The Ottawa Senators are a team looking towards the future right now.
After trading away star players such as Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Matt Duchene for futures that future is starting to look very bright. Ottawa also owns the first-round pick of San Jose Sharks for the 2020 Entry Draft and those two picks should both be in the top ten, and lottery picks.
This has been a season of assessment as the organization has a bevy of prospects playing in their AHL affiliate in Belleville, a short drive to Ottawa. The Senators have been very active in recalling players back and forth between the two teams, sharing opportunity and letting the cream rise to the top.
For an organization that is flush with both quantity and quality in the prospect pipeline, this is a franchise that will soon be back in contention for the foreseeable future.
2019-20 Top 10 Ottawa Senators Prospects
1. Erik Brannstrom, D – Belleville Senators (AHL)
Drafted: 15th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by Vegas Golden Knights
The centerpiece in the Mark Stone trade is the future number one defenceman for the Senators. Brannstrom is a bluechip prospect with upside comparable to the likes of Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar who are battling it out for this year’s Calder Trophy.
Brannstrom is a mobile and offensive defenseman that has high-end skills and vision. The 20-year-old is in his sophomore season in the AHL and has seen over 30 games in the NHL this season. This will be his final season seeing games in the AHL and he will be a top-pairing NHL regular next year with Thomas Chabot.
2. Drake Batherson, RW – Belleville Senators (AHL)
Drafted: 121st overall in the fourth round of the 2017 draft by Ottawa
It is hard to believe the Sens drafted Batherson in the fourth round, and even more difficult to comprehend that he was passed over in the 2016 draft entirely! However, that is the case as Batherson is a late bloomer whose stock continues to rise. Batherson is a wonderful package of skill, size, smarts and compete.
Ottawa is taking a slow approach with Batherson, giving him 20 NHL games in his rookie pro season. He was a force in the AHL last year scoring 22 goals in 59 games and was productive in the NHL where he posted nine points. In his sophomore season the majority of his games have been in the AHL where he is well over a point per game again. With only three forwards on the current NHL roster under contract for next season, it is a safe bet to say Batherson will have a top-six role locked down in the NHL.
3. Logan Brown, C – Belleville Senators (AHL)
Drafted: 11th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Ottawa
Brown had a very successful rookie pro season in 2018-19 posting 42 points in 56 games in the AHL and had a brief two-game look in the NHL. Brown is on the brink of leaving the AHL behind as he has eclipsed the point per game pace in Belleville and has played more games in the NHL than the AHL.
Brown has great size, excellent offensive vision and has improved his 200-foot game every season. From the games I have seen he looks NHL ready now. The Sens top three prospects are all of the bluechip to very good variety and should all be full-time NHL players for the 2020-21 season.
4. Josh Norris, C – Belleville Senators (AHL)
Drafted: 19th overall in the 2017 draft by San Jose Sharks
Acquired as a primary asset in return for Erik Karlsson from the Sharks, Norris is a key prospect in the puzzle in Ottawa. After playing only 17 games in the NCAA as a sophomore due to injury last year, Norris has turned pro and is having an important development year as a rookie in the AHL. 40 games into the season and Norris has 21 goals and 38 points – that is leading the league for rookie scoring. He is playing on a strong Belleville roster that is flush with quality offensive players but he is seeing big minutes in key situations and is the trigger man on the PP.
Norris has a heavy and accurate shot, he is big and strong, and skates well. With Brown likely graduating to the NHL in the immediate future, look for Norris to play one more season in the AHL in Belleville where he is the star and number one center before making the jump to the NHL.
5. Alex Formenton, LW – Belleville Senators (AHL)
Drafted: 47th overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by Ottawa
After flirting with the NHL in his first two post-draft years, Formenton has played the entire 2019-20 season in the AHL. It looked like the Sens were trying to fast track the speedy winger to the NHL but have taken a more conservative approach in his first season as a pro allowing him to establish himself in the AHL. Formenton has done exactly that posting 20 goals and 32 points through 39 games where he ranks fifth overall among rookies in the AHL.
