Before diving into any evaluation of Ottawa Senators prospects early in this 2018-19 campaign, it’s important to note how the list has been impacted by a couple of youngsters already putting in regular time with the big club.
The Sens are one of six teams whose first pick from the 2018 NHL Draft is already a big-league regular, albeit an injured one in this case. Brady Tkachuk, selected fourth overall this past June, was off to a roaring start, with three goals and six points in four games before sustaining a leg injury on Oct. 15 that was expected to sideline him for roughly a month.
While Tkachuk cracking the opening night lineup wasn’t a huge surprise, the performance of defenceman Max Lajoie has been that and more. Lajoie, a fifth-rounder in 2016 who turns 21 on Nov. 15, appeared destined for at least another year of seasoning with the Belleville Senators of the AHL, where he made his pro debut last year. Instead, Lajoie is averaging over 20 minutes a night in Ottawa and suddenly looks like an intriguing member of the blue line.
Exactly where things go for Lajoie is yet to be determined, but he’s given the Senators plenty of reason to keep looking his way. With that in mind, here’s a glimpse at five other prospects hoping to do the same and how they’re faring thus far this season.
Drake Batherson, 20, C, Belleville Senators
Drafted: Fourth round, 121st overall, 2017
Season to date: 6GP | 2G | 7A | 9P | +3
Batherson has transitioned to pro hockey with ease, registering at least three shots in five of his first six outings with the Baby Sens. His nine points are more than any other AHL freshman this year. It’s officially hard to understand how this kid made it through the 2016 NHL draft without being selected.
Drake Batherson pic.twitter.com/EEiZPIgUkT
— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) October 21, 2018
Logan Brown, 20, C, Belleville Senators
Drafted: First round, 11th overall, 2016
Season to date: 1GP | 0G | 0A | 0P | -1
Is it time to worry yet? Maybe not, but you can bet Brown figured he’d be a full-time Sen by now when he was drafted two years ago. The six-foot-six pivot already has a bit of an injury history and he’s out again with a lower-body ailment after, of all things, stepping on a stick during practice. Brown has played just one AHL contest this season and when he returns to Belleville — likely sometime in mid-to-late November — he’ll have a lot to prove.
Jacob Bernard-Docker, 18, D, University of North Dakota
Drafted: First round, 26th overall, 2018
Season to date: 4GP | 0G | 2A | 2P | -4
The Sens’ second first-rounder from four months ago — the pick came via Pittsburgh from the Derick Brassard trade last February — is transitioning to the NCAA after two years of Jr. A action in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. With two helpers on the board through four games, the right-shot defender is finding his footing at the next level.
Rudolfs Balcers, 21, LW, Belleville Senators
Drafted: Fifth round, 142nd overall, 2015
Season to date: 6GP | 4G | 3A | 7P | +2
Trading Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks hurt, but Balcers — part of the return from California — is doing his best to reduce the sting. His four goals through six games this year have surely attracted some attention and it’s worth noting Balcers, a Latvian, posted 23 goals in the ‘A’ as a freshman last season, a total exceeded by just four other rookies.
Wolanin > Paul > Batherson > Balcers > Snipe. Belleville's PP looking pic.twitter.com/0snzhDl4p7
— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) October 18, 2018
Filip Chlapik, 21, C, Belleville Senators
Drafted: Second round, 48th overall, 2015
Season to date: 5GP | 1G | 5A | 6P | +1
Chlapik was among the final cuts from Senators camp and that had to be tough news after he played 20 games in Canada’s capital last year. His point-per-game production in the minors, though, indicates he’s taking the right approach and doing all he can to earn that next call-up.