View the original article on Last Word On Hockey: Puck Drop Preview: 2018-19 Ottawa Senators

BOSTON, MA – APRIL 07: Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators reacts after Noel Acciari #55 of the Boston Bruins scored during the third period at TD Garden on April 7, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Senators 5-2. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2018-19, where Last Word On Hockey gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2018-19 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series continues with the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators.

Previous Year

Heading into the 2017-18 season, Sens fans had high hopes after the 2017 campaign went all the way to overtime in Game 7 of the Conference Finals. What came next, was a let down of epic proportions. The Senators finished with the second-worst record in the National Hockey League, and well out of the playoff race.

With captain Erik Karlsson being traded Thursday afternoon, it’s a hard time to be a fan of the team. 2017-18 was a year to forget for the team and their fans. The arrival of Matt Duchene played a big factor. The newly acquired centre seemed excited to join the Senators roster after being acquired in a three-way trade. 

It seemed like everything was set for the Sens to have another successful season. Except it took a catastrophic turn suddenly. All the hope and excitement came crashing down when Christmas arrived. With the Senators not fulfilling their level of play like their previous season, it was a disappointing year for the team. The Senators finished with just 67 points.

Personal issues mixed into the year and injuries hit hard, but the Senators just did not perform on the ice. By February, the team was well back and seemed to be a lock to miss the post-season. They did just that, missing the playoffs by 30 points. The 2018-19 Ottawa Senators will look to put all of that into the rearview mirror and start with a clean slate.

Off-Season

The Senators off-season was a ship slowly sinking as time passed by. With all the Erik Karlsson trade rumours and RFA signings to complete, general manager Pierre Dorion was a busy man. Some might say he stayed much quieter than expected. The fallout from the Duchene trade meant the team needed to decide whether or not to keep this year’s first-round pick or send it to the Colorado Avalanche. Dorion opted to take Brady Tkachuk, sending next year’s first-round pick to Colorado instead. He also traded away winger Mike Hoffman leading up to the draft. After the draft, reports indicate that he has been working the phones trying to move out Karlsson and some of the team’s forwards, finally pulling off the Karlsson trade as training camp opened.

With some speculation whether the staff would stay put, Pierre Dorion confirmed that head coach Guy Boucher and his staff will return for the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators campaign.

2018 NHL Draft

The Ottawa Senators went into the 2018 draft with eight picks available to them. Having used each one of them, here is a quick recap of who they picked.

1-4: Brady Tkachuk LW Boston University (NCAA)
1-26: Jacob Bernard-Docker D Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
2-48: Jonathan Tychonick D Penticton Vees (BCHL)
4-95: Jonathan Gruden C USA U-18 NTDP (USHL)
5-126: Angus Crookshank LW Langley Rivermen (BCHL)
6-157: Kevin Mandolese G Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
7-188: Jakov Novak LW Janesville Jets (NAHL)
7-194: Luke Loheit RW Minnetonka High School (USHS)

Using all eight picks the Sens tried to get at the best players that were available throughout the draft. For a more detailed piece by LWOH on the Sens draft, this year click here.

Free Agency

With forward Mark Stone filing for arbitration, the Senators beat the clock and signed Stone to a one-year deal worth $7.35 million. Defender Cody Ceci was awarded a one-year deal via arbitration worth $4.3 million. The Sens also signed 2018 fourth overall pick Brady Tkachuk to his entry-level deal. With this Tkachuk cannot return to Boston University and can only play in the NHL, AHL or with the London Knights of the OHL as they hold his rights.

The Sens also inked defender Chris Wideman to a one-year deal worth $1 million dollars. AHL signings also came into the picture with the re-signing forward Nick Paul and Paul Carey. Other minor league signings consisted of Mike McKenna, Adam Tambellini, Chase Balisy, Boston Leier, Ryan Scarfo and Joseph Labate. Forward Alexandre Burrows was also bought out this past summer. Burrows was acquired from the Senators in the Jonathan Dahlen trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

Trades

Mike Hoffman

After reports of personal issues regarding Hoffman’s girlfriend and Erik Karlsson’s wife came into the mix, a trade was bound to happen. The Sens dealt Hoffman to the San Jose Sharks for Mikkel Boedker, defender Julius Bergman and a 2020 6th round pick in return. It is a  deal they most certainly did not get the most out of out. A few hours later, Hoffman was traded to the Florida Panthers in a much better deal for the Sharks. Dorion simply did not get enough for Hoffman as he was unwilling to trade him in the division. Whether this decision was made by Dorion himself, or someone above him, is up for debate but the fact remains that it is a decision that backfired. Hoffman is still in Florida, and the Senators did not get proper value in the deal.

