Sens’ Prospect Pyramid 3.0

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After an extended hiatus, the 613 Sports Prospect Pyramid is officially making its return. Since the last installment of this series, many of the prospects featured have graduated to full time NHLers and thus many new faces will fill the gaps left behind. With the team being in the midst of a rebuild the prospect pipeline is looking deeper than ever. After last season’s “everything must go” fire sale, the team has seen an infusion of potential NHL talent to its already deep prospect pool. This article will see the team’s prospects broken down and grouped into tiers based on their potential. (Note: Goalies will be ranked separately in another article for time’s sake to keep this article from being 20 pages long).

Tier 1:

The first tier is made up of the team’s prospects with the most potential to be elite players in the NHL one day. This tier is made up of the three B’s, Brown, Brannstrom, and Batherson.

Erik Brannstrom, the flashy puck moving defenseman was acquired from Vegas last season as the main piece coming back to Ottawa for Mark Stone. Brannstrom is one of the most highly touted prospects outside of the NHL and he absolutely dominated the World Juniors last winter as the captain of team Sweden. Pierre Dorion described acquiring him as “the best day of [his] career” so the hype is definitely there. Brannstrom projects to start the year in Belleville next season with a chance to play his way into an extended NHL stint.

Drake Batherson absolutely dominated the AHL as a rookie last season and no Sens prospect has seen their stock rise over the last two years more than Batherson. Batherson was over a point per game last season in the AHL and finished 4th in rookie scoring. This was a very promising sign for fans as there was some concern that he would be another Francis Perron type and never be able to replicate his inflated QMJHL production. Batherson also played his way into a look at the NHL level last season. When his quality of line mate wasn’t abysmal, he did not look out of place and was very promising. The Drake will be fighting for a spot on the opening roster this fall.

Rounding out the top tier is the Sens’ 2016 first round pick Logan Brown. Brown has been one of the more polarizing prospects in the system for the past few seasons with some fans believing him to be a future 1C in the NHL and others ready to write him off as a bust. I still believe in the potential of Brown and he made huge steps forward last season in Belleville. Playing on a line with Batherson in the AHL last year was seemingly the best thing to happen to Brown in his development. Brown finished top 20 in AHL rookie scoring and finally showed flashes of #1 center potential. If Brown can get the skills and size to coexist he can be a dominant force in the NHL, look for him to continue his development centering the top line in Belleville again next season.

These three are clearly not at equal stages in their development, however each has the potential to one day be a top line player in the NHL. The Senators rebuild is heavily dependent on the progression and development of these three.

Tier 2:

The second tier features many prospects that should go on to have long and *hopefully* successful careers. What separates them from the top tier is their lower ceiling than the players ranked above. This tier is made up by Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, Alex Formenton, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Lassi Thomson, and Filip Chlapik.

Josh Norris, similar to Brannstrom, was acquired during last year’s fire sale. The Sharks draft pick played for the Wolverines at Michigan last season before an injury cut his season short around Christmas. After the season Norris officially signed an entry-level contract with the Senators and will be fighting for a roster spot this fall. With the team being so thin at forward there’s a legitimate chance he makes the big club. Going forward Norris is a safe bet to be a productive top 9 player with a chance at becoming a second line center.

Rudolfs Balcers was also acquired with Norris in the Karlsson trade last fall. Balcers was one of the better players in Belleville last season and earned his way into a 36 game tryout with the Sens for this upcoming season. Balcers impressed in those 36 games tallying 14 points with subpar linemates and he showed multiple flashes of potential. Expectations were rather low for him at the start of last season, however after raising the bar with his play he is expected to fight for a spot in the team’s top 9 this season.

