While Ottawa Senators fans brace for the worst this upcoming season, they can rest assured that there will be at least one bright spot on the team. Last year, one of the few positives for the club was rookie defenseman Thomas Chabot. He broke onto the roster and proved he belonged, partnering with Erik Karlsson on the top line for most of the year. Whether Karlsson remains on the team or not, Chabot will be an impact player on the team and give fans something to cheer about this season.
Recapping Chabot’s Rookie Year
The 18th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft was called up to the Senators earlier than expected due to a series of injuries and a lackluster performance in general for the team’s defense. After being cut near the end of camp, Chabot was sent to the Belleville Senators where he had two goals and seven points in 13 games with a brief call-up to the NHL in the middle. On Nov. 20, Chabot was called up once again and never looked back.
Chabot played 63 games last season, collecting nine goals and 25 points. On top of this, the rookie had 44 hits, 64 blocked shots, and 27 takeaways while averaging 17:31 a night. These are all stats that Chabot will look to build on this upcoming year as he holds onto his top-line minutes through a full season.
Coming into the league, the Sainte-Marie, Quebec native was known for his offensive skills. In his final year with the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL, the defenseman put up 45 points in 35 games and another 23 points in 18 playoffs games, winning Defender of the Year in the process. His defensive game was the biggest concern, which improved for Chabot as the year went on. Of his 64 blocked shots, 55 of them came in his last 45 games of the year. His takeaway numbers were also good enough for 31st of all NHL defensemen.
Some have pegged the 21-year-old as the heir apparent to Karlsson. His first season with the team saw him climb to top-line next to the team captain, and this coming season will see Chabot continue to climb as he becomes more accustomed to his role on the team.
Two Scenarios for Chabot in 2018-19
Chabot With Karlsson on the Team
The Senators’ captain is arguably the best defenseman in the NHL, and Chabot has used that to his advantage. The young player looked up to the Swedish defender through his first year and hopes to continue to do so.
Robert Laflamme of NHL.com writes that Chabot says, “I had the chance to play with him last season and I learned so much from watching him work. He’s talented at everything he does. Even his own teammates, we sometimes can’t believe the plays that he makes. He’s a mentor to me, I’m trying to model my playing style after his. He’s also a really cool guy outside the rink.”
With Karlsson on the team, Chabot will continue to watch and learn from the five-time All-Star. Having a mentor like that will do wonders for Chabot’s career starting with this next season. With the captain being not only a mentor but also a line partner, the young defenseman will have his game naturally elevated through Karlsson’s skill. On top of that, the Swedish defender will have the best view of Chabot and be able to coach and direct him in-play. That kind of experience and guidance from a player of Karlsson’s caliber is invaluable.
If Ottawa holds on to Karlsson for the season and Chabot continues to improve at the rate he has been, it’s extremely likely that he will pass all of his season totals from the previous year. With Karlsson guiding Chabot, the sophomore player will exceed expectations next season and become the player the Senators management hopes he will be sooner rather than later.
Chabot Without Karlsson
However, if the Senators can find a suitable trade for their captain, Chabot will remain on the top line and become the team’s top defender. While his growth would definitely benefit from more time with Karlsson, one year watching and playing with him is better than nothing. Chabot will need to become the player the team hoped they drafted very quickly.
The good news for Ottawa is that Chabot had an impressive rookie year and will improve with or without Karlsson on the team. With the Senators not expected to contend for the Stanley Cup, the defender wouldn’t have as much pressure on him for the team to be successful. As long as he can handle the individual pressures of doing better than last year, and possibly starting to fill the shoes of the captain, Chabot looks like a lock to improve in his first full NHL season, which is exactly what he wants to do.
“I want to start off on the right foot this season and make a positive impact with the Senators,” Chabot said. “I’m going to arrive at camp feeling very comfortable with myself and very satisfied with the efforts that I made this summer. I know what I have to do, and I’m going to concentrate on that.”
It looks like the young Senators are ready to start to take over the team. New 1st-round pick Brady Tkachuk has recently signed with the team over Boston University and young players Colin White and Logan Brown will be looking to stick with the team this fall. With nearly a full season under his belt, Thomas Chabot will become the face of the new Senators, especially if the team parts with Karlsson.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.