Erik Karlsson

After months of speculation around the Senators captain, general manager Pierre Dorion finally pulled the trigger on a Karlsson deal. He sent Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks for six to eight pieces. The move included two roster players, two prospects, two draft picks, and potentially two more picks as they have conditions attached. The Senators did not make the best of their situation whatsoever. Even though Karlsson’s value definitely fell throughout this process, the Sens had a chance to get back a blue-chip piece for their future and failed to do so.

To top it off, unresolved trade speculation will continue for the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators. The Senators will continue to have looming moves as a distraction, with pending unrestricted free agents Matt Duchene and Mark Stone also likely to be traded before the NHL Trade Deadline.

Projected Line-up

Forwards:

                                     Ryan Dzingel – Matt Duchene – Mark Stone

                                   Brady Tkachuk – Chris Tierney – Bobby Ryan

                                    Zack Smith – Colin White – Mikkel Boedker

                                   Magnus Paajarvi – Filip Chlapik – Tom Pyatt

Extras: Marian Gaborik (Injury)

The 2018-19 Ottawa Senators will have a few new faces on opening night. With the young forward battles that will take place throughout camp expect for the Sens to inject young pieces.

First Line

The first line will be the Senators best offensive line throughout the season. With both Dzingel and Stone spending time with Duchene last year, expect the trio to add to their already built chemistry.

Second Line

While likely to be assigned to the London Knights after the nine-game rule, Brady Tkachuk should see himself on opening night with the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators. Likely playing with the likes of Tierney and Ryan, Tkachuk will have a great amount of experience by his side.  Bobby Ryan has struggled to find his scoring ways since coming to the Senators. Whether it’s been from his long list of hand injuries or just simply not clicking, playmakers like Tierney and Tkachuk could help his cause. With being at such a young age, getting up to speed as quick as possible is key for Tkachuk in camp.

The plan was likely to have Jean-Gabriel Pageau centre this line, but he was injured on Thursday in fitness testing. Tierney was likely headed to the third line, but moves up as a result of the injury.

Third Line

Regarding the third line, Zack Smith has struggled the past two seasons and will most certainly look to get going immediately this season. Colin White got a taste of NHL ice last season and will look to become a full-time player. Newly acquired Mikkel Boedker should fit with Chlapik and Smith and hopefully contribute on a consistent basis.

Fourth Line

While the fourth line may start like how it is shown above, the big question mark is that centre spot. Chlapik had a solid season in Belleville last year, and 20 games in the NHL. He should earn this spot but with 2016 first round pick Logan Brown also looking to make the NHL, his spot is not necessarily locked in. Coming from his final season in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers, Brown could start in the AHL.

A key young winger that could possibly take Pyatt’s spot for a time could be Alex Formenton. After making the team out of camp last year before being sent back to the London Knights, he’s taken huge leaps in his game and looks just about ready. After being acquired last year, Magnus Paajarvi was arguably the Senators best bottom-six forward in the last half of the season. While looking to continue embracing that role Paajarvi will look to use his abilities to provide consistency.

Defence:

                                              Thomas Chabot – Cody Ceci

                                          Christian Wolanin – Chris Wideman

                                             Mark BorowieckiDylan DeMelo

Extras: Ben Harpur, Christian Jaros (Possible Call-Up)

If the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators are indeed going to commit to a full rebuild, their blueline will bring new faces to the nation’s capital also.

First Pairing

After a long run with Erik Karlsson on the first pairing, the Senators will have no longer have that luxury. Now it’ll be time for defender Thomas Chabot to step into that role. Chabot spent nearly 400 minutes playing with Karlsson last year. While a year of experience is not a ton, the rookie defender definitely improved and learned his ways while playing along with a superstar like Karlsson. With their best player on the way out now look for Thomas Chabot to embrace and excel in the first pairing role.

Cody Ceci will also look to step up into the role of first pairing minutes. Ceci might have always been the king of criticism, but now may be his chance to silence his critics. Ceci will look to become a reliable partner alongside Thomas Chabot and help the Senators on a consistent basis.

Second Pairing

Christian Wolanin is probably the next defender most fans should and already are excited about. Although just playing 10 games with the Sens last year, Wolanin turned heads and looked extremely impressive. After finishing his final year at the University of North Dakota Christian Wolanin jumped right into NHL action with the Sens. Finishing with three points in 10 games, it was Wolanin’s style of play that gave him a round of applause from fans. Wolanin showed characteristics of mobile puck moving defender with smooth skating abilities. Something the Senators will be in dire of need of after trading Erik Karlsson.