Alex Formenton earned a look in the NHL at the start of the season for the second year in a row last season. His blazing speed was on full display yet again as he was blasting past NHL defenseman multiple times a game. In his 9 games Formenton was able to tally his first NHL goal before the Sens rightfully decided to send him back to the London Knights. Formenton unfortunately got injured right before the World Juniors (which he was set to captain team Canada in) and ended up missing a large portion of the season.Formenton is one of the most intriguing prospects in this article. He has such immense speed, if his hands and finish can catch up to his feet he has the potential to be a first line player. His skating has been compared to that of Connor Mcdavid, now he just needs to offensive prowess that comes with it. If he fails to put his offensive game together he will still be a productive NHL player, just a frustrating one like Erik Condra was during his time here.

Next up is this second defenseman to appear, 2018 first round pick Jacob Bernard-Docker. JBD was a bit of a surprising pick at the time, but after lighting it up at North Dakota last year he erased any concerns I had. He stepped into the UND lineup as a freshman last year and was one of the best players on the team. He projects out as a solid top 4 defenseman to either play alongside Chabot or Brannstrom one day. Look for JBD to play a prominent role at UND again this season and hopefully play a big role for team Canada at the WJC.

The team’s first round pick from this past year’s draft, Lassi Thomson is yet another intriguing prospect on what is shaping up to be a very deep blueline in the future. The finish two-way defenseman was a bit of a reach at the time, however he has wowed fans so far this summer. Thomson was absolutely dominant and very exciting to watch when he played alongside Brannstrom at Dev Camp earlier in the summer. That could be a very dangerous pairing for many years to come. The right-handed dman will continue his development this coming season in the men’s league in his home country of Finland.

Capping off the second tier is 2015 second round pick, Filip Chlapik. The Czech center is entering a pivotal year in his development. Chlapik is one of the more underrated prospects in the Sens system, but he has quietly pieced together some good seasons the past few years. Playing alongside Colin White two years ago in the AHL Chlapik seemed destined to be a top 6 forward for the team going forward. However, after being overshadowed by the bigger name prospects like Batherson last season some fans have forgotten just how promising Chlapik has looked. Hopefully after a big summer Chalpik will be able to play his way into a spot on the Sens out of training camp and provide some much needed depth scoring.

The second tier is made up of players who won’t be line driving superstars in the NHL. However, every player in this category has the potential to be a very good complimentary piece in the NHL to the top players like Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk in the future. These are the type of players that seperate teams from contenders and pretenders.

Tier 3:

The third tier features many new faces to the Sens’ prospect pool. This tier is made up of 7 prospects who have a wide variety in their potential. The third tier is made up by a few boom or bust prospects, some safer prospects, but with lower ceilings, and some formidable prospects who just have a long way to go in their development still. This tier features prospects Vitaly Abramov, Jonathan Davidsson, Johnny Tychonik, Shane Pinto, Max Veronneau, Angus Crookshank, and Michael Carcone.

Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson cap off the notable group of prospects that were acquired last season during the great roster purge of 2018/19. Both were acquired from Columbus as parts of the Matt Duchene trade. Abramov is one of the boom or bust prospects I was referring too. He has tremendous offensive upside, as displayed by his incredible numbers he put up in the QMJHL and certain plays made at Dev Camp. However, he can also disappear for large amounts of time as witnessed down the stretch in Belleville last season. Abramov can still be a very good prospect for the Sens, he just needs to add some consistency to his game. Davidsson is a bit of a less known commodity due to having played in Sweden since his drafting by the Blue Jackets. However, he has been garnering some attention as a sleeper prospect this summer and is someone to keep an eye on in training camp.

Shane Pinto was the team’s shocking 2nd round pick this past year. The selection left many fans in shock as there were prospects ranked MUCH higher than Pinto left on board. However, the team clearly saw something they liked when they made Pinto the 32nd overall selection in the draft. The big bodied centerman showed some flashes of potential at Dev Camp, but he also showed he has a long way to go in his development. The centermen will be taking his talents to UND this season with JBD and Tychonik.

