The Ottawa Senators surprised a few people by venturing into the Eastern Conference Final last season. They lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins, sure, but they exceeded expectations and rode momentum on the strength of grit and determination.
For an encore, the Senators are hoping for more of the same – but with a win this time.
To that end, Ottawa has changed little. They lost Marc Methot to Vegas in the NHL Expansion Draft and signed Johnny Oduya to a one-year deal. The immediate goal seems to see what happens with a small fleet of defensive prospects while the 36-year-old patches the gap for a year.
Up front, things are mostly the same. Chris Neil was not offered a return contract, while Viktor Stalberg and Tommy Wingels left via free agency. The Senators signed Nate Thompson, Tom Pyatt, Ryan Dzingel, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau to new deals.
It may seem funny to consider Mike Hoffman as one of Ottawa’s best bets for offensive production, but here we are. The 27-year-old from Kitchener had 61 points in 74 games last season, including 26 goals. He had 13 goals on the power play and heaped up 11 points in 19 playoff games. He’s been building solid improvements into his repertoire, so he should continue to trend upward in 2017-2018.
Kyle Turris is the top line centre on the Senators. The 28-year-old had 55 points in 78 games last season, including 27 goals. He scored six power play goals for a total of 17 points with the man-advantage and he had 10 points in the playoffs. He averaged 19:30 of ice time in the regular season and piled it on in the post-season.
Winnipeg’s Mark Stone had 54 points last season, including 22 goals. He averaged 18:33 of ice time a game and completes the top line with Turris and Hoffman. Stone’s production took a bit of a dip in 2016-2017, but not to worry. The 25-year-old has the knowhow and hands to excel and should be good for more production in 2017-2018.
There are some questions surrounding Derick Brassard going into the upcoming season. He posted 39 points last season, an underwhelming set of totals for 81 games. He also had off-season shoulder surgery after scoring 11 points in 19 playoff games. The 29-year-old may not be good to go come opening night or he may be set to play and could impress with some quality production. He’s experienced with Ottawa’s system now, so he could put together some nice numbers in 2017-2018.
Erik Karlsson is another question mark to start the 2017-2018 season. He had another great year last season, with 71 points in 77 games. But he had foot surgery on June 14 and may not be ready to go by opening day, which could impact his production. Karlsson is one of the best defencemen in the NHL when he’s on. Obviously.
Ottawa’s defence isn’t very offensively gifted after Karlsson, but Dion Phaneuf was right in the pocket. He put up 30 points last season, including nine goals. Four of those goals were on the power play. The veteran may not see as much time on the man-advantage in 2017-2018, especially if Thomas Chabot fits the roster, but he’s still a dependable bet for category coverage.
Cody Ceci posted 17 points in 79 games last season, a dip in his usual production numbers. He averaged 23:12 of ice time in the regular season and had 143 shots on goal. He managed just an assist in the post-season. He draws tough assignments and skates well for a dude his size. The 23-year-old is capable of more from an offensive standpoint, so draft accordingly.
Craig Anderson is the man. He went 25-11-4 in 40 starts last season. He posted five shutouts, a goals against average of 2.28 and a save percentage of .926. In 19 playoff starts, he was 11-8 with a goals against average of 2.34 and a save percentage of .922. He also had a shutout in the post-season. And those numbers came during a season of unimaginable adversity.
Mike Condon is the backup in Ottawa. He went 19-14-6 last season with a 2.48 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. He also had five shutouts. The Holliston native saw action in two playoff games, allowing four goals in 61 minutes of play. He’s a resilient netminder and knows how to recover from bad goals.