Ottawa Senators supporters probably wish they weren’t compelled to pay so much attention to the team’s prospects right now.
Yet, as 2018 cranks up, questions surrounding the floundering Sens have more to do with which veterans they might move or whether or not their 2018 first-rounder — conditionally sent to Colorado in the Matt Duchene deal — will wind up being so high that they’ll use it and send the Avs their (completely unprotected) 2019 pick instead.
If there’s a ray of sunshine in this dreary season, though, it’s that future Senator Drake Batherson wound up being Canada’s World Junior Championship breakout star one year after Thomas Chabot — now taking a regular shift on the Sens blue line — was named MVP of the tournament. Here, then, is a peak at Batherson and a bunch of other notable youngers in the Ottawa pipeline.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
Colin White, 20, C
Drafted: First round, 21st overall, 2015
Season to date: 27GP | 5G | 8A | 13P | -15
Pour one out for White, because this is likely his last appearance on a prospect list. The American was called up to the big club last week and you have to wonder if he’ll ever play a game below the NHL level again. White’s AHL stats are underwhelming, but don’t forget a broken wrist delayed his debut until November and the Baby Sens have scuffled to a 14-20-3 record. The former Boston College kid is going to be just fine.
AHL BELLEVILLE SENATORS
Gabriel Gagne, 21, RW
Drafted: Second round, 36th overall, 2015
Season to date: 36GP | 12G | 3A | 15P | -7
Only four teams have scored fewer goals than Belleville this year, so don’t expect many eye-popping stats here. With that in mind, the team-leading 12 goals put up by Gabriel Gagne has to register as a positive development. The 6-foot-5 right winger logged some ECHL time last season as a first-year pro, so there’s no doubt he’s trending in the right direction.
Gagne provided what may prove to be the highlight of the Sens’ first season in Belleville when he blasted the shootout winner in the team’s home-opener (he also leads the squad with three shootout markers this year).
Christian Jaros, 21, D
Drafted: Fifth round, 139th overall, 2015
Season to date: 25GP | 2G | 7A | 9P | -5
This is the Slovakian’s first season in North America and he’s acquitting himself just fine. Jaros, who had a cup of coffee in Ottawa earlier this year, is actually playing at almost a 30-point pace: Not bad for a rookie defenceman in a 76-game season. Both his goals have come via the power play, where he boasts a powerful right-hand shot, and he’s fired more pucks on goal than any other Belleville defenceman despite missing a dozen games. The 6-foot-3 Jaros is also more than happy to mix it up physically.
Andreas Englund, 21, D
Drafted: Second Round, 40th overall, 2014
Season to date: 36GP | 0G | 5A | 5P | -4
A perpetual winner of Ottawa’s least-glamourous prospect award, Englund — who is 6-foot-3 and turns 22 later this month — is a big boy who clears the net and makes no apologies for his lack of offence. His potential maxes out at bottom-pair guy, but there’s nothing to say he can’t one day be very effective in that role.
Filip Chlapik, 20, C
Drafted: Second round, 48th overall, 2015
Season to date: 28GP | 6G | 9A | 15P | -8
Chlapik was returned to Belleville after seeing six December games with Ottawa in which he averaged just under 10 minutes of ice time per outing — and then was recalled right away after a Bobby Ryan injury. Management’s esteem for this player has been on the rise the past six months and he’s going to be given every opportunity to prove he can score at the NHL level. Here’s what the Czech had to say about his goal of becoming a full-time member of the show following the Senators development camp last summer.
Max Lajoie, 20, D
Drafted: Fifth round, 133rd overall, 2016
Season to date: 25GP | 0G | 6A | 6P | -8
Points have been hard to come by for the first-year pro, who was actually eligible to play in the Western Hockey League this season. Lajoie is a project and he’s got plenty more AHL time to prove his worth.
Drake Batherson, 19, C, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Drafted: Fourth round, 121st overall, 2017
Season to date: 24GP | 17G | 22A | 39P | -8
This man needs no introduction to anybody who watched Canada’s golden effort at the recently concluded WJC. Batherson — who had his finger mangled by a slash about a month before the tournament — led Canada with seven goals in Buffalo, three more than the next-best Canuck and a greater total than everybody in the event except Czech Filip Zadina (7) and American Kieffer Bellows (9).
Now that he’s really on your radar, remember: Batherson was passed over entirely in the 2016 Draft, so he can continue his rapid development in the AHL next season if the Sens deem it the best place for him.
While playing with Canada, Batherson was dealt from Cape Breton to Blaineville-Boisbriand.
Logan Brown, C, 19, Kitchener Rangers
Drafted: First round, 11th overall, 2016
Season to date: 15GP | 13G | 11A | 24P | -6
If Batherson had a dream WJC, Brown’s was the stuff of nightmares. The 6-foot-6 pivot was injured in Team USA’s third game versus Slovakia and while he returned for the semi-final loss against Sweden, he was clearly ailing and played just over 10 minutes. Brown — who registered just one assist in the tournament — did not dress for the Americans’ bronze medal dismantling of the Czechs.
His next challenge is going for another Memorial Cup after being dealt from the re-building Windsor Spitfires to the Kitchener Rangers.
Alex Formenton, LW, 18, London Knights
Drafted: Second round, 47th overall, 2017
Season to date: 20GP | 9G | 12A | 21P | +1
The speedster was a valuable member of Canada’s WJC entry, netting two goals and two assists for four points in seven games. Who knows, maybe he’ll be back next year as a lead horse when Canada defends its gold medal in Victoria, B.C.
Formenton’s speed always sets him apart, but he scores very high across the board in terms of intelligence, work ethic and consistency.
Kelly Summers, 21, D, Clarkson University
Drafted: Seventh round, 189th overall, 2014
Season to date: 20GP | 2G | 14A | 16P | +10
Playing his senior year, Summers is on pace to nearly double his previous high for points in an NCAA season. The right-shot defenceman played his bantam and midget AAA hockey with the Ottawa Valley Titans before joining the powerhouse Carleton Place Canadians of the Jr. A ranks. Summers can become a free agent if he’s not signed by Aug. 15.