At the end of the 2018-19 campaign, Ottawa Senators forward Colin White had his first full year in the NHL under his belt. His production was impressive scoring 14 goals and 41 points in 71 games.
A year later, White’s production, on-ice performance, and ice-time decreased for seven goals and 23 points in 61 games while averaging 15:42 of ice time as opposed to over 16:12 the season before. The typical “sophomore slump” hit him like a brick in the face. However, despite the down season, he is still very much an integral piece of the Senators rebuild and future. Let’s dive in and find out what makes White so special, and why Sens fans shouldn’t hit the panic button just yet.
White’s Draft Year (2014-15)
The Senators knew they were getting a real, good player when they called White’s name to the podium at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Selected in the first round, 21st overall, White came as advertised with his fingerprints all over the U.S. junior ranks, making appearances with the U.S. National Team Development Program, Under-17s, and Under-18s. To understand the type of production we’re talking about, here are his numbers from his draft year.
For starters, he was selected to represent Team USA at the IIHF World U-18 Championships. Playing alongside Auston Matthews, Jack Roslovic, Matthew Tkachuk, and Clayton Keller, White tallied six goals and three assists in nine games for a 1.33 points-per-game pace en route to claiming a gold medal. Throughout the tournament, he was as a dominant two-way centerman, who could score goals and drive play, and his performance did not go unnoticed.
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That same year, White also skated in 54 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program scoring 23 goals and 54 points. Again, his elite skill, playmaking ability, and presence down the middle were on full display. The Senators were ecstatic when his name was still and available with the 21st pick. They had their man.
Making His Mark at Boston College (NCAA) and on the World Stage
After the draft, the Sens felt it was in White’s best interest to further refine his skills at Boston College in the NCAA. Looking back, this was the correct decision. He put up two phenomenal seasons at BC, with 76 points (35 goals, 41 assists) in 72 games, a little over a point-per-game again. At the collegiate level, he worked hard on his conditioning and strength with the puck. He always knew he had the talent, as exemplified with his points production, but he (and the Senators) really wanted to round out his game.
His production in junior and with Boston College speak to his ability as an offensive dynamo and as a solid two-way force at center. White also proved that he can handle pressure-packed situations having also represented Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships where he scored 15 points in 14 games over two tournaments. He brought home the gold medal at the 2017 World Juniors. He is a winner, there’s no disputing that.
Senators’ management believed in what White could do on the ice, which bode well for him and the Senators’ fanbase. After two seasons in the NCAA, his focus shifted towards the organization.
On August 21, 2019, after completing his first full season in the NHL, White signed a six-year, $28.5 million contract extension to lock him up long-term. The contract also made White the second-highest paid forward on the team’s active roster, behind Bobby Ryan. On the day of the signing, general manager Pierre Dorion sang White’s praises and identified him as one of the team’s core players, a true 200-foot center, and a key part of their future success. Dorion added that although his first full season in the NHL was admirable, he knew this was only the tip of the iceberg for White, who’s poised to have a successful career in Canada’s capital city.
White possesses the skills, defensive acumen, passion for the game, and character to succeed at the highest level. After getting a deal done, it’s safe to say that Dorion could not have been happier to have such an important piece commit to the team.
2019-20 The “Down” Season
This past season was a tough one for White and the Senators. After eight games where he managed just two points, he was sidelined with a groin/hip flexor injury keeping him out of the lineup until mid-November. This was a bit of a kick in the pants for White, who was hoping to pick up where he left off a season prior.
Once he returned, White struggled to find the score sheet on a consistent basis. His ice-time also decreased to under 16 minutes per night, and he found himself relegated to the third line, playing alongside Jayce Hawryluk and Nick Paul. For someone who entered training camp with his eyes on the Senators’ number-one center role, White just couldn’t get going. His stats also took a hit.
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A realistic expectation would have been to (once again) eclipse the 40-point plateau, but when all was said and done, he finished with seven goals, 23 points, and a minus-12 rating through 61 games. This was surely not the season he and Senators fans envisioned after such a promising rookie campaign.
This season did not go as planned for White and the Senators. In spite of the down year, he remains a very talented player who does things “the right way” both on and off the ice. He’s a strong skater who can play on both the power play and penalty kill, making him an integral part of the Senators’ special teams. As a rookie, he was in the top-10 in goals, points, and assists. In a league driven by young superstars, that says something.
White is also a prolific goal-scoring threat with a keen eye in all three zones. I admire his ability to read and think the game at a very high level, which sets him apart from so many other young centermen. Not only can he change the game with his skill level, but he’s also exceptional without the puck on his stick. Listed at only 5-foot-11, 191 pounds, he is seldom muscled off the puck and uses his wits and strong strides to make plays and evade oncoming defenders. He can change the outcome of a game.
In light of White’s down season, it’s important to remember that he is still only 23 years old, with a career ahead of him. He’s adored by head coach D.J. Smith and has proven throughout his playing career that he can produce at a high level.
There is plenty to like about White’s overall game because he’s so much more than a one-dimensional player. One “off” season should certainly not derail such a promising talent, nor people’s perceptions of him as a player. White is confident, passionate, about the game, and is as humble as they come. For these reasons, I think it’s fair to claim that Sens fans need not worry about White, he’s going to be just fine in Canada’s capital city.