Angus Crookshank was one of the most pleasant surprises this summer. The 2018 5th round selection absolutely wowed in the scrimmages this summer. Coming into them not knowing much about Crookshank, he certainly left his name on the tip of everyone’s tongues. He was hands down one of the best players in the scrimmages and is a prospect worth keeping an eye on this year for Sens’ fans.

Tier 4:

The 4th tier is made up of prospects who are fighting against the odds to be everyday NHL players. There are some players in this category who very well could one day be NHL players or provide serviceable depth which is important to any team with serious playoff hopes. This tier features Jonathan Gruden, Parker Kelly, Jakov Novak, Olle Alsing, Maxence Guenette, Andrew Sturtz, Mark Kastelic, Markus Nurmi, Luke Loheit, Viktor Lodin, Andreus Englund, and Todd Burgess.

Parker Kelly is one of those players who could very well go on to have a very long career as a 13th forward type. He has impressed the team at development camp the past few years and by all accounts is a very hard worker off the ice. He could be someone who provides solid forward depth in the future that can slot in anywhere in the bottom 6 when need be.

Olle Alsing, the 23 year old swedish defenseman was signed by the Senators late last season. Alsing is undersized by NHL standards measuring 5’11” yet only weighing roughly 160lbs. It will be very challenging for a smaller frame to hold up through an 82 game NHL season. Alsing will also be facing an uphill battle for playing time as the Sens are loaded on the left side for the future. However, the team clearly saw something they liked in him when they decided to offer him a contract so he will be interesting to follow through training camp.

Markus Nurmi has been one of the more frustrating prospects in my opinion for the past few seasons. If you go back and read the other two installments of this series (first & second) I’ve always been high on Nurmi’s potential. That was *if he was able to put the pieces together and capitalize on his big frame*. The Sens drafted Nurmi three years ago now and he has still yet to show large steps in his development. At the time he was touted as a project so growing pains are expected, it’s just discouraging seeing him still be pushed off the puck with ease by prospects half his size at Sens events like Dev Camp. Nurmi was only a 6th round pick so perhaps my expectations are too high for him, there’s just so much untapped potential there that if he can round out his game he could be a really good piece for the Sens.

After what is shaping up to be a strong run in the past few drafts and some big trades the Sens cupboards are finally starting to look full again. While they are still lacking some sure fire, star power prospects at the top, the team’s system is very deep with good NHL prospects. If the Sens can hit on a few of their more volatile prospects as well as luck in to a top 3 selection in this coming year’s draft lottery, the team is in very good shape moving forward (if one obvious speedbump is cleared off the ice first). For those of you who stuck with us through the whole article, below are some highlights from the prospects mentioned from this past season.

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Batherson’s 6 point game 

Formenton showing off his speed

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3 thoughts on “Sens’ Prospect Pyramid 3.0

  1. This was a good read. The only negative comment I have is the Condra comment. It was pointless on many levels. For one thing Condra was not a frustrating player to watch, he was a 7th round pick who played 299 games for the SENS, netting 33 goals and 87 points with a +26. Most GMs would love to get that from a 7th round pick. Also worth noting Condra NEVER put up the kind of numbers that Formenton in his Junior career, or got invited to the WJC, or was close to Formenton’s speed. They are VERY different players so the comparison (based on Formenton’s 10 NHL games with crud line mates) was a major reach and a bit of a cheap shot.

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    1. That is a fair criticism. It wasn’t meant so much as a shot at either player, but more of a comparison as both players so far have seemed to always find ways to generate incredible chances for themselves and just can’t find a way to finish these great chances. That was what was meant, obviously two very different players just a comparison many sens fans would understand

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      1. Yes, Condra failed to convert on many of his chances, especially on the PK, but it’s far too early to start suggesting Formenton could have the same issue after just 10 games, most of which he played on Tom Pyatt’s wing. Poor kid. Haha. Just felt like an unjustified comparison to me. But again, other than that, great read. Thanks.

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