It’s no surprise that Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has been able to amass a wealth of young and talented prospects. With the departures of fan favorites like Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel over the past year, the Senators seem to be set for the future with all the assets they’ve acquired. However, two names stand out when looking at their prospects, Erik Brännström and Drake Batherson. Both seem destined for all-star careers in the NHL.
Brännström, who was acquired in the Stone trade, is widely considered a slam dunk prospect.
“A puck moving defenseman with excellent skating skills. Brännström has impressive offensive instincts and hockey sense. Plays a pretty good defensive game, which will improve further with increased strength to go with his rather modest height. Passing ability stands out, shot is good and he loves to control the PP. (Elite Prospects)”
A vast majority of scouting lists have Brännström as a top 10 prospect in the NHL. There’s no denying his skillset, but management needs to figure out what’s best for his development. Standing at only 5-foot-10, it’s clear he is an undersized defenseman, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for it with his unbelievable skating ability and vision. Not many NHL defensemen have that “it” factor, and it’s safe to say he has it. He is relentless with or without the puck. At this year’s World Junior Championship, Brännström was named captain of Team Sweden. He displayed his silky smooth skating ability and vision throughout the tournament and finished with four goals in five games, including three goals on the power play.
Now, where exactly does Brannstrom fit in the 2019-20 Senators lineup?
The left side of defense currently consists of Thomas Chabot, Christian Wolanin and Mark Borowiecki, assuming Ron Hainsey will play on the right side. I strongly believe the Senators will opt to send Brännström to the AHL Belleville Senators for the start of the season. They’ve used this development path before with Karlsson and Chabot. Both players were phenomenal prospects and seemed to be ready for the next jump, however, management decided to start their seasons in the AHL.
Karlsson played 12 games in the AHL to start the 2009-10 season before reaching the NHL and Chabot played 13 games to start the 2017-18 season before cementing his spot in the NHL. It’s a safe bet to assume management will follow the same path with Brännström, who has shown similarities to both Karlsson and Chabot. It’s hard not to get excited with a left side made up of Chabot, Brännström and Wolanin.
I haven’t been this excited about a right wing prospect in the Senators’ farm system since Stone back in 2012. Batherson was a steal in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft. After leading Team Canada to the gold medal at the 2018 World Junior Championships in which he scored seven goals in seven games, he has skyrocketed up the prospect rankings and has yet to slow down. He led the Belleville Senators in points last season in his rookie year with 62 points in 59 games. Even more impressive was his short 20-game stint in the NHL where he recorded three goals and six assists including scoring his first NHL goal on his first shot.
Batherson is a complete player who makes players around him better. He possesses incredible vision to find his teammates on the ice and generates plenty of great scoring chances. He also has great hands in tight to go along with a quick release. He has also shown an ability to rapidly adjust his game at the next level, which bodes well for his NHL career.
Batherson has shown that he is ready for the next step in his career, which is why I believe he’ll slot into Ottawa’s top-six this season. It remains to be seen if the coaching staff will pair him up with Logan Brown as both players dominated the AHL last season when playing together. Another possibility would be to pair him with the Colin White and Brady Tkachuk duo. This could pave the way for a future top line if they are successful. The Senators aren’t deep on the right wing so it shouldn’t be too difficult for Batherson to claim his spot in the lineup.
Regardless of where these two play next season, they are both poised to become all-stars in the NHL. It might be worth turning in to a few games for Senators fans this season, as the prospects should be on full display.