While Chris Wideman was most likely to start on the third pairing, a promotion to Cody Ceci will now also present an opportunity for Wideman. After recovering from a torn hamstring injury last season Wideman will look to bring his steady play again this year. Wideman is one of the Sens best offensive defenders throughout the organization. It might even feel safe to say he’s the second best behind Thomas Chabot.

Third Pairing

The third pairing on the Sens should see at least one new face from last year. With Borowiecki bringing in that toughness and grit factor, it will balance out with a mobile puck-moving defender in Dylan DeMelo. The two should remain side by side for the larger part of the season. If a change does happen due to an injury or simply an opportunity being presented to another player, expect one of DeMelo or Borowiecki to step out for a few games.

Players To Watch

Colin White

The 2017-18 season was one that started out extremely shaky for Senators forward Colin White. In their first pre-season game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, White blocked a shot that sidelined him with a broken wrist. After recovering from surgery, White scored his first NHL goal on February 7th and was once again sent down. On March 29th the Senators called up White, except for this time he would remain with the team for the remainder of the season. White finished his year in Belleville with 47 games played for a total of 27 points. In the NHL, White finished with 21 games played and four points.

White was making a strong case to be a regular roster player last season until he got hurt. With management admiring his level of play on the ice it seemed like he was a lock to make opening night. This year should be much of the same for White. By the looks of it, the Senators are looking to get younger and White matches that. By wanting to get faster, the Sens will have no issue putting White into the line-up if he impresses again. The former first-round pick will look to improve his skills at the NHL level. If White excels in camp and pre-season action he could be a player people can look forward to this year. Coming into camp healthy and ready to go, the season should be full of opportunities for White.

Filip Chlapik

Filip Chlapik is one of the Senators best prospects. After experiencing life in the NHL last season, the forward will look to make himself a go-to guy. A second-round pick from the 2015 draft class the winger has shown a ton of upside. Chlapik, 21, picked up 32 points in 51 games for Belleville. In 20 games in the NHL, he scored four points. While that number will not amaze anyone, Chlapik was noticed every time he stepped on the ice. Whether it was his prodigious ability to drive play or to get to open areas, Chlapik always found a way to get himself involved.

With the lack of centre depth the Sens have in their system, Chlapik will look to earn a role. The forward will most likely begin in the bottom-six role, but a promotion is bound to happen if he impresses the staff. An injury in the top-six group could also land Chlapik a golden opportunity to excel with other skilled forwards. Head coach Guy Boucher raved about the youngster’s hard work in training camp last year. This year, Chlapik will have to work even harder due to other prospects pushing for a spot. Look for him to make a name for himself while still improving his game whether that is in the AHL or NHL. Prospect Logan Brown could also make a case to fill in the Senators needs at centre along with Chlapik.

Thomas Chabot

Coming into this first pro season last year, Chabot immediately turned many heads of Sens fans. After spending 2016-17 in the QMJHL, where Chabot won the CHL defender of the year award for his play, he headed into camp determined to show staff that he was ready to steal a roster spot. Chabot ultimately got sent down to the Belleville Senators. It was a short stay for the rookie, however. Playing only 13 games in the AHL Chabot got called up to the big club. After a bit of a rollercoaster ride, Chabot was in it for the long haul on the roster.

Finishing the season with 25 points in 63 games, Chabot had a great rookie year. With nine goals and sixteen assists, the rookie defender ranked second amongst defensemen in team scoring. Chabot was a freak with a puck and for the most part, he was always making something special happen. While having his downs, like every rookie player, Chabot always found a way to rebound. In a smooth skater like Chabot, the Sens have a great young piece going forward. With Karlsson gone, Chabot is no doubt the best Sens offensive leader on the backend. Now, this is not to say Chabot is the next Karlsson but he is likely to get more minutes, a bigger role, and face tougher competition this year. Chabot’s next challenge will be handling the added workload and challenges that he might face as a go-to defenceman.

Season Prediction

The Ottawa Senators will be a hard team to watch. With the team heading into a rebuilding stage, fans should not expect a lot of wins, and a number of fan favourites could be traded away. Look for a relatively poor season, but hope that the Sens can continue to add prospects and picks that will help them write the new chapter and a brighter future ahead for the club.

That said, the Ottawa Senators do not have their first-round pick. This will likely be a huge talking point through the year. With the faces of Mark Stone and Matt Duchene likely being dealt, the Sens will have to embrace the youth movement going forward. While working the phones on at least one of the three players mentioned, a first-round pick is needed. Moves made this season will be crucial for their rebuild. With a handful of players possibly on the move, the assets acquired in return could shape up the Senators future.

Main Photo: BOSTON, MA – APRIL 07: Thomas Chabot #72 of the Ottawa Senators reacts after Noel Acciari #55 of the Boston Bruins scored during the third period at TD Garden on April 7, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Senators 5-2. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)