Late in the 2022-23 offseason, the Ottawa Senators signed their young star Tim Stützle to an eight-year, $8.35 million per season contract. Many people were hesitant to celebrate this deal, as the young phenom had yet to establish himself as a top player on the team.
The Senators find themselves second last in the Eastern Conference, but the underlying numbers that Money Puck provides tell us that the process has been there. They have the Senators as the seventh-best team in the NHL, giving them a 44.6 percent chance to reach the playoffs despite the slow start. And Stützle has played a huge role in keeping the teams’ numbers afloat while shouldering minutes on the top line.
Stützle Has Controlled Play at Both Ends of the Ice
When Josh Norris was sidelined with an upper-body injury just five games into the season, the Senators were going to need a forward to step up in his absence. Stützle has done just that and more, as 21 games into the new season, the 20-year-old is proving that his contract is a steal. He’s scored eight goals and 22 points, and he’s showing with every passing game that he’s one of the most talented forwards on the roster.
The former third-overall pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft has taken the sudden promotion alongside Brady Tkachuk and Claude Giroux in stride, as that line has controlled possession numbers at an elite level since being united. Money Puck shows that they have earned a 65 percent expected goals percentage (xG%), which is good for fifth best amongst all lines in the NHL with at least 75 minutes on ice.
Latest News & Highlights
Stützle is arguably the biggest piece to a successful rebuild, and it’s a welcomed sight to see him take yet another step in his development. His returning to the centre position late last season was a much-needed change, with that being the position he is clearly most comfortable playing.
He finished his rookie season with 29 points and followed that up with 58 points in 2021-22. He has slowly climbed in points every single season he’s been in the league, and it looks as though 2022-23 will be no different.
Now that certain line combinations within the top-six are getting an extended look, they have begun to build chemistry, and that has translated to offensive success. Stützle connected with Giroux on the overtime winner against the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 27 to secure a 3-2 win for the Senators (video above).
Stützle’s Potential Remains Sky-High
Stützle needed to reach a new level physically this season to produce at a high level, and he has done just that. He tended to fall very easily at the first point of contact in the past, but he has improved mightily in that regard this season. It has translated into his underlying numbers, as displayed by this regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) chart from Evolving Hockey, which is a good way to measure a player’s impact.
This chart shows that he is not only dominating offensively but that he’s also been a very effective defender in his transition to the centre position. Playing with responsible wingers such as Giroux and Tkachuk certainly helps, but this is an area that Stützle needed to take a step forward in, and he has done just that so far this season.
The Senators are facing a critical month of December, where they will play 15 of the most important games of their season. Stützle will remain their top-line centre and will have to continue his strong play in order for this team to crawl back into the playoff hunt.
The question remains, who else will step up? Having a record of 8-12-1 for a team with this level of talent is unacceptable. Injuries have plagued their season to this point, but they will need to get healthy fast as their season is slowly slipping away. Stützle is proving that he will be a significant part of this team’s present and future success, but the Senators need more players to establish themselves at the same level, or this rebuild could go sideways fast.
Connor Hrabchak is 20 years old and is currently covering the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators for The Hockey Writers. He is working towards completing his communications and media degree. He was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He’s been watching hockey ever since the Jets moved back to Winnipeg in 2011, and that has inspired him to write about the sport and attempt to make it into a full-time career.