It’s quite clear the Ottawa Senators’ weakest position is on the right side of the defense. Next year’s group should consist of Nikita Zaitsev, Dylan DeMelo and Ron Hainsey, barring any injuries or trades. At first glance, this does not seem too appealing for Senators fans, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have promising right-hand defensemen coming up their system.
The Senators’ management quickly addressed this weakness to begin their rebuild as they’ve selected two right-handed defensemen in the first round of the past two drafts. They selected Jacob Bernard-Docker 26th overall in 2018 and Lassi Thomson 19th overall in 2019. These two have already shown significant potential and both seem to be on their way to becoming capable top-four defensemen.
A few question marks came up after Bernard-Docker got his name called by Ottawa at last year’s NHL draft, but those doubts have quickly ceased to exist. Bernard-Docker enjoyed a fantastic rookie season playing for the University of North Dakota where he put up a respectable 17 points in 36 games. He also saw his responsibilities increase rather quickly for an 18-year-old playing college hockey. However, he seemed unfazed and quite calm even with the added responsibility. He looked proficient in his own end and should cement his place as North Dakota’s No. 1 defenseman as early as next season.
Bernard-Docker is well on his way to becoming a steady two-way NHL defenseman. Like Lassi Thomson, Bernard-Docker owns a big slapshot which he is not afraid to use. He competes hard every shift and isn’t reluctant to use his body to retrieve the puck and win one on one battles.
Bernard-Docker was also one of the last cuts at Team Canada’s World Junior tryout last year and should claim a spot on Canada’s blue line this coming winter.
The Ottawa Senators recently announced that they’ve signed this year’s 19th overall pick Lassi Thomson to an entry-level contract.
As was the case with Bernard-Docker, many experts argued that the Senators reached on Thomson. He was mostly seen going late in the first or early in the second round. But the Senators scouting staff has proved many of us wrong before and I’m fully confident this was the right pick for the team in this rebuild. They addressed a clear need as they’re not very deep on the right side of the blue line.
Thomson showed flashes of brilliance at the Senators development camp. He oozes confidence on the ice and isn’t afraid to keep the puck if it means creating a better scoring opportunity. Just like any young player, there are some things to improve, especially in the defensive zone, but that comes with time and experience. It’ll take a few years for Thomson to fill out his frame, but when he does he’ll be a big body on the ice. He’s not an offensive defenseman, but like Bernard-Docker, he brings a well balanced two-way game. He has decent vision on the ice and owns a cannon of a shot. Since Ottawa already boasts two offensive-minded defensemen in Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom, it only seems beneficial that both Bernard-Docker and Thomson are great two-way defensemen.
Switching It Up
Contrary to the Erik Karlsson days, it seems as though general manager Pierre Dorion is opting for offensive defensemen on the left side and more defensive-minded defensemen on the right side. However, both Bernard-Docker and Thomson are more than capable of showing up on the scoresheet on a nightly basis. In today’s NHL, it seems mandatory to own defensemen who can quickly translate the puck up the ice as well as being effective in the offensive zone. Dorion already seems to have acquired defensemen that fit this description with plenty of draft picks abound.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a die hard Senators fan.
Previously a contributor at Puck77.com