Formenton is a burner and uses his speed to blow past defenders, create breakaways and join rushes to create scoring chances. He has good size as well but is not overly physical. A knee injury limited his games played last year and cost him a shot at a return to the World Junior, but he is having an outstanding season as a rookie in the AHL and is on track to play in a top-six role in the NHL in a year or two.
6. Lassi Thomson, D – Ilves (Liiga)
Drafted: 19th overall in the first round of the 2019 draft by Ottawa
Thomas played his draft year in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets and was excellent posting 41 points in 63 games. In his D+1 season, he has returned to Finland to play pro hockey in the Liiga. While his point per game production has dropped in half, his game is improving playing against a higher quality of competition and he was excellent for Finland at the World Junior.
While he is under contract in Liiga through the 2022-23 season he could come back to North America and play in the AHL as soon as next season. Brannstrom will be graduating which opens up a key roster spot for Thomson.
7. Vitali Abramov, RW/LW – Belleville Senators (AHL)
Drafted: 65th overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by Columbus Blue Jackets
Abramov was a prolific scorer in Junior, dominating with Gatineau, eclipsing the 100 point plateau twice. Acquired in the Matt Duchene trade from Columbus, Abramov had struggled to find the offensive production he enjoyed in the QMJHL. Now in his sophomore season as a pro and playing the entire season in the Senators organization, Abramov has found his scoring touch at the AHL level posting 15 goals and 28 points through 29 games.
His play earned him a NHL recall and he scored his first career NHL goal against the Stanley Cup Champions. Abramov had a blazing hot month in December posting 11 points in six games before an injury derailed his momentum. The shifty sniper is an electrifying player when he is on his game and will get more chances to show if he can produce at another level after establishing himself at the AHL level this year.
8. Rudolfs Balcers, LW – Belleville Senators (AHL)
Drafted 142 overall in the fifth round of the 2015 draft by San Jose Sharks
Another spoil of the Erik Karlsson trade, Balcers is now in his third season as a pro. His rookie season with the Barracuda was very promising, and he split time between the AHL and NHL the following season with the Senators and continued to show promise.
After playing in 36 NHL games last season it was looking like he may make the jump to the NHL full time. Balcers has been named to the AHL All-Star roster with 25 points through 19 games, well above the point per game pace. The offensively gifted winger needs to find a way to be productive at the NHL level consistently to take that next step.
9. Joey Daccord, G – Belleville Senators (AHL)
Drafted: 199th overall in the seventh round of the 2015 draft by Ottawa
The son of Toronto Maple Leafs Goalie consultant Brian Daccord, Joey started turning heads with his stellar play in the hockey hotbed of Arizona at Arizona State. He made his NHL debut last season after the Sun Devils year ended and the Sens signed the seventh round steal to his ELC. He was lit up to the tune of five goals.
However, in his first full season as a pro, he has played his way up from the ECHL to assume a role in the AHL with Belleville and has been playing very well. His 2.58 GAA and .914 SVS% are the best on the team and gives him the slight edge in this ranking over close competition from Marcus Hogberg and Filip Gustavsson. The trio will be in competition for an NHL job next season if Ottawa chooses not to resign veteran Craig Anderson
10. Jacob Bernard-Docker, D – University of North Dakota (NCAA)
Drafted: 26th overall in the first Rond of the 2018 draft by Ottawa
It is a testament of the organizations’ depth that Bernard-Docker is the tenth-ranked prospect! The first-round pick is a gifted offensive defenseman who has almost matched his freshman totals of 17 points in 36 games with 16 points in only 20 games played. The sophomore has also added a World Junior Gold Medal to his resume aft making the Canadian roster where played in seven games with Canada posting one goal.
Ottawa will not rush him out of the NCAA as North Dakota has a great program and is developing him in a big role on that team. Look for the Sens to try hard to sign him following his junior season to avoid losing him to free agency and continue his development in the AHL.