By Neil Becker
The future looks extremely bright for the Ottawa Senators.
While a pessimist might point out that the Senators missed the playoffs this past season, an optimist would add that they did show a 22-point improvement as they went from 51 points in the 2020-21 campaign to 73 this past season.
Over the past several years, through solid drafting, the Senators have strung together a collection of dynamic, immensely talented players who, in some cases, are now just entering their prime.
Leading this youth movement is 22-year-old captain Brady Tkachuk who this past season posted career highs in goals with 30 along with a breakthrough 67 points.
Tkachuk, who was drafted by Ottawa fourth overall in the 2018 draft, is surrounded by such up-and-comers as forwards Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Tim Stutzle and blue-liner Thomas Chabot to name a few.
Norris, who is 23 years old, was originally a first-round pick taken in the 2017 draft by the San Jose Sharks. Similar to Tkachuk, Norris is coming off a breakthrough season which saw him take that next step forward in his development as he posted career highs of 35 goals and 55 points.
Senator’s fans also had the pleasure of witnessing the team’s 2017 fourth-round selection in Batherson equal a career best of 17 goals while scoring a career-high 44 points.
Another potential superstar who keeps on getting better is 20- year-old forward Stutzle, originally selected by Ottawa 3rd overall in the 2020 draft. Stutzle avoided the dreaded sophomore jinx by putting together a strong 2021/22 season which saw him score 22 goals and 58 points.
Meanwhile, the Senators blue-line is built around their prized 2015 first-round pick in 25-year-old Thomas Chabot, who is known for his elite skating and offensive skills.
Last season saw Chabot deal with injuries as he dressed for only 59 games, totalling seven goals and 38 points.
Chabot, who is just now entering his prime, is looked upon by management as that minute-munching stud number one defenceman who quarterbacks the power play.
Senators management made a recent loud statement when on July 7, a short time prior to Day 1 of the 2022 draft, they shocked the NHL by dealing three of their 2022 picks for up-and-coming superstar Alex DeBrincat.
DeBrincat, who is only 24 years old, is coming off an unbelievable solid season where he scored 41 goals and a career-high 78 points. This acquisition has brought a lot of excitement among Senators fans.
“Alex’s acquisition brings immediate and additional firepower to our forward group,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion told NHL.com Senators. “He’s a dynamic forward who’s a scoring threat to the opponent when in the attacking zone. He maintains great vision, has exceptional skill and a quality shot which helps him score from virtually any part of the ice. He’s a consistent performer and an underrated play-maker who Senators’ fans are certain to enjoy watching play in Ottawa.”
In making this deal, the Senators dealt their 7th and 39th selections at the 2022 NHL draft and the team’s third-round pick at the 2024 draft.
DeBrincat has been mentioned in trade rumours for some time and is entering the third and final year of his three-year $19.2 million contract.
Originally drafted 39th overall in the 2016 draft by the Blackhawks, this right winger comes to Ottawa with an impressive track record which in 368 NHL games has seen him score 160 goals along with 307 points.
Most important to Senators fans is that DeBrincat is excited about putting on the Senators jersey and helping them take that next step.
“I saw some rumors and stuff, but until it actually happens it doesn’t really hit you,” DeBrincat expressed to reporters, including the Times Colonist on a conference call.
“So, I was definitely shocked, but I’m really excited to join this group.”
Heading into next year, there is a lot of optimism as the Senators will be trying to snap an ugly five-year spell of not making the playoffs. The last time they were in the post-season, Ottawa went on quite the magical run as they won two- rounds before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Conference Finals.
“The ability to add someone who’s a consistent goal scorer, who fits in with our core… a competitor with a proven track record,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said. “We’ve said since the end of the year we were looking for someone who could play in our top six, and he’s playing in our top six!”
Prior to the trade being made, rumours had been circulating for days that the Hawks were close on a deal that would have sent DeBrincat to the New Jersey Devils.
During Ottawa’s end of the regular season one-on-one player exit meetings, Dorion was told by both Tkachuk and Chabot that they want to see the team improve and get more competitive through off-season moves.
Well, they certainly got that wish with DeBrincat.
“He was pretty excited,” Dorion told msn.com. “He knows we’ve got a really good, young group of players.”
Senator’s fans had even more reason to get excited when they signed star unrestricted free agent forward Claude Giroux to a lucrative three-year $19.5 million-dollar contract a few days later. This 34 -year-old brings veteran leadership and is still extremely productive.
Giroux has played in 1,018 games and has produced 294 goals along with 923 points. He has played his entire career with the Philadelphia Flyers until getting traded on March 19, 2022, to the Florida Panthers.
The Senator’s plan is to now look at signing some defenceman. It might be only July, but you can bet that a lot of Senators fans are eagerly anticipating this upcoming season and what their team can accomplish.
Yes sir, the future indeed is pretty bright these days for the Senators.