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Top 25 Senators Prospects, Part 5: 1-5

August 3, 2019, 12:07 AM ET [18 Comments]
Trevor Shackles
Ottawa Senators Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
You can follow me on Twitter @ShackTS

Part 5/5 is finally here! I think most people could guess who the top five prospects would be even before I put my rankings out, but there’s certainly some room for debate within the top five. Here is how I ranked their very best prospects:

5. Josh Norris, C

Norris was the headliner in the Erik Karlsson trade, as he was the Sharks first-round pick in 2017, and I would say that his stock rose after this season. His season was cut short due to an injury, but he played very well in the University of Michigan with 19 points in 17 games, plus 6 points in 7 games at the World Juniors. He profiles more like a 2nd line centre, as opposed to Brown who has the seemingly higher ceiling, although Norris’ 2018-19 campaign was very encouraging in showing that perhaps he is even better than we thought.

He will be playing in Belleville in 2019-20, and that’s where we will get a real sense about where he sits on the prospect spectrum. The B-Sens will still have some talented players, and Norris should fit in quite well there. He is a typical Senators centre prospect similar to Colin White as he is a two-way player who is probably not going to excite too many people. However, I still like thinking about having Brown, White, and Norris down the middle in the future, which could be a solid trio. Don’t expect Norris to play as well as Batherson (or even Brown) in the AHL this year, but he should still be able to hold his own as a 20-year-old.

4. Jacob Bernard-Docker, RD

Bernard-Docker was another slightly off the board pick in the first round in 2018, but he had a great freshman season at the University of North Dakota and he showed the Senators why they were smart to select him. He was instantly trusted on UND’s backend, which is not always the case for 18-year-olds...case in point: his teammate Jonny Tychonick. It is difficult for defensemen to break into the NCAA and have success right away, but JBD did by producing 17 points in 36 games, which was tied for fourth on the team in points and third amongst U19 NCAA defensemen.

JBD narrowly missed out on playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors, although I think he deserved to make it. He should make it for the 2020 tournament as a 19-year-old though, which will be a great time to observe how sound he is defensively. He has some potential offensively, although he is more known for his strong two-way game, and he should settle in as an all-around solid top-four defenseman who is able to settle things down. I don’t see him as a future star, but he will be a very welcomed addition, especially as a right-handed shot.

3. Logan Brown, C

Brown has been quite the enigmatic player since being drafted, as he has struggled to stay healthy and also struggled with on-ice consistency. Based on his pure talent level and what he brings to the team overall though, Brown is a very good prospect. Putting up 42 points in 56 games as a 20-year-old in the AHL is certainly encouraging, as that is a 62-point pace over the course of 82 games. I think he is probably NHL ready this coming season, although if he does get to play in Ottawa, it will most likely be in a bottom-six role, and I wouldn’t expect him to be a true impact player just yet.

He might take a few seasons to get acclimated to the level, but at his peak, I can see Brown being a bottom-end first-line centre who can score 60-70 points. His passing ability is elite, and we already know that he has fantastic chemistry with Batherson, so that is something to keep an eye on. Injuries and consistency will always be questions with him, but if he puts everything together, Ottawa will have a very good player on their hands. I feel like he might have a bit of a tough season just because he could split time between Ottawa’s bottom-six and Belleville’s top-six, but make no mistake: he is easily the most talented centre in the organization.

2. Drake Batherson, RW

There’s no question who is 1-2 in the Senators system, as there is definitely a drop-off between two and three. I went back and forth between who I should put here, but ultimately I decided to go with Brannstrom’s track record for first overall. They’re so closely ranked together, in fact, Corey Pronman had Brannstrom at 19th and Batherson at 20th in terms of best prospects in the league at the midway point last season. That might be slightly different now, but it’s clear that they are both blue-chip prospects.

I was excited about Batherson coming into last season, but in no world did I expect him to be over a point per game player in the AHL. He proved that he’s too good for the level just in his rookie season, and he should easily be the Senators best right-winger in the NHL in 2019-20. He has the potential to be a first-line player, which isn’t a common trait amongst Senators prospects. He has gotten better for multiple seasons in a row, and I don’t expect that progression to stop. Batherson will need to be more consistent in the NHL compared to last season, but there’s no young player that I am more excited to watch this coming season than him.

1. Erik Brannstrom, LD

As I just said, the race for the top spot was extremely close. The main reason why I chose Brannstrom was because not only did he have a fantastic rookie season in the AHL, he also has pre-draft pedigree which led to him being drafted 15th overall in 2017. He was always expected to be great, and I’m sure people are more confident than ever that he will reach his ceiling. It shouldn’t be lost on people that he is a year and a half younger than Batherson too, so Brannstrom’s success (including 32 points in 50 games) is quite astonishing.

I don’t think he will begin the season in Ottawa because of a lack of roster spots, but he should be the first call-up from Belleville and should play at least 20-30 games in 2019-20. Despite being just 5’10”, Brannstrom is a good defender and can do everything on the ice, which is why he should be #1 on this list. Thomas Chabot is already Ottawa’s #1 defenseman, but I’m salivating thinking about having Chabot on the first pairing and Brannstrom on the second, as that will be a lethal one-two punch. Losing Mark Stone will always be inexcusable, but Brannstrom is at least the best consolation prize they could have gotten.

My final top 25 list looks like this:

1. Erik Brannstrom
2. Drake Batherson
3. Logan Brown
4. Jacob Bernard-Docker
5. Josh Norris
6. Lassi Thomson
7. Alex Formenton
8. Marcus Hogberg
9. Filip Chlapik
10. Vitaly Abramov
11. Jonathan Davidsson
12. Joey Daccord
13. Shane Pinto
14. Jonny Tychonick
15. Filip Gustavsson
16. Mads Søgaard
17. Max Veronneau
18. Angus Crookshank
19. Jonny Gruden
20. Parker Kelly
21. Olle Alsing
22. Morgan Klimchuk
23. Michael Carcone
24. Kevin Mandolese
25. Mark Kastelic

I hope you enjoyed this series! It’s always fun profiling the Senators farm system, especially when they are in a very good spot. I think they look much deeper than they did last year, as their 10-20th best prospects are more interesting than last year. The overall 2018 list was this:

1. Brady Tkachuk
2. Logan Brown
3. Filip Gustavsson
4. Christian Wolanin
5. Colin White
6. Jonny Tychonick
7. Filip Chlapik
8. Drake Batherson
9. Alex Formenton
10. Jacob Bernard-Docker
11. Christian Jaros
12. Marcus Hogberg
13. Max Lajoie
14. Jonathan Gruden
15. Aaron Luchuk
16. Nick Paul
17. Gabriel Gagne
18. Julius Bergman
19. Andreas Englund
20. Francis Perron
21. Kevin Mandolese
22. Markus Nurmi
23. Andrew Sturtz
24. Jack Rodewald
25. Parker Kelly

It’s nice to see the farm system get even better, even if the actual team in Ottawa is clearly quite terrible right now. All we can do is hope lots of these players constitute the future core of the next great Senators team.
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