With the trade deadline less than a month away, the Ottawa Senators are keeping a close eye on the top performing players from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Belleville Senators. As the team focuses on rebuilding and developing their young players, management must consider where the team needs more strength and which of their AHL prospects will be the best fit for the 2020-21 season.
Ottawa’s 14.47% power-play percentage sits 5.59% below the 2019-20 league average. Head coach D.J Smith must select the players who are willing to buy into his defensive-minded style and who will create more offensive opportunities. However, former Belleville players Logan Brown and Drake Batherson have been great offensive additions to the 2019-20 Senators. Since Smith loves to work with and develop players, he will likely bring in more prospects from Belleville.
Belleville centreman Josh Norris, left winger Alex Formenton and goalie Joey Daccord have grabbed the Senators’ attention. At the time of writing, Norris and Formenton rank second and third, behind team leader Batherson, with 45 and 39 points, respectively. Meanwhile, Daccord has put up an impressive .918 save percentage over a 16-game sample. Norris and Formenton are ideal candidates to help the rebuilding Senators as they are coach-able and can be relied on for offensive contributions. All three are capable leaders who have proved themselves time and time again.
Since the beginning of the 2019-20 AHL season, Norris has ripped 130 shots on net; 17 shots behind Ottawa’s top left winger, Anthony Duclair. With 44 games played, Norris’ 16 power-play points would be a welcome addition to the Sens who have combined for just 23 power-play goals on 159 opportunities. Notably, Norris is not too familiar with the penalty box, with only 12 penalty minutes all season.
On the other hand, the Senators’ average for penalty minutes hits just slightly over the 20-minute mark. Adding a guy like Norris to the lineup would produce more offensive opportunities and hopefully influence the team culture in terms of penalties. As Norris produces at a rate similar to six-year NHL vet and Senators leader, Duclair, Smith must find a spot on the roster for such a player.
At the 2019-20 AHL All-Star tournament, left winger Formenton nabbed the title as the fastest skater. His energy and skill would benefit Ottawa as they need more players who can move the puck quickly across the ice and be able to backcheck just as quickly. His speed could be utilized on both the power play and penalty kill.
Moreover, this season, Formenton has 112 shots on goal, two shots less than Ottawa centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Formenton has showcased his potential to become a top player for the Senators on multiple occasions.
On the goaltending side, Belleville’s Daccord is close to Ottawa’s Marcus Hogberg in goals-against average with 2.54 and 3.00, respectively. Daccord’s .918 save percentage is higher than all three of Ottawa’s goalies: Anders Nilsson, Hogberg, and Craig Anderson. As Anderson becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2019-20 season and Daccord’s two-year, entry-level contract wraps up, Anderson could see less ice time as Daccord is given the spotlight to showcase what he can bring to the developing Senators.
While Daccord may still have some work to do, Ottawa can provide him with the opportunity to expand his skillset and gain NHL experience under a coach who does not pressure for perfection. In the long run, allowing Daccord the opportunity to grow and make mistakes in Ottawa will build his confidence and determination.
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Communications and Business Management Undergraduate Student. Hockey lover from South-Western Ontario covering everything Ottawa Senators.