With just over a month left of action, the Ottawa Senators are getting closer to the end of their season. They’re ready to start preparing for next season, as you can tell by their recent prospect signing spree. It was no surprise that Jacob Bernard-Docker and Shane Pinto signed entry-level deals, but it was a bit of a shock that this year’s fifth-overall selection, Jake Sanderson, has decided to go back to the University of North Dakota for next season and further his development before turning pro.
In any case, the Sens will continue to chip away at this season to secure as many wins as possible. While they had some success against the Montreal Canadiens early last week, they fell short in Monday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets and lost two points they could’ve taken away from the playoff-bound team. This meeting against the Jets was originally scheduled for May 7 but was pushed up due to the scheduling changes caused by the Canadiens’ COVID-19 protocol a couple of weeks ago. Ottawa can put this one behind them and look forward to a busy week ahead.
Item One: Maxence Guenette Signs Entry-Level Contract
The Senators have been making noise in the prospect department of late. Early last week, they signed Bernard-Docker and Pinto, as previously mentioned, from the University of North Dakota. They kept the ball rolling into this week with the signing of Maxence Guenette. The 19-year-old defenceman inked his three-year deal as he finishes up his fourth season with the Val-d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The L’Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec native was selected by the Senators with the 187th overall pick (seventh round) at the 2019 NHL Draft. In 227 games, he has 25 goals and 106 points and is just five points shy of being tied for fifth among Foreurs all-time scoring by a defenceman.
“Maxence is a strong puck-moving defenceman who absorbs a lot of ice-time for his team in Val-d’Or, the QMJHL’s top-ranked team this season,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. “He maintains good vision, hockey sense and puck skills. We’re especially pleased to already see some significant strides he’s made since being drafted,” he added.
Guenette was recognized with an honourable mention for the QMJHL’s Defenceman of the Month Award for December 2020. He ranks second on the team in scoring among defencemen and eighth among skaters with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) while playing in each of the Foreurs’ 36 regular-season games.
Item Two: Senators Split Against the Canadiens
The Senators are well out of the playoff race but they can still play spoiler to teams like the Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers who are still jockeying for position. Ottawa came away with two of a possible four points against the Canadiens last week, who were coming off a COVID-19 protocol scheduling delay.
The Sens needed just 42 seconds to open the scoring in Saturday’s 6-3 win after Josh Norris drew a penalty on Brendan Gallagher 28 seconds into the game. The power play was firing on all cylinders, and Brady Tkachuk slid the puck under Price’s right pad to net his 12th of the season. The other goal scorers were Evgenii Dadonov, who potted two, Connor Brown, Alex Formenton and Drake Batherson. Anton Forsberg stopped 35 shots while Montreal’s Josh Anderson scored two and Tyler Toffoli added another to his fantastic season, but it wasn’t enough to take both games from Ottawa.
“That was a completely different hockey game than we played the other night,” Tkachuk said. “Tonight, Saturday night, was a fun one to be a part of and was even better with the result we had. Everybody was buzzing, everybody was going. Everybody had their ‘A’ game.”
The Sens’ fourth line was a big reason why they won handily. Dadonov, Formenton and Artem Anisimov combined for six points. Anisimov had three assists, Dadonov two goals and Formenton scored his third career NHL goal.
Item Three: Colin White Placed on IR
The Senators will be without centre Colin White for the next little while. The move to injured reserve means he’ll be out of the lineup until Thursday’s matchup against the Jets at the earliest. White left the game during last week’s 4-1 loss to the Canadiens with an unspecified upper-body injury. He wasn’t in the lineup for Saturday’s rematch, which means he didn’t travel with the team on their two-game road trip to Montreal and Winnipeg.
However, head coach D.J. Smith spoke with the media ahead of Saturday’s game and said he was hopeful that White wouldn’t be out of the lineup for long. “We’re hoping it will be short-term with the upper body here and we’re hoping that he can get back he can get back in here shortly,” Smith said (from ‘SNAPSHOTS: Centre Colin White didn’t make the trip and is listed as day-to-day … Pinto is a big fan of Jake Sanderson’, Ottawa Sun, 3/4/21).
White has had a solid season recording eight goals and six assists in 32 games. Until this season, his future in Ottawa was in doubt, but given the way this season has gone, that question has virtually disappeared. Look for him to be back in the lineup sooner rather than later.
Item Four: Coaching Changes
Early Tuesday morning, the Senators made some changes to their coaching staff with the announcement that they have hired Zac Bierk as their new goaltending coach following the re-assignment of Pierre Groulx to a scouting and development role. Bierk has spent the last few seasons as the goaltending development coach for the Arizona Coyotes, where he was primarily responsible for overseeing their prospect development in the American Hockey League, major junior and collegiate levels.
“Unfortunately, a number of our goaltending performances this season have been underwhelming,” said Dorion. “I think very highly of Pierre Groulx, he’s as dedicated and tireless a worker as anyone in the organization, but we recently reached a point where we thought a fresh outlook could help return some stability to our crease.”
Groulx is in his second tenure with the Senators after he rejoined the organization before the 2016-17 season. He has previously worked with the Florida Panthers and the Canadiens.
Bierk was the goalie coach for the Oshawa Generals when they won the Memorial Cup under Smith in 2015. We’re not sure if he was the influence behind this move, but it wouldn’t be shocking to find out he played a prominent role in bringing Bierk on board.
What’s Next for the Senators?
With only one week remaining until the NHL trade deadline, the Sens have some players who might be of interest to teams that are looking to add for a deep playoff run. Erik Gudbranson, Mike Reilly and Braydon Coburn are the three d-men drawing attention, but the Sens are still expected to be quiet at the deadline. Upfront, the only name that would hold any value is Ryan Dzingel, but as mentioned by Darren Dreger a few days ago, there’s little to no interest in him because teams are worried that he only produces in Ottawa.
I guess we won’t know if that’s the case until he’s moved in a deal but to each their own. Keep an eye out for Pinto and/or Bernard-Docker to make an appearance, as both players are in Ottawa serving their seven-day quarantine before they can join the team for activities. It’s a sign that there are exciting times on the horizon for Ottawa, but we have to be patient.