3 Senators Who Could Be X-Factors in 2022-23

The Ottawa Senators have been one of the most aggressive teams this offseason and are entering an extremely important campaign for the core’s development. The addition of Alex Debrincat and the team’s young players who continue to develop are just a couple of reasons why fans should be excited about the 2022-23 season.

After a miraculous run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2017, the Senators have failed to make the playoffs. As a result, they’ve executed a full-fledged rebuild, and this is the season they need to see results. If the young core fails to make noise in the standings, there will be some major question marks about the roster next offseason.

The new veterans and the core players will have to find chemistry early to compete in a tough Atlantic Division. Here are three Senators who could be X-factors for their playoff hunt in 2022-23.

Tim Stützle

After taking a substantial second-year leap, scoring 22 goals and 58 points in 79 games, Tim Stützle will be one of the biggest factors in determining whether the Senators return to the playoffs in 2023. Last season proved that he has the talent to be a true top-six player at the NHL level, and if he is able to take yet another step forward, the franchise will be in a very good position offensively.

Related: Senators’ Tim Stützle Must Break New Ground in 2022-23

If head coach D.J. Smith is to keep the Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Drake Batherson line together, that will bode well for Stützle, who will be slated to play with the team’s two biggest acquisitions of the summer, Debrincat and Claude Giroux. Going into his third season, he will have every opportunity to break out and become one of the most important players on the team.

Tim Stützle Ottawa Senators
Tim Stützle, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Stützle can develop into a top-line centre this season, the Senators will have a top-six forward group that could compete with the best in the NHL. Other young players like Batherson and Norris have broken out into near point-per-game players, and the 20-year-old centre is the final piece to vaulting the team into the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Jake Sanderson

Jake Sanderson, the fifth-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, is projected to be given every opportunity to join the defensive core this season. Assuming the 6-foot-2, left-shot defenceman impresses the coaching staff in training camp, he could be the next franchise-changing blueliner. Left-handed defencemen Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom, who just re-signed on a one-year deal, will round out the left side.

Last season, Sanderson played for the University of North Dakota and took a large step forward in his development as he became a point-per-game player for the Fighting Hawks.

Jake SandersonTeamGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPoints
2020-21 U. of North Dakota2221315
2021-22U. of North Dakota2381826
Stats via Hockeydb.com

Sanderson is now facing his make-or-break NHL season as a prospect when he will be asked to play meaningful minutes. He has great speed, instincts, and passing ability, which makes him top-pairing material. However, will the coaching staff be willing to play him in the top four if he impresses early? He has the talent for it, and this will be the major storyline to watch in training camp and the first few weeks of the season.

Cam Talbot

Surprise, surprise, the starting goaltender is an X-factor. The Senators are hoping to get the best version of Cam Talbot this season, as the depth behind him is replacement-level at best. His best season came as an Edmonton Oiler in 2016-17, when he posted a .919 save percentage (SV%) and a 42-22-8 record. In his last two seasons with the Minnesota Wild, he posted a .915 and .911 SV%.

The team acquired Talbot in exchange for Filip Gustavsson this offseason. Gustavsson is a 24-year-old goaltender who struggled to find his footing at the NHL level, posting a .892 SV% last season. While he was once slated to be the franchise’s goaltender of the future, this move provides the team with a true starter and a better chance at the playoffs this season.

Cam Talbot Minnesota Wild
Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Talbot will be asked to play 45-plus games in 2022-23, and the Senators are hoping for playoff-calibre goaltending from a player who has been in the postseason the last three years.

General manager Pierre Dorion has spent the summer putting the Senators in a position to compete for the playoffs. Now, the games have to be played, and these three players will have a big say in whether or not that offseason success will translate to the ice.

Sign up for our free ‘Senators Substack Newsletter‘ for all the latest.