Even with all the negativity surrounding the potential of the 2014-15 Ottawa Senators, there’s still a great deal of interest. So many opportunities will arise with a younger team striving to compete. Here are three bold predictions for a season that is sure to entertain.
1. Erik Karlsson Will Win the Norris
It looks like Erik Karlsson has finally fully recovered from his Achilles injury he suffered in February of 2013. The 24-year old defenseman took some much needed time off this summer to rest and make sure he was ready for the upcoming season.
Karlsson purposely didn't skate all summer to fully recover from his injuries Says he feels better physically & mentally than ever. #cbcott
— Dan Séguin (@SeguinSports) August 18, 2014
The rest of the NHL should take note, because a completely healthy and determined Erik Karlsson is very frightening if you play for any of the other 29 teams in the league. If Karlsson can put up 74 points in a season when he isn’t a hundred percent, the sky is definitely the limit for the former Norris winner.
With the departure of Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza, Ottawa will be looking to Karlsson more often than usual to create offense especially on the power play. This also means more ice time. Last season, Karlsson clocked an average of 27:04 minutes a game, his second highest since his inaugural season in 2009. There’s no doubt that his playing time will increase this season and no one would blame Paul MacLean if he played Karlsson just under 30 minutes a game. Erik Karlsson is a weapon and MacLean should use him whenever possible.
Two key things would help Karlsson win the Norris trophy. One, posting a good plus/minus rating, and two, a postseason birth for the Ottawa Senators. Karlsson was a plus-16 when he won the Norris in the 2011-12 season and being a minus-15 last season was his ultimate downfall. If Ottawa’s top defensman is going to win the Norris his defensive abilities will have to shine and plus/minus is a direct example of exactly that.
While Karlsson’s superior play will undoubtedly enhance the likelihood of the Senators securing a playoff spot, it’s not a given. There has never been a Norris winner on a non-playoff team in the 60 years the trophy has been handed out. But if there’s anyone that can break this historic streak, it would be Erik Karlsson. With decent defensive play and great offensive numbers (as usual), he is sure to have a solid opportunity to win his second Norris trophy.
2. Mika Zibanejad Will Score 25 Goals
Mika Zibanejad will be taking on the biggest role he’s ever had in his young career and the 21-year old centre has just the right skill set to flourish.
With the Senators losing their former number one centre, Jason Spezza, Bryan Murray spoke up about who he liked taking over Spezza’s job.
“Zibanejad, with his speed and size, if he can just develop a little bit quicker now maybe than we thought he’d have to, he might have that ability to jump to one.” -Bryan Murray. the6thsens.com. Published: Jun. 19, 2014.
Now, this might seem a bit overzealous of the Senators’ GM to say, but it also shows the confidence that management has in Zibanejad. Though Kyle Turris is almost guaranteed the number one centre position along side Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan, Zibanejad will have a good chance at the number two spot, ahead of David Legwand. Zibanejad showed a lot of promise after being sent down to the AHL at the start of the 2013-14 season. He was called back to Ottawa 13 games into the season and ended up playing the rest of the year on the third line, scoring 16 goals.
Mika Zibanejad will have a breakout season offensively because of the opportunity that he will be given. Last season, he played just over 14 minutes a game, while this season Zibanejad’s ice time will increase as he will also be on the Senators’ second power play unit.
Only Kyle Turris broke the 25-goal mark last season for the Senators, but Zibanejad will definitely be creeping up on that number come April.
3. Curtis Lazar Will Make the Roster
The waiting is over, Sens fans. Curtis Lazar is NHL-ready and you can count on him making the roster out of training camp. The 2014 Memorial Cup champ is looking more capable than ever as he played extremely well for Canada at the National Junior Team summer development camp earlier in August.
Two shorties, a hat trick & 4 points for Curtis Lazar in a 6-3 win over Russia. Wouldn't bet on him playing in the WJC come December. #Sens
— AJ Jakubec (@TheSuperAJ) August 8, 2014
Lazar is definitely impressing people, especially TSN’s Ryan Rishaug.
“Curtis Lazar looks fantastic. Honestly looks like the best player out there. Everything he does with the puck, he does smart. He works hard, he grinds, he does everything they want him to do.” -Ryan Rishaug. TSN 1200 Radio. Aug. 6, 2014.
Lazar was ranked 14th on ESPN Insider Corey Pronman’s top 100 prospects going into the 2014-15 season and that doesn’t surprise anyone. The 19-year old phenom will not be playing in the World Juniors this year because even with the Senators currently packed projected roster, he will find his way in somehow.
There’s not much more you can say about Curtis Lazar. The kid isn’t a kid anymore. He’s ready.