Saturday, September 30, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Ottawa Senators

GM: Pierre Dorion (since 2016). 8/10
Coach: Guy Boucher (since 2016). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 44-28-10, 98 points, 12th overall, Eastern Conference finalists.

Departures: Marc Methot (D), Chris Neil (RW), Viktor Stalberg (LW), Tommy Wingels (LW).

Arrivals: Johnny Oduya (D), Erik Bergdoerfer (D), Nate Thompson (C).

Top forwards: Mark Stone (60-65 points), Mike Hoffman (60-65 points), Kyle Turris (55-65 points), Derick Brassard (50-60 points), Bobby Ryan (40-55 points), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (35-45 points), Alexandre Burrows (30-40 points), Ryan Dzingel (30-35 points), Zack Smith (30-35 points).

Must-improve forwards: Burrows' production took off when he joined the Sens, so hopefully he keeps that going and puts the last few seasons in Vancouver behind him. Ryan and Pageau both had terrific playoffs that bode well for the upcoming season.

Top defensemen: Erik Karlsson (70-85 points), Dion Phaneuf (30-35 points), Cody Ceci (20-25 points), Fredrik Claesson (20-25 points), Chris Wideman (15-20 points).

Goalies: Craig Anderson (86/100), Mike Condon (79/100).

Top rookies: Thomas Chabot (20 years old, D, 2015 first-round pick), Colin White (20, C, 2015 first-round pick), Andreas Englund (21, D), Filip Chlapik (20, C), Logan Brown (19, C, 2016 first-round pick).

The Hockey News didn't just invent that Karlsson should be in the same conversation as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby for the title of World's Best Player - he proved it by being the best player in the postseason last year despite playing on a broken foot. Any roster with Karlsson leading the play has a chance to win the game on any given night.

Add to that last season's Cinderella story, Anderson in net, who has been rock-solid since coming over to the Sens during the 2010-11 season.

Then add three potential (and past) 30-goal scorers on the wing in Stone, Hoffman and Ryan (Clarke MacArthur would have been a fourth, but post-concussion syndrome will probably keep him out of hockey for the time being) and two 60-point centers in Turris and Brassard, and you've got yourself one of the most balanced top-six units in the league, let alone the East.

And that's not factoring in Pageau's development, he of the 4-goal night in the second round last Spring. And Dzingel and Smith by his side. And an effective shut-down unit comprised of Thompson and Tom Pyatt. And a head coach (Boucher) who specializes in defensive systems and has a degree in psychology to tear his opponents apart. Oh, and his assistant, Marc Crawford, is a former Stanley Cup-winning head coach (1996, Colorado Avalanche).

Yeah, these Sens are for real. (At least until Anderson's retirement).

Prediction: 2nd in the Atlantic Division.

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