We are one day away from the opening of the season and two days away from the Senators’ season opener. Yesterday, we had an announcement. Here is the Ottawa Senators roster for opening night:
Forwards: Alex Chiasson, Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Mike Hoffman, Curtis Lazar, David Legwand, Clarke MacArthur, Milan Michalek, Chris Neil, Bobby Ryan, Zack Smith, Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Mika Zibanejad
The players who have been sent down to Binghamton are Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Matt Puempel, Fredrik Claesson, Scott Greenham and Buddy Robinson. David Dziurzynski, Alex Grant and Aaron Johnson also cleared waivers yesterday and will be joining the B-Sens.
This is a very different line-up from last season. The top prospects from Binghamton are now being included in the main roster, rather than being first on the list for call-ups. Stone has had several call-ups over the last two seasons and has always impressed. He’s earned the chance to hold his own roster spot.
Curtis Lazar, the Senators’ first round pick in 2013 (17th overall) has also earned his spot. While he did not rack up the points during the preseason, he showed that he can hold his own on an NHL roster. At 19 years old, he plays the game intelligently and always finds the open spot on the ice, a skill that will continue to develop with more experience.
Hoffman was considered to be on the bubble until this announcement. He would need to clear waivers to play in Binghamton this year and, given his speed and skill, would likely be picked up by another team. He will get at least a 9-game stint with the Senators, but I think he has a shot at staying for the whole year. He is the type of player who can create a lot of offence just because he can out-skate the majority of the guys on the ice. He’ll also draw a lot of penalties, which he did show in the preseason games.
The forwards who are likely going to be the extras to start the year are Colin Greening and Erik Condra. Greening had shown a lot of promise as a younger player, but has failed to develop in the last few years. Watching him and Lazar play in the same game was telling. Greening doesn’t seem to have the hockey sense at 28 that Lazar has at 19. Since the 2011-12 season, where he put up 37 points, he has tallied only 36 and was a -15 on the year.
Condra, on the other hand, has consistently done his job. He has never been a flashy player, but is a solid defensive forward. He’s the type of player you don’t notice when he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, which may be why he seems to be on the outs, at least to begin the season. He’s up against some powerful offensive players and he does not put up the points.
For the defence, Mark Borowiecki has finally made the big club. He is a workhorse on defence and adds some grit to the back end. Just look at the last two preseason games. He fought both PK Subban and Brandon Prust, was taken down by both of them (and was hit while he was down, I might add), got back up and ended up winning both fights. When he was called up in the last two seasons, the team seemed to play better. Borowiecki is likely here to stay, especially considering the contract extension he just signed. Of course, once Methot comes back, there will be some rotation of the stay-at-home defence. Borowiecki, Cowen and Gryba will likely rotate, based on who has played the best hockey. Then again, if Methot gets traded rather than re-signed, that may not be a concern.
The biggest question mark on defence is Patrick Wiercioch. He was drafted as an offensive defenseman, but has yet to show his strengths in that regard. Especially since Cody Ceci was brought up last year and showed both his offensive prowess and defensive responsibility, Wiercioch may be on the outs. I think he will likely be the 7th defenseman on opening night.
And now, it’s time for some wild speculation! What will the lines look like on Thursday night? The only thing that is absolutely set in stone is that Turris and MacArthur will play together. Aside from that, there are a lot of options available. If Paul MacLean wants to start the year demonstrating a powerhouse line, he’ll put Ryan on the top line with those two. Given how last year went, spreading out the scoring will likely be a priority, so the powerhouse top line may not happen, at least not right away. Although Ryan and Zibanejad haven’t shown that they’re clicking yet, the best time to try to build that chemistry is early in the season.
The additions are also going to make things interesting. Alex Chiasson is a young right wing, the same as Ryan (which is likely why MacLean has been experimenting with Ryan on the left), and David Legwand is a dependable, veteran centre. It may be worthwhile to put Legwand on a line with some of the younger forwards to give them support, but would that line be the second or the third?
In terms of the defence, the line-up will probably have one offensive defenseman on each of the top two lines, and the third will be a shut down pairing. Once again, we have one thing that is for certain: Erik Karlsson will be playing on the first line on defence. It looks like the preference is to have Jared Cowen with him on that top line, at least to start the season.
With all of that said, here are my predictions for the line-up for Thursday.
Karlsson – Cowen
Ceci – Phillips
Gryba – Borowiecki
MacArthur – Turris – Stone
Michalek – Zibanejad – Ryan
Smith – Legwand – Chiasson
Hoffman – Lazar – Neil
The centres on the last three lines are the biggest questions. I don’t think the line-up on opening night is going to be at all the same as the line-up for the second game. For now, these forward lines all have the potential for goal scoring, something that was lacking last season. The defence hasn’t changed a lot from what it was last year, when it was inconsistent at best, but the players have more experience. Here’s hoping that Cowen in particular has a better season.
There are tons of options for lines for opening night. What do you think? Am I completely off-base? Will Ryan be on the top line with Turris and MacArthur? Will Legwand centre a more veteran line?
(Featured photo by Lisa Gansky)