While I was putting in work in London last weekend, I figured I might as well watch some games while I was in the area. This was my first opportunity to see a number of Sens prospects in person, and I have some thoughts which I will now share.
So without further ado, let’s play Eye Test!
1. Who was there was just as notable as who was not.
While Ottawa still sent a good percentage of their prospects, they still weren’t playing with a full deck. Nick Paul was held out due to injury, and Mikael Wikstrand was forced to withdraw midway through the first game against Toronto. Freddie Claesson wasn’t on the team for reasons I can’t be bothered to look up. Players such as Colin White, Kelly Summers, Miles Gendron, and Quentin Shore were held out for NCAA eligibility reasons. Consequently, Ottawa filled out the rest of their roster with players on amateur tryout contracts. This is obviously a win-win for everyone, but it also means given that Thomas Chabot and Marcus Crawford is unlikely to be a pairing we ever see again. Grains of salt for everyone!
2. Thomas Chabot is pretty decent.
It took me a while to come around on Chabot. Chabot’s a perfectly adequate defender in his own zone, but didn’t blow me away at any point. Then with the Sens Rooks down a goal late in the game against Toronto, Chabot took off on an end to end rush that resulted in the tying goal. Chabot would go end to end a few more times against Pittsburgh, always looking dangerous when he jumped up into the rush. What I liked most about this was that Chabot wasn’t just a free-wheeling downhill player; he was obviously picking his spots very carefully. He’s no Ceci or Karlsson i.e. the type of defensive prospect who can jump right in at the NHL level at contribute right away, but there’s lots to like already and I’m looking forward to watching his development.
3. Gabriel Gagne was the surprise of the tournament for me.
Most of what I’d heard about Gagne could have been summed up in two adjectives: big and lazy. The day he was drafted, I heard someone tell Ian Mendes “To watch him play, you’d think he’d scored his 35 goals by accident.” Check out this post by The 6th Sens to see what other sick buzz Gagne was getting. Based on this, I expected a big lumbering forward who just parked himself in front of the net and waited for rebounds to enter his stick swinging radius. What I didn’t expect was his speed. There’s a big difference between being a fast skater and looking like a fast skater (Just ask Colin Greening), and Gabriel Gagne looks fast. He was not afraid to take people on, beat people to pucks, and go hard into corners. If that’s what Gagne looks like when he’s lazy, I can’t wait to watch him when he tries.
4. I don’t get the Ben Harpur hype.
I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t see what the Sens see here. Harpur looked big, slow, and took bad penalties. He’s probably the player I have the lowest opinion of following the tournament. I’d like to see a Freddie Claesson call-up well before I see a Ben Harpur call-up.
5. Tobias Lindberg reminds me of Jakob Silfverberg and I’m not just saying that because all Swedes look the same to me.
Having watched Tobias Lindberg thrive in the OHL last year, I was really looking forward to seeing him in person. As my favourite part of the Puempel-Dzingel-Lindberg line, he did not disappoint. I thought his game was very reminiscent of Jakob Silfverberg’s. He didn’t have speed that would blow you away, but he was very solid at both ends of the ice and showed off his lethal shot and quick release in overtime against Toronto. Any Ottawa fan worth their salt loves them some Swedish prospects, and Tobias Lindberg will fill that Silfverberg shaped hole in anyone’s heart who still misses Jakob even though we have Bobby Freaking Ryan on the team now.
6. Matt Puempel has just the slightest whiff of Dany Heatley about him.
One of the wisest things about hockey I’ve ever heard was “The difference between a good Dany Heatley game and a bad Dany Heatley game is two goals.” Basically if Dany Heatley wasn’t scoring, he wasn’t helping your team win. That line was constantly running through my head as I watched Matt Puempel. Puempel would be out there, playing solid, but not really stepping outside his lane or doing anything special. Then suddenly the puck would be in the back of the net and #26 was celebrating. Insofar as “having a nose for the net” is actually a thing, Matt Puempel does appear to possess that trait. Away from the opposing net, Puempel looked good but not exceptional.
Keep in mind that Puempel spent time on the penalty kill, so I wouldn’t want to give the impression that he’s deficient in his own zone. He was obviously one of the stronger defensive players on the team or the coaching staff wouldn’t have put him in that position. Still, one might worry how he’ll look if he’s on a line with Zack Smith and Chris Neil during the preseason. I would put him on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan just to see what happens.
7. Filip Chlapik did not impress-uh-me much.
I’m already on a pretty big hater grind when it comes to the Q. Sure it’s the league that produced Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux, but it’s also the league that produced Alexandre Daigle and Marek Zagrapan. Whenever someone says, “This QMJHL prospect looks super skilled.” what I hear is “This prospect looks super skilled in a league where defense and goaltending are just hypothetical constructs.” This is not to say that I don’t believe good players can come from the Q because that would be ridiculous. However, I do know a lot of people who really wanted to draft Sean Couturier over Mika Zibanejad who don’t believe that anymore.
What does this have to do with Filip Chlapik? Well, I can’t say that he stood out to me. On the other hand, his wingers, Max McCormick and Francis Perron, both had huge tournaments (4 points in 3 games) so he must have been doing something right. Also he’s only 18 so maybe I should just chill out and rag less on a guy playing his first games in a Sens uniform.
If I were to sum my impression into one headline it would be “Area Prospect Will Require Some Years to Develop”. Call me, Ottawa Sun.
8. William Nylander is a menace to society.
Nylander was the best player I saw all weekend. He looks poised to fill The Phil Kessel Memorial “I Can’t Believe We Have To Play This Guy Again” Role on the Leafs for years to come. I can’t wait until they run him out of town.
9. 3-on-3 overtime is like the Wild West.
There is so much open ice during 3-on-3 play. Every rush either feels like an odd-man rush or is an odd-man rush because one of the wingers got stuck low when the puck went the other way. I can’t wait to watch this in the NHL. Each overtime will be assured two things: it will be very fun, and it will not last very long. Sounds like my wedding night, basically.