Senators’ Colin White ready for challenge as team’s No. 1 centre

Tim and Sid break down the Ottawa Senators signing RFA Colin White to a six-year $28.5 M deal.

Colin White’s influence on the Ottawa Senators was felt well before he started playing a lead role on the club.

“He loves to hear his own voice,” says Brady Tkachuk, chuckling while discussing a guy he refers to as one of his best buds on the team.

White is one of those in-the-mix people, the type whose tastes dictate the music that gets played in the dressing room and whose hand doesn’t hesitate to crank the volume. He’ll certainly be in the middle of things this year like never before in Ottawa, filling the role of No. 1 centre on a youth-laden club.

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As a 22-year-old NHL sophomore, White certainly fits the green theme in Canada’s capital. That said, 2019-20 marks the fourth season he’s seen at least some game action with the Senators, giving him more of a link to departed Sens stalwarts like Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone than many on the team. In some ways, he’s a bridge between the world Ottawa is leaving behind and the new, winning environment it hopes to cultivate in the coming years.

“He’s gotten to know a lot of the guys who were here in the past and learn from them,” says Tkachuk, who’s known White since the latter skated for the U.S. National Team Development program with Tkachuk’s brother Matthew.

Drafted 21st overall — three spots behind the new franchise cornerstone, Thomas Chabot — in 2015, White’s big-boy role with the Sens probably feels like a long time coming to some observers because his path felt so linked to Chabot’s. Beyond being from the same draft class, the two actually share the same Jan. 30, 1997 birthday. When Chabot’s star exploded at the 2017 World Junior Championship — the defenseman was named MVP of the tourney — it was White’s Team USA that downed Chabot and Canada in the gold medal game. The Massachusetts boy finished the event with seven goals in seven outings — including a game-tying tally against Canada in the final before the U.S. claimed victory in a shootout. That brought his career WJC line to 10 goals and 15 points in 14 contests.

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White played his first two NHL games in April of 2017 after exiting Boston College, but the following year saw him spend more time in the American League than ‘The Show.’ While that’s standard practice for prospects who aren’t at Chabot’s elite level, White’s trajectory flattened out a bit at the minor-pro level.

Last year, however, he re-established his exciting-entity status with 41 points in 71 games in his first full NHL campaign. After Ottawa shed some key players at the 2019 trade deadline, White’s average ice time spiked from 15:48 per night to 17:40 over his final 15 contests of the season (he missed five games in March with a neck injury). Overall, only six Sens forwards saw more average ice time than White’s 16:12 last season and four of them —Stone, Matt Duchene, Zack Smith and Ryan Dzingel — play for other teams now.

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That means there will be ice-a-plenty for a young man who, in August, inked a six-year deal worth $4.75 million annually against the cap. If he lives up to his potential, the pact will look like a coup for the Sens. And according to those around him, he’s anxious to prove his worth.

“He’s the No. 1 centre right now,” says Chabot. “I think he’s looking forward to that challenge.”

Part of the reason he appears ready to meet it is because, at his best, White brings more to the table than offence. Chabot praised White’s two-way game, as did the guy who rides shotgun on the top line’s left side.

“A little under the radar, he’s a great defensive player too,” Tkachuk says.

That ability to do both the quiet and loud things well makes White a critical part of everything happening in Ottawa.

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