Things won’t be getting any easier for the Ottawa Senators this year following a disastrous 2018-19 campaign. The Sens finished with just 64 points on the season, good enough for dead last in the league. Without any meaningful additions in the off-season, it’s hard to imagine this team crawling out of the basement any time soon. Their farm system is loaded, and the future is bright in Ottawa, but they are nowhere near being ready to compete.
Realizing they won’t be able to compete in the Atlantic this year, the Senators focused solely on improving their depth in the off-season. Former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant D.J. Smith will have plenty of familiar faces to work with in his first season as Ottawa’s bench boss. Ottawa acquired Connor Brown and Nikita Zaitsev in a six-player trade with the Leafs that sent Cody Ceci the other way. The Sens also signed former Maple Leafs Ron Hainsey and Tyler Ennis to a pair of one-year contracts.
The Sens proved to be a source of cap relief within the division in the off-season, as they also absorbed Ryan Callahan’s cap hit from the Lightning in a trade for Mike Condon. With all their core veteran players now out of the picture, there are plenty of minutes available for Ottawa’s next generation of talent in 2019-20.
Brady Tkachuk and Colin White will get every chance to prove they can be first-line players this season. Chris Tierney and Artem Anisimov will likely jockey for time on lines two and three, while Brown and Anthony Duclair figure to slot into the top-six. If Drake Batherson makes the team it won’t be to play 10 minutes a night on the fourth line. There is plenty of ice time up for grabs on Ottawa’s roster, leaving their young forwards with a lot of upside in 2019-20.
Brady Tkachuk (LW)
- — Tkachuk is an obvious breakout candidate heading into the 2019-20 season. He registered 214 shots on goal in 71 games as a 19-year-old rookie last season. His ATOI of 16:01 is almost certain to go up, and he should be heavily featured on the man advantage as well. You can expect Tkachuk to roar passed the 22 goals and 23 assists he put up a year ago.
Colin White (C)
- — Like Tkachuk, White’s success in a limited role last season bodes well for his production in 2019-20. He posted 41 points in 71 games while playing 16:12 a night, but shot volume is a concern. His ceiling is probably around the 15 goals, 35 assist range, so I wouldn’t even recommend rostering him in standard formats to start the season. He’s much more relevant in keeper/dynasty leagues.
Chris Tierney (C)
- — Tierney was able to ride his incredibly high usage to streamer status in fantasy leagues last season, but the arrival of Anisimov puts that in jeopardy. He shot just 116 times last year despite playing over 17 minutes a night, so it’s hard to see any real upside here. Add in White’s continued growth and development and Tierney becomes relevant only in the deepest of leagues.
Drake Batherson (RW)
- — Batherson impressed in a short stint with the Senators last season, picking up nine points in 20 games. Even more impressive, though, was his dominance in the AHL as a 20-year-old. Batherson racked up 22 goals and 40 assists in 60 games with the Belleville Senators last season. That kind of AHL production at his age usually translates very nicely to the NHL. He’s worth rostering in deeper leagues given the opportunity available to him.
Ceci’s departure leaves a big hole on the right side of Ottawa’s defense, likely to be filled by Zaitsev and Dylan DeMelo. Thomas Chabot will continue to be the fantasy standout on this team. You can expect his ice-time to be right around the 24:17 he averaged last season. Smith will lean on Hainsey to kill penalties and endure some of the more difficult matchups at 5v5. Erik Brannstrom is no guarantee to start the season with the big club, but his offensive pedigree is worth noting in deeper leagues.
Thomas Chabot (D)
- — After a red-hot start to 2018-19, Chabot’s production sputtered down the stretch. He finished the year with 14 goals and 41 assists in 70 games with a slightly inflated 11.0 on-ice SH%. Playing a full 82 games should be enough to offset any regression coming Chabot’s way. His usage makes him a safe bet for 50 points and a borderline number-one fantasy blueliner.
Erik Brannstrom (D)
- — He has just two NHL games under his belt but Brannstrom has been a productive offensive-defenseman in the AHL. He’s tallied seven goals and 25 assists in 50 games over the last two seasons. He’s far from a lock to break camp with the team, but he’s probably worth stashing in keeper leagues. The upside is obvious, and the ice-time will be there whenever he is ready for it.
Don’t expect goaltending to steal a lot of games for the Sens. 38-year-old Craig Anderson is set to return as the incumbent starter, but he’ll most likely continue to forfeit playing time to backup Anders Nilsson. Nilsson did an admirable job for Ottawa after being acquired from Vancouver mid-season and should be in line for an increased role given Anderson’s age.
Craig Anderson (G)
- — I wouldn’t recommend going after Anderson on draft day. His performance has tailed off in recent years and the 38-year-old has never played behind a worse team. If you’re in a deeper league and end up with Anderson on your roster, you’ll have to be very careful with how you use him. You’ll want to avoid starting him against any team with a semi-competent offense.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|B. Tkachuk (24)||T. Chabot (36)||T. Chabot (52)||C. White (5)||T. Chabot (15)|
|T. Chabot (16)||C. Tierney (32)||B. Tkachuk (48)||B. Tkachuk (4)||B. Tkachuk (10)|
|C. White (15)||C. White (30)||C. White (45)||D. Batherson (3)||D. Batherson (9)|
Senators in the DFO Top 300
- 74 — Thomas Chabot (D)
- 167 — Brady Tkachuk (LW)
- 225 — Colin White (C)
- 272 — Craig Anderson (G)
- 282 — Chris Tierney (C)
- 293 — Erik Brannstrom (D)
- 298 — Drake Batherson (C/RW)
|3||BOSTON BRUINS||45-28-9||99 PTS|
|4||FLORIDA PANTHERS||44-29-9||97 PTS|
|5||MONTREAL CANADIENS||40-34-8||88 PTS|
|6||BUFFALO SABRES||39-36-7||85 PTS|
|7||DETROIT RED WINGS||33-40-9||75 PTS|
|8||OTTAWA SENATORS||29-44-9||67 PTS|
The Senators are the clear-cut favourites to repeat as the NHL’s worst team in 2019-20. Playing in the Atlantic means their schedule is brutal, and there simply aren’t enough play drivers on the team to expect any sort of success out of Ottawa this season. Given their farm system, there is a definite light at the end of the tunnel, but the Sens seem destined to finish in the league’s basement again in 2020.