3 Takeaways From Senators’ 2022 Preseason Opener vs. Maple Leafs

The Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off the 2022-23 preseason on Saturday with two “split-squad” games. The first featured newcomers such as Alex Debrincat, Claude Giroux, and Cam Talbot, while the second had the top forward line from the 2021-22 season.

The Senators lost the first game by a score of 4-1, but bounced back and took the second game 4-2 in comeback fashion. This was the first hockey we’ve officially gotten on the new schedule, and there was plenty to take away from the two games.

Tim Stützle Adds More Hype to His Potential Breakout Season

Much has been made about Tim Stützle’s new contract, but now that the games are starting to be played, we are finally getting a glimpse of what kind of player he will be this season. He opened the scoring in the first game by driving hard to the net and lifting a shot high, short-side to beat the goaltender.

Related: Senators Signal an Organizational Shift With Stützle Extension

Everyone knows Stützle has the talent for a breakout year, but will he be able to reach superstar status this season? The additions of Debrincat and Giroux will help tremendously, but the organization and fans will be watching to see what strides he takes individually.

Stützle scored 58 points in 79 games in 2021-22 and will be looking to build off of that as the Senators make a push for the playoffs. By scoring a goal and looking better in the first preseason game, it added even more hype around his name and rightfully so. The former third-overall pick is on the brink of an elite season, and the first preseason game gave us a glimpse of what’s to come.

Jake Sanderson Looked NHL Ready

Another young, exciting player that looked the part was defenceman Jake Sanderson. He was wearing No. 85 for the Senators and looked the part in his first action against NHL competition.

Many fans predicted that the former fifth-overall selection of the 2021 NHL Draft would have no issue adjusting to the speed of the NHL, and they were proven right on Saturday. Sanderson was paired with Travis Hamonic, and also got to quarterback the power play. He made a great first impression on the coaching staff and improved his case to be a part of the opening night roster.

Jake Sanderson USNTDP
Jake Sanderson, USA NTDP (Credit: Rena Laverty)

Sanderson will continue to build chemistry with Hamonic, but the question remains where he is best suited in the lineup. With two weeks left of training camp practices and games, I would expect the Senators to give Sanderson a look on a pairing with Nikita Zaitsev. Erik Brannstrom is his main competition for the second-pairing role, and if he can keep up this level of play the franchise might put their top defensive prospect in an expanded role to start the season.

Senators Gave a First Look at Potential Line Combinations

A lot of predictions have circled around the Senators this offseason, as everyone had their thoughts on what the lines should look like. For the projected top-six, Debrincat, Giroux, and Stützle played their first game together, and Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson resumed their top-line roles.

Tyler Motte, Shane Pinto, and Mathieu Joseph made up the potential opening night third-line. Plenty of fans are excited for Pinto to have a full season of development, and those wingers will help make his life in the NHL easier. Alex Formenton is another candidate for the third-line, but he remains without a contract.

Tyler Motte New York Rangers
Tyler Motte, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Preseason lines are meant to be taken lightly, but it was a good way for these players to establish chemistry before the season begins. Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub are projected to keep their top-pairing role, with the less established options making up the rest of the pairings.

The preseason is essential for young players looking to make the team, but also for more experienced veterans to get their conditioning back to an NHL-level and establish much-needed chemistry. The Senators will now travel to Winnipeg to take on the Jets Tuesday night before playing their first home game on Friday against the Maple Leafs. These games will allow young players to make an impact before head coach D.J. Smith begins making roster cuts.

Sign up for our regular 'Senators Newsletter' for all the latest.