As a Sabres fan, I thoroughly enjoy the dysfunction of the Ottawa Senators. When I look at them from a neutral point of view, they’re incredibly frustrating. The Senators have arguably the best player in the NHL in Erik Karlsson in his prime and have done a horrible job filling out the rest of their roster. They have made brief playoff appearances in recent years but last year’s 85 point season is about what they can expect again. The Sens will struggle to remain in the playoff race barring a revival between the pipes or a surprise breakout or two. That said, they have some quality fantasy pieces that are worth discussing so let’s get to it!
Last year I avoided Ottawa goalies like the plague and it turned out for the best. Craig Anderson had a 2.78 GAA in 60 starts with an average win rate and save percentage. At this point, he’s 35 years old and simply too inconsistent to trust as anything more than a third goalie. Anderson does get insanely hot for stretches but also will fall on his face for a week or two at a time. He also doesn’t get many favors from the Senators defense. There’s little to no upside here at this point so I’d advise looking elsewhere.
After his crazy run two years ago, Andrew Hammond was relegated to backup duty and provided similar numbers to Anderson. I suppose he has some value for deep leagues because there’s a chance he gets a full split with Anderson or gets the majority of starts. That said, those starts aren’t going to be particularly good so it depends how desperate you are for those starts.
If it wasn’t clear how good Karlsson is, he led the league in assists last year. As a defenseman. As I mention in my early top 10, my mancrush on Karlsson is well documented. He’s a plus in every category and a massive plus in assists, special teams points and shots on goal. The Swede clearly belongs in the first round of drafts at this point; his floor is as high as anybody in the NHL while also having a high ceiling.
The Senators acquired Dion Phaneuf from the Maple Leafs towards the end of last season. While he hasn’t come close to his 60 point breakout in 2008, Phaneuf is still a valuable fantasy commodity. It’s hard to find a defenseman who contributes in penalty minutes that isn’t a superstar or completely useless otherwise. Phaneuf hasn’t had double digit goals in 4 seasons but he’s at least passable everywhere. If you’re short on PIM towards the end of your draft, he’s a strong target because the forwards who contribute well in points and PIM are long gone.
I talked about Cody Ceci a decent amount last year as a sleeper for 2016-17. He finished the season strong with 5 points in his last 6 games in an increased role getting him to 10+16 in 75 games. The former first round pick is still only 22 years old so he’s one of the few players on this team who could breakout and push the Sens towards the playoffs. It’s not good enough for RCL’s, at least to start the year, but I think Ceci should deliver for 16’ers and deeper with the upside for more.
The rest of the Sens defense is either useless or not relevant for fantasy (Marc Methot).
As far as players who I loved going into last season go, Mike Hoffman was one of the guys who made me look smart. You don’t hassle the Hoff, man! In his second full season, Hoffman posted 29+30 in 78 games and more importantly, he started to get some power play time and registered 43 more SOG than in 2014-15. All indications are that he will man the point opposite Karlsson on the first power play unit so there could be more improvement on the way. The lack of PIM hurts but Hoffman should end up just a bit outside of the top 50.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I was wrong about Bobby Ryan. I thought that Ryan was being overdrafted and while he didn’t set the world on fire, he had his best points production since going to Ottawa with 22+34. That said, he had 38 less shots on goal despite playing 3 more games than 2014-15, he’s below average in PIM and he’s never been a great power play contributor (he’ll be on the second unit again). Ryan’s play doesn’t match his name value so I’ll probably be staying away again.
After a very slow start to last season, Mark Stone matched his breakout rookie season in which he finished second for the Calder. Stone finished with 23 goals and 38 assists in 75 games while adding 24 more PIM and 4 more STP than 2 years ago. The only thing about Stone that gives me pause is his shooting percentage has been over 15% each of the last 2 years, which is quite high. That said, even if he loses a few goals and is a 20+40 player, there’s still plenty of value there. He’s clearly a top 100 player who will probably settle around 75th overall.
Kyle Turris was one of the most valuable players in fantasy early in the season with 11 goals and 11 assists in his first 25 games. Sadly, it all fall apart after that. He had only 2 goals and 6 assists the rest of the way, including 0 points in his last 15 games before being shut down for the season due to injury. Turris looks to be playing with Hoffman and Stone again so the opportunity is there for a big year. He had played every game the previous three seasons so the injury isn’t of much concern. He’ll be a little behind Stone in my ranks but not far behind.
The big move Ottawa made in the offseason was acquiring Derick Brassard for the Rangers. Brassard blew his previous career high in goals out of the water scoring 28 goals (first time over 20). Part of the worry is that it was aided by an extremely high shooting percentage. Even if Brassard drops back down towards his usual goal total in the high teens, he’s average or better everywhere else. He’ll be outside of my top 100 but certainly in the top 150.
If you combined Turris’ first half with Zack Smith‘s second half, you’d have a top 10 player. Smith scored 16 goals in his last 30 games giving him 25 total on the season. When you look at Smith’s numbers, there is a lot to like and a lot that is scary. On the good side, Smith was +16 on a poor team and added 80 PIM; he was one of 8 players who had 20 goals and 80 PIM, all of which are notable names (Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Shane Doan, Brad Marchand, David Backes, Evander Kane). On the other side, Smith had 11 assists, only took 121 shots and had a mind blowing 20.7%. There’s simply no chance for Smith to repeat that shooting percentage. He has the chance to counterbalance that with additional playing time as he looks to be on the second line with Brassard and Ryan. Smith is going to be one of the toughest players to rank but I’d still draft him in standard leagues to see if he builds off the end of last year.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau also had a big second half letting him set career highs across the board. In deep leagues, I think that Pageau will provide plenty of value, especially if your league includes shorthanded points, faceoffs and hits as categories. 19+24 with 26 PIM and a +17 is nothing to sneeze at. However, in leagues like the RCL’s, I’d leave Pageau to streaming. The issue is that Pageau is going to be on the third line in a defensive role and he doesn’t get power play time.
It doesn’t look like Curtis Lazar will have the role to start the season that is necessary for him to be a valuable commodity in fantasy. He’s a name to keep an eye though in case he does move up the lineup; the former first round pick has plenty of talent.
Clarke MacArthur only played four games last season after suffering back to back concussions. It’s extremely sad because MacArthur had strong seasons during his previous two years in Ottawa. Due to the issue, I can’t see drafting him in standard leagues. However, I’ll be looking to stream him early in the year to see how he looks as he’s been a hold in the past.
That’s all for now guys. As always, feel free to ask any questions or comments below. I’ll be back on Monday with a preview of the Boston Bruins. I hope everyone has a great weekend; take care!