With the World Juniors now done and over with, fans of teams without much in the way of playoff hopes will start talking about the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. While the focus will be on some of the top names available like Shane Wright, Matthew Savoie, and Ivan Miroshnichenko, the Senators have found promising prospects in the later rounds of the draft before. For example, Drake Batherson was a fourth-round pick, Alex Formenton was a second-round pick, and Shane Pinto was a second-round pick. There are reasons to be excited about the second day and onwards at the draft and there is one name in particular that stands out for the Senators.
Just over 20 minutes down the road from the Canadian Tire Centre, the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League have an interesting young talent by the name of Brady Stonehouse. In the NHL’s preliminary players to watch list, Stonehouse was listed as a ‘C’ prospect but don’t let a letter grade fool you into thinking there is nothing to like with the young winger.
Stonehouse is the Ideal Fit
In the past couple of years, the Senators have proven that they are hyper-focused on finding players who are talented and bring a level of physicality and grit. When you get to the playoffs, teams who rely on talent and skill offensively often struggle. Look no further than Ontario-rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs for proof that you need grit, and when that grit can produce offensively, it’s even better. That’s the blueprint that brought the Boston Bruins so much success, and that’s what the Senators are in search of.
When you think about the things that the Senators like, Stonehouse brings just about every one of those aspects to the table. If there was one thing that you could gripe about, it would be his size. As of right now, Stonehouse is only five-foot-nine and 183 pounds but this is at the age of 17. There is possibly still some growth to be done for the young right-winger and he could stand about 5-foot-10 by the time he gets to the next level.
People will point to the size and question the rest of what Stonehouse brings to the table as is customary for smaller players but there’s a saying; the size of the fight in the dog is more important than the size of the dog in the fight. You will routinely see Stonehouse wearing his heart on his sleeve and going to battle every single night for his team. He shouldn’t be confused with a goon but the term “pest” perfectly encapsulates what he is on a nightly basis.
“I just think that’s my game,” said Stonehouse. “Showing good leadership, playing hard, getting to the dirty areas and bury it when I can. Guys just gotta step up and I’m happy to take that role. The chance was given to me and I took it.”
He is more than just a pain to play against, however. Stonehouse is a sneakily good skater. When he needs to get on the horse, his speed on breakouts is good enough to beat just about any defender in the OHL out wide. His shot is also decent even though he’s no Auston Matthews or Alex Ovechkin in that regard. He is always a threat to score and has been one of the more productive forwards on the 67’s this season, having scored eight goals and 16 points in 32 games.
The 67’s second-round pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection has come into his first season in the OHL and been one of the team’s emotional leaders. He has played key minutes and taken on the expectations that would have been bestowed upon their defected first-round pick, Nicholas Moldenhauer. As impressive as everything he has done this season has been, it’s only the beginning of his development. What he could be capable of doing by age 19 (two years time) could be something cool to see.
Tkachuk, Marchand are Comparables
Comparing prospects to current NHL players, especially when they are top-end talent is often bad practice for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it places an incredible amount of pressure on a young player to fill the mold of the star people perceive them to be. Secondly, no two players are ever the exact same. There are always differences to be considered but that doesn’t mean that player comparisons can’t be helpful at all.
Stylistically, there are two players that stick out as comparable for Stonehouse. One of them is Brady Tkachuk, who has already become the Senators’ captain and fan favourite. The other is Brad Marchand, who is everyone’s favourite (or second favourite) player to hate. These are both players who have made their careers by being a pest who is comfortable going to the dirty areas, being physical, and getting under other players’ skin. What sets them apart from players who would be labeled goons is their offensive flash. Both players have the ability to produce offensively, and even though Tkachuk hasn’t had the chance to showcase that in the playoffs just yet, we have seen what a great player Marchand is when the games are most important.
“I like to compare myself to Brad Marchand,” said Stonehouse in an interview with the Sens Talk Podcast. “I like to play a physical game, fast, and I draw a lot of penalties, so that’s a bonus. I stay disciplined when people are coming after me.”
Both Tkachuk and Marchand are agitators. Most of the time, they are clean but they also have the ability to do the little things to bother their opponent and knock them off their game. That could be a whack on the top of the foot that the referee misses, it could be a well-timed one-liner, or it could be something as simple as smiling at someone, a move that Stonehouse has mastered already.
Again, this is strictly to say that their style is similar. They are not the exact same player and this doesn’t mean that Stonehouse is going to become as good as either Tkachuk or Marchand but it does give you a sense of how he plays. There is the potential that he can be a good role player in the NHL someday but we are talking about a player who will likely be taken in the fourth round or after, so expectations need to be reasonable for the kid.
Stonehouse is Low-Risk, High-Reward
Where Stonehouse is projected to go in the draft at this time is another thing that teams are bound to like. Currently, people are expecting him to go off the board somewhere between the fourth and the sixth round. While that could change if he continues to play like he has been this season, he currently stands as one of the better value players available in the draft.
Conservatively, Stonehouse’s NHL potential is likely somewhere in a team’s bottom-six but prospects are always an uncertain thing. He could be more, he could even be less. Prospects in the later rounds of the draft are very unlikely to become everyday NHL players statistically but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. That’s where the value lies with Stonehouse. He doesn’t just rely on his skill and he does the little things right, giving himself a decent enough chance to one day be a part of an NHL roster.
Currently, Stonehouse is 20th in the league in rookie scoring but is seventh on the team in total scoring and tied for third in goals with fellow rookie Vinzenz Rohrer. Despite his rugged and tough play style, he has been able to keep his cool and stay out of the penalty box many times this season. He is currently only in seventh on the team in terms of penalty minutes, an impressive stat when you consider his play style and large amount of ice time.
Throughout the season, Stonehouse has been getting better and has earned the trust of head coach Dave Cameron and Norm Milley, who has filled in while Cameron was away with the Canadian World Juniors team. He has had moments of flash in the offensive zone, especially recently but his willingness to grind away and beat people down is his best trait. It’s best exemplified in the 67’s New Year’s Eve game against the North Bay Battalion.
Is Stonehouse going to be the steal of the draft in five to 10 years? No one knows the answer to that. It won’t be easy for him and it’s possible that he could stall out before ever making it to the NHL. However, he will give you a complete effort every time you put him on the ice and that gives him a leg up over players who don’t.
There have been so many players who come around that have massive potential but never work to unlock it. That shouldn’t be a fear with the feisty forward. Whoever picks Stonehouse is setting themselves up to knock a late-round pick out of the park and with him being in their backyard, the Senators have no excuse to miss out on this player who is everything they look for in a player.
Between Now and the Draft
The 2022 NHL Entry Draft seems like a long time away but before you know it, it will be here. Between now and then, Stonehouse will have some time to continue his development. There aren’t many aspects of his game that lag far behind the rest but if there were a couple of things that you would look to improve before the summer, his shot would have to be one of them. If he could develop a little more in that area, he likely isn’t a ‘C’ grade prospect anymore. There is so much to like with this young kid and if he ends up in the right situation, he could really blossom into a good NHL player someday.
Currently a journalism student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, I have always had a passion for the OHL and the Ottawa 67’s in particular. I have been attending games since I was young, and being involved with sports has always been a dream of mine. Sports writing fits perfectly into that. You can also find me talking and writing other sports (primarily Canadian football) on my website 13thmansports.ca!