Ottawa Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith announced Tuesday that defenceman Erik Brannstrom will miss 7-10 days with an upper-body injury.
In Monday night’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, Brannstrom took a hit from Josh Archibald behind the Senators net and went head-first into the boards. Although he looked visibly rattled after the hit, and was attended to on the bench, Brannstrom remained in the game.
Prospect with Promise
On Feb. 25, 2019, the Senators traded star forward Mark Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights, in a trade in which they acquired then-prospect Brannstrom.
Brannstrom was a first-round pick (15th overall) by Vegas in the 2017 draft. In the 2019 IIHF World Juniors Tournament, Brannstrom served as Team Sweden’s captain, recording four goals in five games played.
Last month after training camp, Brannstrom was sent to Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, the Belleville Senators. This season, Brannstrom has played in three NHL games and has collected one assist. Playing close to 16 minutes per game, the Senators have given Brannstrom the ice time to succeed amongst some of the best teams and players in the all-Canadian North Division.
The first game of the season for Brannstrom was against the division’s second best team, the Montreal Canadiens. Brannstrom got an assist in the second period, off an offensive zone faceoff shot tipped off the stick of Connor brown in front of the net.
Small but Mighty
Listed as 5-foot-9 and 181 pounds. Brannstrom’s lack of a physical prevalence on the ice doesn’t account for his capabilities. He may be small, but he’s fast and navigates himself around the puck well. More importantly, he is able to navigate the puck quickly.
Brannstrom played 31 games with the Senators in the 2019-20 season, posting no goals and four assists. Although Brannstrom’s stats over his career thus far aren’t too much to be overly excited about, his presence on the ice and navigating the puck makes him a key piece for the Senators’ potential turnaround.
In his short time with the Senators, Brannstrom made clean hard passes, and navigated the puck around with clarity and focus. It was clear he knew how to move the puck around the ice.
Although Brannstrom may be less known and watched in comparison to the bigger name young stars on the Sentaors’ roster, he is key to the development of Ottawa’s young team. With a stable, coherent young Ottawa lineup, and defensive presence, Ottawa has a chance to develop and provide structure and support for their young stars like Tim Stützle and Brady Tkachuk. Brannstrom has made enough of a presence to be considered comparable to some of Ottawa’s other, more experienced defensemen. Even in his small number of games this season, Brannstrom visibly adds a sense of comfortability to the Senators’ defense.
Key to Development
For a team like Ottawa, they are playing the long game, and the young players are what will make the Senators a competitive team. Although the Senators’ veterans may look like they need developmental time due to their underperformance this season, this time is more necessary for the development of young players like Brannstrom, who still need more NHL playing time to fully show their potential.
In Brannstrom’s pace, Christian Wolanin has been activated from a lower-body injury, but in a press conference, D.J. Smith expressed that he is confident that Brannstrom’s stint on the injured reserve shouldn’t be long-term.
If that does remain true, Brannstrom could miss a two-game series against the Winnipeg Jets, and possibly a three-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators start a three-game series against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 21. The best case scenario for the Senators is to have Brannstrom back in the lineup for that series as he’s not only familiar with the Canadiens this year, but is effective and had made a presence against the team that is unexpected compared to the elite experienced players, and their successful record thus far.