It’s two months into the 2022-23 NHL season, which means it’s time for the second episode of the Ottawa Senators Prospect Report. Last month, we saw Zack Ostapchuk get off to a fantastic start with the Vancouver Giants, while Tyler Boucher looked like a bona fide first-round selection with the Ottawa 67’s. Over in the NCAA, one of the team’s most recent selections, Stephen Halliday, also began his college career with a bang.
A month has passed, and most of those streaks have evened out into more manageable production numbers…except for Ostapchuk. The Senators’ second-rounder in 2021 has quickly become the team’s best junior prospect and will almost certainly return to Team Canada at the end of December to play in his second World Junior Championship. But he’s not the only one who’s caught fans’ attention over the last 30 days. Here are the biggest stories from around Ottawa’s farm system.
Ostapchuk Continues to Put Up Points
How is it that Ostapchuk just keeps getting better? In November, the burgeoning power forward had 15 points in 10 games with the Vancouver Giants, including five multi-point outings. But the best so far was a five-point night against the Prince George Cougars on Nov. 12, where he finished the night with a goal, four assists, and the game’s first star in the team’s 5-4 victory.
Although Ostapchuk sits third in team scoring behind 20-year-old Ty Thorpe and 2023 Draft-eligible Samuel Honzek, he’s well on his way to closing the gap. His 1.33 points per game rank 25th in the Western Hockey League and is currently on pace to hit 34 goals and 82 points. Last season, only 14 players scored 80 or more points and if the Senators’ prospect can keep up his fantastic start, he’ll not only be one of Ottawa’s most productive prospects but one of the best in the NHL.
Boucher is Suspended…Again
2022-23 was shaping up to be Boucher’s breakout season. Last season was filled with growing pains, from a rough start at Boston University and a slow transition to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). But all that was behind him now, and the most physically-dominant player at the 2021 Draft was ready to take the OHL by storm. Everything started out perfectly; in his first nine games, he had seven goals and 10 points, putting him on pace to be one of the top goal-scorers in the league.
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However, Boucher’s physicality has started to get him into trouble and subsequently killed his early season momentum. He was handed a six-game suspension on Oct. 31 after a big hit against Luc Brzustowski of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds that resulted in the player suffering a seizure on the ice. Seven games later, he was handed his second suspension this season, a two-game sentence for being the aggressor in a fight against the Sudbury Wolves.
There’s no question that Boucher is a physical player who sometimes crosses the line, but his latest suspension is not without controversy, as it seems a bit extreme for a fight. In the clip, he clearly is defending his teammate from what he perceived as a high hit, and so far, no suspension has been announced for the Wolves player. But that doesn’t bother the Senators, who are finally seeing the player they selected 10th overall. Despite the suspensions, he has 14 points in 15 games, which puts him on pace to hit 32 goals and 56 points this season. With the 67’s sitting in first place, that total is likely to increase.
Donovan Records His First Hat Trick
When the Senators selected Jorian Donovan, they knew they were getting a top-tier skater who could move the puck better than most of his peers. However, there was a lot of growth that needed to happen before he could earn the title of powerplay quarterback. In 2021-22, he had three goals and 22 points in 64 games as a rookie, which wasn’t exactly top offensive numbers. But the potential was there to emerge as a highly competent playmaker, and so Ottawa took a chance.
Well, that gamble is paying off. After 20 games, Donovan sits at seven goals and 20 points, 16 of which he’s scored in the last 10 games. In fact, over the last week, he’s been one of the best defensemen in Canada; in just one game, he matched his goal total from last season, putting three past Greyhounds’ goalie Samuel Ivanov in the Bulldogs’ 10-6 victory and earning him the CHL First Star of the Week. That’s a great sign of things to come for the young defender, and he’ll certainly be working to keep that pace up for as long as possible.
Oskar Pettersson Can’t Be Stopped
Last month, I mentioned keeping an eye on Oskar Pettersson after starting the season off with 12 goals and 21 points in his first 17 games in Sweden’s U20 league. Well, he has not disappointed. The Senators’ third-round pick last summer now has 15 goals and 25 points in 19 games in the J20 Nationell, which prompted Rögle BK to call him up as they deal with a bout of injuries. In his ninth game with the big club, he scored his first Swedish Hockey League goal and added an assist later in the game.
Pettersson’s success expands beyond just league play. He’s dressed for seven games with Sweden’s U20 team and is currently second with five goals and tied for second with 11 points, making him a shoo-in to join Sweden at the 2023 World Juniors in Halifax and Moncton later this month. There he’ll be joined by Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Liam Ohgren, and Noah Ostlund, his teammates at the U18 World Junior Championship in May with whom he won a gold medal.
After looking like a bit of an unnecessary risk at the 2022 NHL Draft, Pettersson seems to be panning out quite well. His skating received criticism last year, but that doesn’t seem to be holding him back, especially with that deadly wrist shot he can fire from the hash marks. With his strength and speed already well-developed, he’ll be one to watch in the coming years.
5 Prospects to Watch
- Jonny Tychonick has continued to stay close to the impressive pace he set back in October and currently has 12 points in 15 games with the University of Nebraska-Omaha. With him likely close to the end of his college eligibility, he’ll be a name to watch as the season continues, especially if the Senators continue to struggle defensively.
- Halliday isn’t scoring quite as much as he was in October, as he has added just three points in his last seven games after starting the season with 10 points in as many games. He still sits second in team scoring, which is impressive for an NCAA freshman and remains an intriguing prospect in the Senators’ system.
- Tyler Kleven was never going to be a point-producer at any level, but this season he’s struggled more than usual to put the puck in the net, especially compared to 2021-22’s seven goals. However, he finally scored his first goal of the season on Nov. 5 against Nebraska-Omaha and now sits at five points in his last seven games, so maybe he’s getting back into his old rhythm.
- Angus Crookshank has three goals in his last three games with the Belleville Senators, catapulting him into a tie for second place in team scoring. After a slow start following his return from missing all of the 2021-22 season with an injury, he’s starting to look like the player he was in his rookie season.
- Cameron O’Neill has slowed down after starting his United States Hockey League career with seven points in eight games but has started to pick it back up, scoring four points in his last five appearances with the Tri-City Storm.
That’s it for another edition of the Senators Prospect Report. Check back in next month where we’ll take a look at all the prospects playing for their countries at the 2023 World Juniors, as the Senators could have several that become impact players at the tournament.
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.