On December 6, 1990, the city of Ottawa was officially awarded an NHL franchise. Twenty-two months later, the Ottawa Senators kicked off their inaugural season. Over their 28-year history, the Senators have had many recognizable faces. Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Dany Heatley, Marian Hossa, and Chris Phillips are just some of the all-time greats.
Throughout that time, the Sens have also boasted a strong French-Canadian presence. Whether it’s the geographic proximity from Ottawa to Quebec or the prospect of playing “close to home”, the Senators have always had an exceptional contingent of francophone players. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at five French-Canadian players who have made a name for themselves in Canada’s capital city.
5. Anthony Duclair
Birthplace: Pointe-Claire, Quebec
Senators Stats: 87 GP – 31 G – 23 A – 54 Pts
Anthony Duclair is a current member of the Senators and has enjoyed two good seasons with the club. Last year, “Duc”, as referred to by his teammates, was dealt to the Senators from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since then, the Pointe-Claire naive has enjoyed his time in Kanata. This season alone saw Duclair tally 23 goals and 17 assists for 40 points in just 66 games played, four points shy of his career-high that he set back in 2015-16 with the Arizona Coyotes.
As a junior player with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Duclair had four excellent seasons and was one of the most electrifying players in the league. This included a 50-goal, 99-point campaign with the Remparts in 2013-14. He even suited up (and won Gold) with Team Canada during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.
Duclair is at the end of a one-year, $1.65 million contract that he signed back in June 2019. In his brief tenure in Ottawa, the Senators have been pleased with his speed, play-making ability, and goal-scoring prowess. Still only 24 years of age, Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion hopes to keep him in Ottawa for the foreseeable future.
4. Derick Brassard
Birthplace: Hull, Gatineau, Quebec
Senators Stats: 139 GP – 32 G – 45 A – 77 Pts
Next up is crafty centerman, Derick Brassard. After spending time with both the Blue Jackets and New York Rangers, Brassard was traded along with a seventh-round draft pick to Ottawa in exchange for Mika Zibanejad and a second-round pick in July 2016. During his first season in Ottawa, Brassard played a pivotal role as the Sens marched all the way to the Eastern Conference Final before finally succumbing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in heart-wrenching fashion.
As an integral part of the “Sens Army”, Brassard’s time in Ottawa saw him total 77 points in 139 games. In the 2016-17 playoffs, Brassard also notched 11 points in 19 games and was one of Ottawa’s most reliable performers. A sixth-overall pick back at 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Brassard’s hockey IQ, skating ability, and propensity to think the game at a high level still follow him to this very day.
Related: 5 Worst Trades in Senators History
A standout for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL which included 116 points during the 2005-06 season, Brassard has been a model of consistency. At 32 years of age, Brassard is still going strong and is hopeful that he and the Islanders can go on a deep run (similar to what he did in Ottawa) when the NHL (hopefully) resumes play this summer.
3. Antoine Vermette
Birthplace: Saint-Agapit, Quebec
Senators Stats: 359 GP – 80 G – 87 A – 167 Pts
Antoine Vermette will be remembered as one of the most reliable and efficient two-way centermen in Senators franchise history. When hockey experts talk about forwards who can move “up and down a lineup” that fits Vermette’s game to a tee. As a player, he was quick, shifty, gritty and proficient in the face-off dot, averaging a 54% efficiency rate on draws during his time in Ottawa.
The Senators drafted Vermette back in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft with the 55th overall pick in the second round. He went on to play five seasons for the Senators and racked up 80 goals and 167 points in 359 games before being traded to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Pascal Leclaire (another French-Canadian player) and a second-round pick.
When he retired in January 2019, Vermette skated in 1,046 career games and won the 2015 Stanley Cup as a key member of the Chicago Blackhawks. What made Vermette so effective was that he played bigger than his 6’1 frame, and always seemed to make the right plays. His 56.6 career face-off win percentage is also the ninth-best all-time.
2. Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Birthplace: Ottawa, Ontario (raised in Hull, Quebec).
Senators Stats: 428 GP – 87 G – 93 A – 180 Pts
Although born in Ottawa, Jean-Gabriel Pageau was “raised across the river” and has several ties to the province of Quebec. For starters, he grew up and played his minor hockey in Hull and plied his trade at the junior level in the QMJHL with both the Gatineau Olympiques and Chicoutimi Sagueneens. At the 2011 NHL Draft, Pageau’s name was called by you guessed it, the Senators.
After starting the 2012-13 campaign with Ottawa’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Binghamton Senators, Pageau was a late call-up to the Senators prior to the start of the NHL playoffs and the rest, as they say, is history. During game three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens, Pageau scored a hat-trick as the Senators drubbed the Habs by a score of 6-1. He became just the second Senators player in franchise history to score a playoff hat-trick after Alfredsson.
Pageau’s time in Ottawa saw him evolve from a young checker to a top-line centerman with the intelligence and skill set to “drive” a line. He was (and is) the prototypical “sparkplug”. His endless bounds of energy, ability to score goals, and kill penalties make him an extremely useful and versatile two-way centerman that any NHL team would love to have. Pageau is also a good skater, fearless for his size (5’9, 172 pounds) and loves to battle in all three zones on the ice.
Prior to his trade at this season’s deadline to the playoff-bound, New York Islanders, Pageau was in the midst of a career-best season with 24 goals and 40 points in 60 games. He is yet another memorable and game-changing French-Canadian talent to ply his trade in Canada’s capital city.
1. Thomas Chabot
Birthplace: Sainte-Marie, Quebec
Senators Stats: 205 GP – 29 G – 90 A – 119 Pts
When you watch Thomas Chabot play it’s hard to imagine that he’s only 23 years old. That’s because this is a blue-liner that’s just oozing with raw, game-changing skill. Chabot’s play has been so spectacular this season, that he’s already making a strong case to be one of the best defensemen in Senators franchise history. Erik Karlsson who?
Chabot grew up in Sainte-Marie, Quebec and his path to the NHL came through the Quebec league with the Saint John Sea Dogs. In the “Q”, Chabot hit the 40-point plateau three times from 2014-2017. Chabot also donned the red and white of Team Canada at the 2016 and 2017 World Juniors.
So far at the NHL level, Chabot’s rookie campaign that saw him score 9 goals to go along with 16 assists was followed by a 55-point season in 2018-19 and a 39-point season in 70 games played this year. A fan-favorite and shoo-in selection to wear the “C”, as the team’s next captain, Chabot can skate, move the puck, quarterback a power-play and log heavy minutes at the National Hockey League Level.
This is a player that should garner a few Norris Trophy votes over the next decade as one of the game’s most proficient defensemen. Fresh off a $64 million, eight-year contract extension that he signed last summer, Chabot is by and large the face of the Senators franchise.
Alex Chiasson: 153 GP – 19 G – 21 A – 40 Pts (Montreal, Quebec)
Alex Burrows: 91 GP – 12 G – 13 A – 25 Pts (Pincourt, Quebec)
From Quebec to Ottawa
Over the years, the Senators have been able to acquire some pretty impressive talent from the province of Quebec. In fact, the current Sens team has four players on their active roster who hail from Quebec (Chabot, Duclair, Maxime Lajoie and Christian Wolanin). With the Senators holding combined odds of 25% to land the first-overall selection at the upcoming 2020 NHL Entry Draft, and Alexis Lafrenière (the consensus number-one pick and another French-Canadian player) waiting in the wings, could we potentially see another player from Quebec join the Sens? What a moment that would be for Senators fans.
My name is Domenic Lunardo, and I cover all things Blue Jackets here at The Hockey Writers. I am an avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan living in Toronto, with an unmatched passion for the beautiful sport of hockey.