping him in front of them. Additionally, he has a great touch around the net and anticipates the play well as a shooter. His wrist shot is hard and accurate, and he can one-time pucks from the faceoff dot on the powerplay. Jarventie has middle six NHL potential and his early work this season in Liiga may be a hint of what is to come. – BO

  1. Vitali Abramov, RW (Trade: Feb. 22, 2019. Originally: 65th overall, 2016 [Columbus]. Previous ranking: 8)

Abramov is yet another positive example of a trade working out well for both the Ottawa organization and the player personally, and since moving from the Columbus organization to the Senators, he has seen much better results. Abramov finished fourth in points with AHL Belleville this past season amidst the tight prospect scoring race featuring a number of intriguing young talents in this system. He is a small forward, but he makes up for his lack of size by bringing a lot of skill and hockey sense to the game. He is well positioned, has good hands, and makes plays quickly and efficiently with few turnovers. His primary challenge will be to continue to push his physicality and better his strength when fighting for position in front of the opposing net. Expect to see Abramov called up again next season for a longer stint as part of the Ottawa bottom six as he strives for a bigger future role with the club. - SC

  1. Kevin Mandolese, G (157th overall, 2018. Previous ranking: 9)

Mandolese earned the top Q goalie honors last season by refining his game and using his frame to the best of his ability, putting together the best season so far in his career. While he is quick and athletic enough to make highlight reel saves every game, he has harnessed his fundamental skills to make repeatable saves much more consistently last year and was rewarded for it. He has the size scouts look for in a goalie and will be given time to marinate on the farm in the Sens system. The Senators rewarded him with an entry-level deal this offseason, and Mandolese will look to start his pro career this coming season, likely as a backup at the AHL level or as a starter at a lower level. He will take a while, but Ottawa could be rewarded with a cat-like goalie that uses his size efficiently. - MS

  1. Artyom Zub, D (Undrafted Free Agent, signed May 1, 2020. Previous ranking: 10)

In his fifth full season in the KHL, Zub more than doubled his previous career high in points, putting up 22 for the perennially contending SKA St. Petersburg club. The right-handed shot with good size, Zub does a lot of things well, suggesting a high floor, and near term NHL readiness, but there is conversely little about his game that sticks out as well above average, thus seemingly putting a cap on his ceiling. The Olympic Gold Medalist skates well but is not a burner. He has a decent wrist shot and solid puck handling ability, capable of carrying the puck from the blueline to the slot, but nothing dynamic. He is reliable and tends to make the right decision but is not a shutdown defender. He is big enough but not overly physical. There were 10 Russian blueliners in the NHL last year, four of which came over as free agents. Of those free agent imports, only new Ottawa teammate Nikita Zaitsev is a full-fledged regular. If he can be more Zaitsev than Ilya Lubushkin, Alexander Yelesin, or Nikolai Knyzhov, the Senators will rightly be pleased. - RW

  1. Mads Sogaard, G (37th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 11)

Sogaard has the prototypical body type that pro teams covet. He is long and lean, and his 6-7” frame makes him an intimidating presence in the net for even the best shooters. His GAA dropped a from an outstanding .921 in his draft year to a still respectable .908 last season. Overall, he didn’t show much improvement in his deficient areas last season which was a bit disappointing. His five hole is still a problem and if opponents get him moving laterally there is room to get pucks through. He is still a bit leaky where a puck will hit him and he loses control of it, either leading to a tap-in, or the puck trickling by him. The positives are certainly still there, though. He is a true puck stopper with good ability to track the puck. His butterfly is solid and when he goes down his shoulders still cover the top of the net. This allows him to cover his post top to bottom while still being in position to protect the lower part of the net laterally. His deficiencies all have coachable fixes, so he still holds a lot of promise. - VG

  1. Joey Daccord, G (199th overall, 2015. Previous ranking: 12)

Despite the fact that Daccord spent the start of last season back down in the ECHL, he quickly proved that he was much better suited for the AHL. He ended up splitting the Belleville Senators starts pretty evenly over the second half with fellow goaltender prospect Filip Gustavsson. Daccord plays a structured and calm game, bringing focus and good puck tracking skills to the table. He reads plays well and gets into good position. As a rookie goaltender last year, he adjusted well and is still continuing to make the necessary adjustments needed to continue improving. Daccord needs to make sure to not overplay the puck too much or bite too soon on certain plays and when facing dekes, but the more he plays, the more he will familiarize himself with players and situations and improve his reactions. He has not been the quickest to develop and it is tough to say when he will reach starting level but with the way the Ottawa goaltending situation looks, look for Daccord to at least get one call up next season and even a few starts. - SC

  1. Maxence Guenette, D (187th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 14)

Guénette is very good at some aspects of the game and even his worst skills grade out as decent. His best asset is his skating ability. He doesn’t overstep his skillset and try to make plays he can’t finish, and he stays within himself to be a reliable rearguard. His plus-minus, while a controversial stat, was a -11 last season, which is a marked improvement over his previous two campaigns, and he was the highest scoring defenseman on his team. The biggest plus for Guénette last season is the alternate captain A on his sweater in Val-d’Or, as that shows that not only is he a good defenseman in all facets of the game, but he shows character and leadership as well. He will return to the QMJHL next season, where he will look to dominate at times, as he is fighting for an entry level contract. If his trajectory continues, he could become a dependable defender for an NHL team someday, but it will be an uphill climb. - MS

  1. Mark Kastelic, C (125th overall, 2019. Previous ranking: 15)

Kastelic has the size that teams covet down the middle. He is a meat and potatoes player who does his best offensive work by using his body on the forecheck. Once in the offensive zone he is a cycle machine who can protect the puck and drive the net, creating sustained offensive pressure that leads to mistakes and scoring opportunities for his team. At 6-3” 220 pounds he isn’t the best skater, but he has improved enough that he should be able to keep up with play at the pro level. Physically he is a dominating player and controls the net front on the power play with his body and frame. He makes good sound decisions and can keep his hands free to jump on rebounds or move pucks out of the scrum to an open man. 25 of his 37 goals last season came from below the dots. He plays in the hard areas of the ice and is able to make plays when he is there. He does a nice job defensively down low supporting his defenseman and was a top faceoff guy in the entire WHL, where he took the fourth most draws in the league and won an impressive 61.5% of them. – VG

  1. Filip Gustavsson, G (Trade Feb. 23, 2017. Originally: 55th overall, 2016 [Pittsburgh]. Previous ranking: 16)

Once a junior aged wunderkind in Sweden, Gustavsson has struggled mightily since coming over to North America, shortly after Pittsburgh dealt him to Ottawa in a deadline trade in 2017. He can still flash some of the tools that made him a highly touted teenager, starring for Team Sweden at multiple youth tournaments. He has moderate size and decent athleticism. His technical game is sound, and he has a knack for playing the puck more than many other Swedish netminders. Looking at his production this year in Sweden’s second division while he waits out the pandemic, we can see that he still has the potential to overcome his rough North American beginnings, and there really isn’t much separating Gustavsson from the three other goalies who are higher on this list. He specifically needs to improve his play reading and rebound control in North America, but what separates him from being a standout once again is one extra stop every second game. Now that the Senators have traded for – and extended - Matt Murray, perhaps the pressure to be a savior will drop from Gustavsson’s shoulders and he can play more relaxed once he returns to the AHL. - RW